How to Do Locust Pose (Salabhasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

How to Do Locust Pose Salabhasana
Locust Pose - Salabhasana. Ann Pizer

Also Known As: Back extensions

Targets: Legs, back, core, heart-opener

Equipment Needed: Yoga mat

Level: Intermediate

Locust Pose is a backbend that can prep the beginner for deeper backbends and poses such as Bow, Upward Dog, and Wheel Pose. In a sequence, you might use Cobra or Snake to lead up to Locust Pose, and follow it with Bow or Crocodile. You can also use it after a Sun Salutation to help energize yourself, stretch your spine, and open your chest, which can help you achieve better posture.

Benefits

Locust Pose stretches and strengthens the back and core muscles, improving your spinal mobility. Many everyday activities (such as sitting) flex the spine while locust pose extends it. It opens the chest, which can be helpful in improving your posture and counteract slouching. This will also help you breathe better, which can be energizing. Your core muscles, gluteus, hamstrings, adductors, and calves all are toned by holding the position. It is traditionally believed that this pose helps improve digestion.

Instructions

Lie down on your stomach. Placing a blanket under your hips for padding makes this pose a lot more comfortable, but you can skip it if you are doing the pose in a flow.

  1. Bring your arms down by your sides with your palms facing the floor. Stretch your legs straight out behind you with the tops of your feet on the mat.
  2. Bring your forehead or your chin to the mat in preparation. Roll your shoulders back and down to open your chest.
  3. Inhale and lift your head, chest, and arms up off the floor. Keep your arms straight behind you. Reach through all 10 fingers and turn your hands so that your thumbs are pointing down. Keep sliding your shoulder blades down your back.
  4. Engage your legs so that your knees lift off the floor. At the same time, try not to tighten your butt too much so that your tailbone has somewhere to go as you backbend. Press the tops of your feet strongly into the floor.
  5. Keep your gaze on the floor just in front of you so that your neck stays in a neutral position, not cranking up.
  6. Stay in this pose for three to five breaths. On an exhale, release down to the floor. Turn your head to one side and rest on your cheek.

It's traditional to go for three rounds of backbends, so do this pose twice more, possible incorporating the variations described below.

Common Mistakes

Crunching your neck is a concern, so be sure to keep the back of your neck long and your chin slightly tucked in. Don't raise your shoulders towards your ears.

Don't bend your knees as this will put more pressure on your lower back.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

If you have lower back discomfort, you can do the pose without lifting your legs.

If you have difficulty lifting both legs, you can lift one leg at a time, hold, then swap legs.

Another gentle variation is to keep your palms on the mat rather than lifting your arms.

If you're new to Locust Pose and not getting much lift in the chest, roll up a blanket and place it at the bottom of your ribcage. Practicing like this will help you strengthen the back muscles.

Another beginner tip, if you have a partner handy, is to ask them to stand on your feet while you do the pose. You'll be surprised how much higher you can lift your chest when the feet are securely anchored. This also helps you get a feel for how strongly you need to press into your feet. 

Up for a Challenge?

Use these advanced variations once you have mastered locust pose:

1. Interlace your hands behind your back before you lift up into the pose. As you lift up, roll your shoulders back and extend your arms straight behind you, keeping your hands clasped. Start to lift your hands off your back up toward the ceiling.

2. When you lift your torso, simultaneously lift your legs off the floor, keeping them straight. Engage your entire leg, even reaching out through your toes. Keep your chest high.

3. For an advanced challenge, extend your arms in front of your body instead of behind. You will have to work extra hard to keep your chest lifted.

4. Start to extend the amount of time that you hold the pose. Work up to 10 breaths, making sure that you are maintaining the integrity of your alignment throughout.

Safety and Precautions

This pose is not recommended for those who are pregnant or have a back, neck, or shoulder injury or recent abdominal surgery.

If you feel any discomfort during the pose, whether in your back, neck, or shoulders, release the posture until you feel comfortable.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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