Yoga for Back Health: The Many Benefits of Locust Pose – Salabhasana
Locust Pose, Salabhasana, is a simple backbend that strengthens the entire back of your body, from the nape of your neck to the backs of your heels. Salabhasana has benefits for a wide range of problems, including lower back pain, postural problems, and weakness anywhere along your back body, including your hips and hamstrings. And because the backbend is shallow and doesn’t put pressure on your wrists, it is accessible to almost everyone.
Locust Pose is Great for:
- lower back pain (it strengthens the muscles along the sides of your lower back)
- hamstring injuries
- arthritis of the knees (it strengthens the leg muscles)
- postural problems (such as excessive rounding and head-forward syndrome)
- arm strength (in the versions where you lift your arms)
- depression (for mild energizing when your energy is low)
- general weakness
Timing: For all versions, stay in the pose for 4-6 breaths, breathing comfortably. Then release and rest for a few breaths before repeating a second time. Gradually over time, work your way up to 12-16 breaths in the pose. You can also practice this pose dynamically, coming up into the backbend on your inhalation and releasing on your exhalation.
Cautions: Lifting too high or too quickly as you come into Salabhasana can trigger a cramp in the soles of your feet, hamstrings, or lower back. If this happens, try reducing the height and/or coming up more slowly. People with back pain should start with version 3 (one leg), and as you get stronger, gradually progress to the classic version. If you experience back pain in the pose, consult your teacher about your alignment before trying it again.
Three Variations of Locust Pose
1. Classic Locust Pose
To come into the pose, start in a prone position with your arms by your sides and your forehead on the floor. Create a sense of length from your hips into both feet and from your tailbone up to the crown of your head. Then, keeping your pelvis and lower belly on the floor, inhale as you lift your chest, head, and legs a few inches off the floor and lift your arms parallel with the floor. Keeping your knees straight, reach your legs back as you reach forward through the crown of your head.
To come out of the pose, exhale and release your legs, chest, head, and arms, returning to the starting position. Turn your head to one side and rest for a few breaths before repeating.
2. Locust Pose: Bolster Under Chest (Legs on the Floor)
This version of Salabhasana is easier for people who are stiff and weak in the upper chest and is also a good option for focusing on chest opening.
Before coming into pose, position the bolster crosswise at the level of your mid-breastbone and take your arms behind you alongside your torso. Then, inhale as you roll your head and chest up into a backbend position, lift your arms up to parallel to the floor or keep your hands on the floor, and widen your collarbones side to side. Keep your legs on the floor, but activate and lengthen them.
To come out of the pose, exhale and release your chest, head, and arms and drape them over the bolster. Rest there for a few breaths before repeating.
3. Locust Pose: One Leg at a Time
This version of Salabhasana is helpful for those with back pain or sacrum problems as it strengthens lower back muscles and can rebalance one-sided sacrum problems.
After creating a sense of length in your starting position, keep your hips evenly aligned on the floor as you inhale and come into the pose. Roll your head and chest up a few inches and lift your arms up to parallel with the floor or keep them on the floor, and lift just your right leg up a few inches while continuing to lengthen both legs toward your toes.
To come out of the pose, exhale and release your leg, chest, head, and arms, returning to the starting position. Rest for a few breaths before repeating on the left. Turn the head for this rest. Then repeat both sides once more.
4. Locust Pose: Legs Only
Because your chest, head, and arms remain on the ground, this version of Salabhasana allows you to focus your work on strengthening your legs and buttocks. Having your hands on the floor provides more support, and may help you to get more lift in the legs.
After creating a sense of length in your starting position, inhale as you lift your legs up a few inches while keeping your torso, arms and chin or forehead on the floor. Pressing your hands into the floor, attempt to swing the legs an inch or two higher.
To come out of the Salabhasana, exhale and release your legs, returning to the starting position. Turn your head to one side and rest for a few breaths before repeating.
Study with Baxter Bell online. YogaUOnline is proud to feature Dr. Baxter Bell as part of our Yoga Practice Channel. Go here to see a list of his practices.
Read another Yoga Pose Primer from Baxter Bell, MD and YogaUOnline: 7 Reasons to Practice Plank Pose and 4 Awesome Versions to Keep You Safe.
Photos within the article were reprinted with the permission of Melina Meza.
Baxter Bell, MD, is a yoga teacher and educator, physician and medical acupuncturist. These days he focuses on teaching yoga full time, both to ordinary students of all ages and physical conditions, and to the next generation of yoga teachers, to whom he teaches anatomy and yoga therapy along with his accessible, skillful style of yoga. Baxter brings a unique perspective to his teaching, combining his understanding of anatomy and medicine with his skill at instructing people from all walks of life and all levels of ability. Baxter is the co-founder and writer for the popular Yoga for Healthy Aging blog, where he shares his knowledge of medical conditions, anatomy, and yoga with practitioners and teachers across the world. In addition to being a frequent presenter at Yoga Journal Alive events and yoga conferences such as IAYT’s SYTAR, he is often quoted as an expert on yoga and health by major national news outlets such as The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. To learn more, visit www.baxterbell.com, www.yogaforhealthyaging.blogspot.com, and his YouTube channel Baxter Bell Yoga.