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How to Do the Locust I, II, and III Yoga Postures

We put our bodies through a rigorous amount of forward bending: getting the mail; working at the computer; gardening, and so on. The Yoga locust postures counteract this by allowing your body to do some back bending to compensate for the unhealthy habit of bending forward from the waist rather than from the hip joints. Bending forward in the wrong way on a daily basis can lead to spinal problems.

Locust I: Shalabhasana

The locust posture strengthens the entire torso including the lower back and the neck. In addition, it strengthens the buttocks and the legs and improves digestion and elimination.

To try this first locust posture, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your abdomen with your legs spread at hip width and the tops of your feet on the floor; rest your forehead on the floor.

  2. Extend your arms along the sides of your torso with your palms on the floor.

  3. As you inhale, raise your chest, head, and one leg up and away from the floor as high as is comfortable for you.

    image0.jpg

    Consider trying this posture with blankets for more personal comfort.

  4. As you exhale, lower your chest, head, and leg together slowly to the floor and repeat Steps 3 and 4 with the other leg.

  5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 three times and then stay in Step 3 (the last raised position) for 6 to 8 breaths.

You can increase the level of difficulty by raising both legs at the same time in Step 3.

Note: In the classic posture, the inner legs are joined, the knees are straight.

Locust II

This posture, which is another variation of shalabhasana, also teaches the two sides of the body how to work independently of one another. Many back problems are due to imbalances in the muscle system on each side of the spine. Health professionals often call this situation an asymmetrical problem. Locust II helps bring your back into symmetry again and also improves your coordination.

The following steps get you on the road to enjoying these benefits:

  1. Lie on your abdomen with your legs spread at hip width and the tops of your feet on the floor; rest your forehead on the floor.

  2. Extend your right arm forward with your palm resting on the floor; bring your left arm back along the left side of your torso, with the back of your hand on the floor.

    image1.jpg
  3. As you inhale, slowly raise your chest, head, right arm, and left leg up and away from the floor as high as is comfortable for you.

    Try to keep the upper right arm and ear in alignment, and raise your left foot and right hand to the same height above the floor.

  4. As you exhale, lower your right arm, chest, head, and left leg slowly to the floor at the same time.

  5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 three times and then stay in Step 3 for 6 to 8 breaths.

  6. Repeat Steps 1 through 5 with opposite pairs (left arm and right leg).

Locust II features some interesting biomechanics. When you raise the chest and the right arm, you strengthen the right side of your upper back. When you raise the left leg, you strengthen the right side of your lower back. So even though this posture uses opposite arms and legs, it strengthens one side of the upper and lower back at a time.

Avoid locust variations that lift just the legs. Lifting the legs alone increases interabdominal and chest pressure, heart rate, and tension in the neck.

Locust III: Superman posture

This posture, a further variation of shalabhasana, gets its name from the image of Superman flying through the air at warp speed, with his arms extended out in front leading the way. It’s the most strenuous back bend because fully extending your arms and legs puts quite a load on your entire back. Use this pose only after you’re comfortable with locust I and II.

This posture is physically challenging. Don’t attempt it if you’re having back or neck problems.

If you’re ready and able, try the following steps:

  1. Lie on your abdomen with your legs spread at hip width and the tops of your feet on the floor; extend your arms back along the sides of your torso with your palms on the floor and rest your forehead on the floor.

    image2.jpg
  2. As you inhale, raise your chest, legs, and head and sweep your arms like wings out to the sides and then all the way forward.

    In the beginning, try sweeping your arms only halfway forward in a T position; it allows your back muscles to gradually become accustomed to the posture’s physical demands.

  3. As you exhale, sweep your arms back and lower your torso, legs, and head slowly to the floor at the same time.

  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 three times and then stay in Step 2 (the last raised position) for 6 to 8 breaths.

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