Locust pose is a back bending and laying down yoga pose. It’s often used as a preparatory pose for more difficult and challenging backbends. It’s also a pose used at the beginning of a yoga flow to gently start warming up the spine and getting the body ready to move. Locust also features at the end of yoga flows to begin cooling the body down and get it ready for Svasana, the final resting pose found in yoga.
Although locust pose is used at the beginning and end of most yoga flows, it’s still a challenging backbend. It’s one of the first backbends used in beginner flows to teach them how to engage the spinal muscles and stretch their spine.
The basics of locust pose
Locust pose is known as Salabhasana in Sanskrit. This pose specifically targets the upper body and stretches the spine. It also targets the chest and the shoulders, which is what makes it a great pose for everyone. It’s a pose that’s used to combat the posture that people make when they’re seated.
Locust pose features in many beginner flows and is often used to work students into deeper and more challenging backbends, but it’s still a challenging backbend itself. Locust pose is classified as an intermediate pose because it still requires a lot of strength and engagement of the right muscles to get into. It’s not an easy pose to hold and requires mental engagement to do so as well.
The benefits of practicing locust pose
The biggest benefit of practicing locust pose is that it strengthens and stretches the spinal muscles. Stretching the spinal muscles improves spinal health and strengthening the spine can help keep the spine straight when in seated poses. It’s good to work on the spine because many people spend a lot of time sitting, which decreases spinal health.
Locust pose also opens the shoulders and the chest area, which helps with shoulder mobility. The glutes and the leg muscles are engaged in this pose, which strengthens them. It also stretches the core muscles, which is beneficial when those muscles have been worked on.
How to do locust pose
Step by step instructions for getting into the pose
- Begin in a lying down position with the stomach and forehead placed down on the mat. Everything should be relaxed onto the mat.
- Start to bring the hands towards the back and interlace the fingers. Pull the arms back so that the hands are as close to the glutes as possible, you may have to put your chin on the mat for this.
- Start to engage your glutes and your leg muscles. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale lift as much of the upper body off of the floor as possible whilst also lifting the legs as high as you can.
- The only thing that should be touching the mat is the pelvic area. Keep the head and neck in line and make sure not to crunch in the neck area. Roll your shoulders back and lengthen your collarbone.
- It’s important to keep the muscles engaged and breathe deeply in this pose. If there is any pinching in the lower back, then release from the pose.
- Hold the pose for around 3-5 breaths before slowly and gently releasing. Don’t let your body collapse into the mat, release with control. Gently release the bind of the hands and place them under your forehead for some rest.
Common mistakes made when doing the pose
One of the biggest mistakes that people do when practicing lotus pose is that they try to get their legs extremely high up and end up rounding in the upper back. The chest and the shoulders need to stay open the entire time a person is in the pose. Going higher in the pose won’t increase the benefits. Similarly, staying lower to the ground won’t decrease the benefits of the pose.
Another thing that people do in locust is looking straight down instead of straight ahead. This causes crunching in the neck and can cause pain. The neck should stay in one long line with no creases. Looking slightly ahead can help to keep the neck in one straight line.
For those who are trying locust pose for the first time, try to do the pose in short increments. There’s no need to hold the pose for a long time the first few tries. Holding locust for short amounts of time will help a person to learn what muscles need to be engaged and how the shape of the pose should feel.
Another tip for beginners is putting a blanket under the ribcage to help the lift off to be easier. This can also be helpful if the body isn’t ready to lift off of the ribcage yet, it can be used as a comfortable support prop.
If someone has an injury in their spinal area, neck, shoulders, pelvis, or glutes then they shouldn’t be practicing locust pose. If someone is experiencing pain in any of these areas, then they should also be avoiding the pose. If any pain is felt whilst in the pose, then the person should slowly back off from the pose and try a gentler pose. Always listen to your body and never push past pain. Consult a doctor or physician before doing any physical exercise or trying out any yoga pose.
Variations of locust pose
An easier variation of locust pose would be cobra pose. Cobra pose keeps the hands on the floor and uses them to push into the floor and lift the chest area. This pose still stretches and strengthens the spine whilst opening the chest and shoulders but it’s a gentler variation. It doesn’t require as much strength to hold.
A harder variation of locust is with the arms out in line with the torso. This variation is harder to hold because the arms add more load to hold up rather than contributing to lifting the chest. This variation is only done once the original locust can be easily held.