Locust Pose is an intermediate backbend that tones and strengthens the entire back of the body. The Sanskrit name for the pose, “Salabhasana” (shah-lah-BAHS-uh-nuh), comes from two words: “Salabha” means “locust” and “Asana” means “pose”. Because this pose provides the foundation for deeper backbends, it is often used in preparation for other poses, such as Bow (Dhanurasana), Upward Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), and Upward Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) / Wheel Pose (Chakrasana). Practicing this pose regularly will teach you the correct alignment necessary to deepen your backbends with ease.
Benefits of Locust Pose
Salabhasana strengthens and increases flexibility throughout the entire back of the body, including the spine, legs, buttocks, and all of the muscles surrounding your ribs and upper torso. Working the upper back muscles improves posture and helps relieve stress and fatigue caused by slouching forward. This also strengthens the abdominal muscles and the chest. By lifting the front of your torso, you also deeply stretch the front upper torso. This helps to open the lungs, which improves breathing capacity. Additionally, lying on your belly creates pressure that positively stimulates your abdominal organs. This can help to relieve digestive upset, including indigestion, constipation, and flatulence.
Do not practice this pose if you are currently experiencing headaches. Also avoid this pose if you have a recent or chronic back or neck injury. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
How to Do Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
- Begin lying on your stomach with your arms at your sides. Rest your forehead on the mat. Extend your legs straight behind you, hip-width apart. Do not roll your heels inward or outward. Instead, press your weight evenly across the tops of both feet.
- Inhale and raise your head to look forward. On your exhale, lift your chest and arms. Keep your arms alongside your body with your palms facing down. Lift your upper spine and reach your arms back toward your feet.
- Use your inner thighs to lift your legs up toward the ceiling. Reach straight back through the balls of your feet. Your weight should rest on your lower ribs, belly, and front pelvis.
- Keep your chest lifted as you widen across your collarbones. Draw your shoulder blades into your back ribs and extend them away from each other.
- Gaze at your cheeks. Keep your breath smooth and even.
- Hold for up to one minute. On an exhalation, slowly release your body to the ground. Place your right ear on the mat and relax your arms at your sides for a few breaths. Repeat the pose for the same amount of time, then rest with your left ear on the mat.
Practicing Locust Pose can benefit the whole body when practiced correctly! Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose. Keep your focus on the length of your spine. Evenly distribute your “lift” across your upper, middle, and lower back. Do not worry about how high you lift — over-emphasizing height can strain your back or neck and cause injury. Instead, try to extend forward through your torso and back through your legs.
Locust Pose for Beginners
Beginners sometimes have difficulty holding this pose. You can support the area around your lower sternum with a rolled-up blanket to help maintain the lift of your upper torso. Similarly you can support the front of your thighs with a blanket roll to help support the lift of your legs. Remember never to force your body into the pose to achieve a deeper backbend. Ease up if you feel any pain or pinching sensations. There are many variations on this pose, so try these simple changes to find a modification that works for you:
- Beginners can keep the tops of the feet pressing into the floor.
- Beginners can also keep the forehead on the floor. Place your hands underneath your shoulders and lift only your legs off the mat.
Locust Pose for Advanced
Locust Pose is a great pose to strengthen the entire back of your body. Advanced students can challenge themselves a bit more with a variation of Salabhasana.
- For a greater upper-back challenge, extend your arms straight forward.
- For more back strengthening and a greater challenge to your flexibility, extend your arms out to the sides and upward, as if you are spreading and lifting a pair of wings.
- For a deeper shoulder stretch try Full Locust Pose (Poorna Salabhasana) - interlace your fingers behind your back and reach your knuckles toward your heels.
Strengthen So You Can Fly
Locust Pose can be a great way to counteract a long day of sitting or slouching. Stretching out your spine and chest will help you feel more energized, yet calm; less fatigued and less stressed. Warm up with a Sun Salutation or two, then add in a few rounds of Locust for a simple routine that will strengthen, lengthen, and rejuvenate your body!