How To Do Cobra Pose The Right Way
Cobra Pose (or Bhujangasana) is typically included in Sun Salutation sequences between Plank and Downward-Dog postures or as a substitute for Upward-Dog. This is a backbend pose that is considered ideal for beginners and provides a myriad of benefits. With Cobra Pose, you can strengthen various parts of the upper body, energize the nervous system, and give the kidneys a much-needed wringing out. But these are just some of the reasons why you may want to make this pose a part of your practice.
Why You Should Practice Cobra Pose
Cobra Pose is considered the starter pose for getting better acquainted with backbends in your yoga practice. Doing Cobra Pose can increase the flexibility of your spine to prepare you to take on more challenging backbend postures.
Cobra Pose can strengthen the wrists, arms, shoulders, back and abdominal muscles, and spine. This pose also stretches the chest while contracting the dorsal muscles in the lumbar area. Other benefits of the Cobra Pose include refreshing the nervous system, flushing the kidneys, and improving your ability for deeper breathing by opening up the lungs. It is also ideal for firming and toning various parts of the body like the shoulders, abdomen, and buttocks.
Through working out these areas of the body, Cobra Pose can also bring about some wonderful health benefits. Cobra Pose is excellent for anyone who is seated at a desk every day, all week. We tend to slouch forward when we are seated for long periods of time. But Cobra Pose can be highly therapeutic for those who are sitting down on a consistent basis. That slumped-over posture of the back can be alleviated by lying on the floor and stretching the spine.
Cobra Pose can also benefit anyone suffering from sciatica as it helps to ease those symptoms while stretching the spine and opening up the chest.
Related: How Many Calories Does Yoga Burn?
How To Do Cobra Pose
- Start by lying on the floor face down. Your legs should be stretched out behind you and separated just a few inches from one another. Keep the toes straight.
- Position your hands just beneath your shoulders, fingers pointed up to the top of your mat and the elbows tucked close in to the sides of your body.
- Press the pubic area and tops of your feet down while spreading your toes.
- As you inhale, gently bring your head and chest up, keeping your lower ribs pressed down.
- Bring the shoulders back and push your chest forward, keeping your shoulders lowered away from your ears. Look down as you push, particularly if you are just starting out with this pose. If you have been experiencing back pain you should also look down instead of turning your head up. Only try this if you feel that you have enough flexibility to do it properly and without hurting yourself.
- Next, bring your chest up from the floor while straightening the arms. The upper part of the thighs should be pushed down to the floor, which allows for the spine to extend naturally – don't force your back to bend. If you are doing this properly, your hands should not bear any of your weight. This position is called “Low Cobra”.
- Extend the arms as much as you can. It may not be all the way, but straighten them out as much as you can without lifting the pelvis and leg from the floor. Your backbend should only be as deep as your comfort level allows. When you're holding the position at this elevated level, this is called “High Cobra”.
- Push the shoulder blades towards your upper back with the elbows tucked in to your sides. Widen the collar bones as you draw the heart up. Slide the tops of your shoulders away from your ears and spread the extension of the backend evenly along the length of the spinal column.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds. When you're ready to release, exhale and bring the chest and forehead down to the floor. Twist your head to the right with your left ear against the mat. Relax your arms against the side of your body.
- Perform five repetitions of the pose.
Some Helpful Hints
Even though Cobra Pose is considered a great way for beginners to start including backbends into their practice, there are some things to keep in mind to make achieving this posture easier on the body and avoid any overexertion.
Never force yourself to get into a deeper backbend if you don't feel completely comfortable. Concentrate on the strength of your back muscles and pushing down with your thighs to help you lift up into the pose. Don't worry about how deep you can get into your backbend, and focus more on evenly disbursing the curve of the back and ensuring that you can breathe easily throughout the pose.
Low v. High Cobra
“Take it slow and keep it low.” That's the phrase to keep in mind if you're just starting out and your flexibility is at a minimum. Low Cobra does not require the body to be as flexible as High Cobra in order to bend back. The latter is best suited for advanced students who have developed their flexibility through regular practice. If you have been diagnosed with a back injury or another condition that limits your movement, Low Cobra is the way to go.
Some students will even try doing Cobra Pose while standing upright by keeping the hands placed against the wall and working through the posture from there. This is also a good way to get a feel for the pose before you try it from a horizontal position on the floor.
Word of Warning
Before you attempt this pose, be sure you are physically ready to do it. That means anyone who suffers from a chronic back injury should not try Cobra Pose. This also goes for anyone with inflammation of the back or individuals who have recently had abdominal surgery. Pregnant women should consult a doctor before trying to do Cobra Pose in the first two months. After the third, it's best to avoid the pose altogether.
Want to learn more great yoga poses to try? Check out the Yoga Society Poses Blog