Locust pose, known as shalabasana in Sanskrit, is an unassuming, yet challenging baby backbending pose that tones the muscles of the back, pelvis, and buttocks. Although the many variations of locust pose target various muscle groups, this pose is particularly beneficial for the pelvic region as it strengthens the surrounding muscles and spontaneously triggers vajroli mudra i.e. contraction of the urethral muscles.
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The benefits of locust pose are not limited to the pelvic region, although that’s where much of the pose’s unique strengthening is concentrated. The gluteus maximus is the prime mover, which means a well-toned bottom. The pose stretches the abdominal organs, improving digestion and stimulating appetite, according to yogic lore.
In locust pose, the body spontaneously performs vajroli mudra i.e. contraction of the urethral muscles. This action tones the pelvic floor to prevent incontinence and other disorders. Vajroli mudra is an important practice in Kundalini yoga.
Do not attempt locust pose if you have:
- A weak heart.
- A blood clot.
- High blood pressure.
- A peptic ulcer.
- A hernia.
- Intestinal tuberculosis.
Conventionally, locust pose is the midpoint between the backbending poses cobra pose (bhujangasana) and bow pose (dhanurasana). Because cobra pose is about heart opening and locust pose is about leg raising, bow pose is the natural combination of both.
The ideal counterposes for locust are restive. The other crocodile pose is great between sets of locust pose. For this pose, place your hands under your chin while laying on the mat and windshield wipe your lower legs from side to side.
Anterior neck muscles. The anterior neck muscles include the scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, and hyoids in the front of the neck. These muscles are associated with, among other things, extending and rotating the head. In variations where the chin is planted on the mat, particularly, locust pose lengthens these muscles.
Erector spinae. The erector spinae is a bundle of muscles and tendons in the back that control extension and rotation. Because they are responsible for straightening the back, the strength of the erector spinae muscles are closely linked with posture. Locust pose strengthens the erector spinae muscles deep in the back.
Pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles run between your legs, from the pubic bone to the base of the spine. They support the bladder, rectum, and (in women) the vagina and uterus. Locust pose spontaneously triggers vajroli mudra, i.e. contraction of the urethral muscles.
Gluteal muscles. The gluteal muscle group includes the three buttocks muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. In locust pose, the gluteus maximus does the heavy lifting. For optimal results, avoid clenching the buttocks as you lift your legs. The gluteal muscles should be firm in the pose, but not hard. Internally rotating the thighs also engages the gluteus minimus.
Trapezius muscle. The trapezius muscle extends from the back of the head to the shoulder blade. It is partially responsible for the gross motor movements of the head and neck. When you roll the shoulder blades back in locust pose, the trapezius muscle engages.
Latissimus dorsi. The latissimus dorsi muscles are located in the mid-back. They rotate and extend the shoulder joint. Locust pose strengthens the lats, which engage when you open the chest.
Multifidus muscles. The multifidus muscles in the deep back run along either side of the vertebrae and stabilize the joints of the spine. Weak multifidus muscles are a cause of back pain. Locust pose strengthens these two important muscles.