Cobra Pose is one of the most important back bending postures in all of yoga.
It’s almost the quintessential “heart-opening” posture, and as such, it helps us to face the world with openness, excitement, and vulnerability. It also has an enormous energizing effect and helps to correct postural imbalances.
A close cousin of Cobra Pose, namely Upward Facing Dog, is often seen in the classic Sun Salutation sequence, which is the foundation of most systems of Vinyasa Yoga. However, the two poses are different in subtle but important ways.
Even though Cobra Pose is seen as being foundational by most forms of Hatha Yoga, it is a fairly intense pose for most beginners and takes a long time to master. The complete version of the pose is quite advanced, and it is generally modified when seen in mixed level yoga classes. Luckily the modifications have a great value and can make the pose accessible to a beginner.
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) Contraindications
Women who are menstruating or pregnant should avoid this pose. If you have any neck injury or pain, keep the head upright. If your lower back hurts, tighten the buttocks or keep the legs hip-width distance or do Urdhva Mukha Svanasana instead.
How to do Cobra Pose
Begin in a prone position on your stomach. Bring the legs together with the tops of the feet on the floor Place the hands on opposite sides of the chest and press into the floor, lifting the chest up and forward coming into a backbend. Take the gaze upwards.
In Cobra Pose, unlike Upward Facing Dog, the knees are kept in contact with the floor. Eventually, the hips should also connect with the floor, though this is an advanced refinement and may be inaccessible to beginners.
The arms can stay bent during the initial stages of Cobra Pose. Eventually, the arms can straighten as you become more comfortable in the posture. For most people, straightening the arms and keeping the hips in contact with the floor will be quite intense. At first, you can experiment with doing one or the other.
Draw the shoulders back and down. The full expression of Cobra Pose is to bend the knees and reach the feet towards the back of the head. The knees will usually need to come apart to accommodate this. This makes the pose quite advanced and should only be attempted once a practitioner is quite comfortable with the preparatory versions.
How to Do Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) Step by Step Instructions with Video
Common Mistakes in Cobra Pose
It is very important in all backbends to spread the bend throughout the entire back, not just the most flexible part of the lower back.
Try to lengthen the front of your body as much as possible and focus especially on opening the upper back. If there is any pinching or pain in the lower back, come out of the pose.
Try not to throw the head back. Rather, lift your gaze by drawing the chin up and forward, keeping the neck stable and engaged.
Remember that if you lift the knees and hips off of the floor, you’re not doing Cobra Pose anymore; you’re doing Upward Dog, which is a great pose but has different benefits.
In all backbends, the key to refining them is to learn how to breathe comfortably in the pose. Never come so deep into a backbend that you have to hold your breath. It may be difficult to breathe into the belly, so think about breathing into the sides of the abdomen instead.
Modifications and Variations of Cobra Pose
One of the best variations for Cobra Pose is highly beneficial for all skill levels from beginner to advanced. Rather than pressing strongly into the floor with the palms of your hands, instead, place your fingertips on the floor and press gently into the floor to gain a bit of traction and then lift your chest off the floor with the power of your back muscles.
This is a great way to build core strength and to train the body to come into flexibility poses with active muscle engagement.
Another useful modification is what’s known in Yin Yoga as Seal Pose. The only difference in this variation is that you walk your hands forward enough so that it is comfortable to keep the hips on the floor and the arms straight. This allows you to settle into a passive version of the pose that, if held without pushing, is appropriate for long holds.
The Benefits of Cobra Pose
1. Cobra Pose builds strength in the back
To draw the body comfortably into a deep backbend with control, the support muscles of the spine need to be strongly and intelligently engaged. Developing these deep core support muscles can help to maintain the health of the spine.
2. Cobra Pose helps to improve posture
The core muscles that are used to actively draw the body into cobra pose are the same muscles that are used to maintain an alert, upright posture while standing or sitting.
Correcting postural imbalances is key to taking the pressure off of the joints, as well as maintaining balance and coordination as we age.
3. Cobra Pose stretches the muscles of the abdomen
In Yoga, there are countless poses that help to strengthen the core muscles of the abdomen. However, it is just as important to lengthen these muscles and break down fascial adhesions that restrict mobility and inhibit growth. Cobra Pose is one of the best poses for doing this.
4. Cobra Pose helps to lift your mood and energy levels
One of the reasons why having an alert, upright posture is so important is that it promotes a positive mental attitude and automatically helps to raise our energy levels.
Also, by stretching the front of the body, Cobra Pose helps to create blood flow throughout the chest and abdomen. This combined with the stimulation of the spine, can be quite exhilarating.
5. Cobra Pose helps to encourage compassion and connection
As one of the key “heart-opening” postures, Cobra Pose is felt to develop an attitude of emotional vulnerability where the body is given permission to feel deeply and connect with others.
Deep backbends are of the utmost importance in advancing yoga practice.
However, they must be learned with the guidance of an experienced teacher.
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