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,” which means “locust”
- “Asana,” which 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 / Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana). 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.
The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.
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.
- 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.
Modifications & Variations
Locust Pose is a great pose to strengthen the entire back of your body. 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.
- For a deeper shoulder stretch, interlace your fingers behind your back and reach your knuckles toward your heels.
- For a greater upper-back challenge, extend your arms straight forward.
- For a deeper stretch and strengthening across the back, extend your right arm forward. Then lift your arm, chest, and left leg, keeping your right leg and left arm on the mat. Release, then repeat with your left arm forward and right leg lifting.
- 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.
Some yoga traditions practice a variation of the pose with both arms and hands underneath the torso. To practice this variation:
- First, place your chin on the mat while lying on your belly.
- Roll to the left and place your right hand on the mat, with your palm down and fingertips reaching toward your toes.
- Then, roll to your right side. Place your left hand on the mat in the same position with your forearms and pinky fingers pressing against each other. Your forearms should be completely underneath your torso, with your elbows near your lowest ribs and your wrists along the lowest part of your abdomen.
- Roll back to center, pressing your body's weight onto your forearms and hands. Keeping your chin on the mat, lift your right leg upward. Lower your leg, then lift your left leg and lower it.
- Tuck your chin slightly and press your mouth into the mat. Then, pressing your weight forward, lift both legs up. Very advanced students may lift their entire torso off the mat. Gently lower your entire body, then turn your head to the side and rest.
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.
- Inwardly rotate your thighs by turning your big toes toward each other. This will help prevent too much compression in your low back.
- Draw your pelvis down firmly into the mat. This counteraction will help lift your upper body! Place extra padding beneath your hip bones, if needed.
- Keep your buttocks firm, but not hard. Instead, actively engage the muscles of your abdomen and back to lengthen and lift through the pose.
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!