Locust Pose (in Sanskirt “Shalabhasana”) is a fantastic backbend for all experience levels and when done mindfully can greatly increase strength, circulation and mobility around your lower back, spine and upper back and shoulders. It is a pose that demands total body strength along with high quality breathing or pranayama. This is generally a very safe backbend and a wise one to use when you begin any back bending practice. Repeat this pose 2- 3 times holding anywhere from 5 to 12 breaths. Deepen gradually only at the pace of your breath. Practice with the intention of eliminating struggle and instead increasing the amount of joy and pleasure and breath that you are able to access in backward bending.

Warming Up

Before you get into Locust Pose, practice at least 15-30 minutes of Sun Salutations A & B, Core Strengthening, and Standing Poses that include twisting and side bending and lunging in order to warm up properly. Warming up will ensure the BEST results in Locust Pose and in your practice. Include some easy binds and arm balances to warm up the shoulders, like dolphin pose, or eagle arm bind etc. Never ever approach a backbend without warming the body up first backbend. Just don’t do it!

How to Get Into Locust Pose

Locust Pose or Shalambasana with block between thighs
  1. Lie flat on the mat, face down with hands at your sides and palms face down.
2. Pick up each leg one at a time. Lift the flesh of the front of your leg and lengthen the leg back toward the back of the mat as if you are trying to elongate the front of the hip joints. Use internal rotation as well, rotate your little toes down, inner thighs up and toward one another. For extra support squeeze a block, or a rolled up towel or yoga mat, between the inner thighs just below your pubic bone. Squeeze the block or roll and continue to stretch your toes toward the back of the mat, fan the ten toes, press into the balls of the feet lengthen your legs as much as possible as you lift your feet off of the floor.

3. Use your hands as in cobra pose and inhale use your hands to help pull your chest forward lengthen your abdomen forward toward the front of the mat. Press your low belly and pubic bone into the mat, as you lengthen your core forward, lengthen every rib forward and away from the lower back. This will naturally lengthen the spine.

4. Stretch your sternum (the center of your chest) forward toward the front of the room. Raise your arms away from the floor and retract or roll your shoulder blades back toward your spine. This will cause the chest to broaden and open the heart.

Things to Avoid

  • Drawing the shoulders away from your ears. Instead, widen your collar bones and widen the fronts of the shoulders away from your chest. Simultaneously strengthen your upper back by hugging the upper, middle, and lower scapula toward one another and toward your spine.
  • Straining in the lower back or straining to lift your legs very high. This usually results in clenching of the buttocks. Instead, lengthen your legs BACK and away from the low back. Press your feet into the back of the mat with the integrity of a standing pose (mountain pose or Tadasana). Focus on lengthening your back instead of bending it.

If you follow all of these instructions you will notice this pose strengthens the entire back and length of the spine. Repeat this pose often, and use it in place of up dog. It’s a great practice for teachers as well as students. Eventually try it without the block, continue to hug feet together and you can even interlock your fingers and bind your hands behind your back with the arms straight and palms together. This will strengthen your arms and open your chest even more.

Locust Pose or Shalambasana with bound hands behind the back

Whats Next? Try a deeper backbend, such as Wheel (Dhanurasana) or Camel (Ustrasana), or cool down with some abdominal work and hip opening exercises.

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