HOW TO PRACTICE Cobra Pose IN YOGA (Bhujangasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Cobra Pose
Cobra Pose is a staple pose in yoga classes around the globe, and for good reason. With many ways to modify the height of the torso, and arm variations, this pose can be beneficial for yoga students of all body types and levels of spinal flexibility.
By grounding firmly in the lower body, the upper body can rise toward the sky, like a dancing cobra charmed by the sinewy music of the snake charmer.
“Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) is yoga’s ode to the sacred snake. The yoga pose looks like a cobra raised to strike—or to dance. When cobras dance, they raise one third of their body length, while the other two thirds stay grounded. It’s that grounding of the majority of the lower body that allows the upper body to rise toward the sky. The same is true for humans practicing Cobra Pose. It is the grounding of the lower body that creates the lightness in the upper body.
Practiced with care, Bhujangasana can strengthen the muscles around the spine, help to stabilize the sacroiliac joint, and simultaneously energize and calm the nervous system. Practiced with aggression, it can also bite, contributing to back strain and wear and tear in the hip joints.” ~ Charlotte Bell
Backbends are visually stunning and can be mind bending to behold. From Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Full Wheel Pose) to Natarajasana (King Dancer Pose), a beautifully executed backbend can elicit awe. To gain the multitude of benefits, however, the way the yoga pose looks should take a back seat to the strengthening of the spinal support muscles. Instead of focusing on taking on a challenging backbend too quickly, or pushing past the point where the spinal muscles are doing the majority of the job, work on creating a smooth arch in the back. It’s better to build slowly over time from a less extreme pose, like Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose) or Baby Cobra Pose, to more challenging backbending yoga postures. That way you will have the strength, flexibility, and subtle body awareness necessary to perform Cobra Pose with ease.
Benefits of Cobra Pose
Cobra Pose strengthens the muscles of the back and creates more flexibility in the upper and lower back. It also stretches the belly and expands the upper chest. Cobra, like all backbending yoga postures, is energizing to the body and mind.
Cobra Pose strengthens the spinal muscles that allow the spine to hold itself upright. So if you are working to improve your posture, Cobra should be one of your go-to poses.
Cobra can also help balance overly strong pectoral muscles that some athletes and bodybuilders develop from focusing their training on building the muscles in the chest. Cobra draws the shoulders back and toward one another, expanding the chest and collarbones, and creating space for the sternum to rise. When practicing Cobra Pose it’s important to keep the back of the neck long to avoid straining the muscles in the cervical spine and compressing the upper cervical vertebrae.
Basic Cobra Pose
- Start by lying on the front of your body with your feet in plantar flexion (the tops of your feet should touch the ground.)
- Separate your feet hips-distance apart, and place your hands on the ground by your shoulders (or in line with your ribcage, depending on your shoulder mobility).
- Start by grounding down through your lower body, pressing the knees and the tops of your feet firmly into the ground.
- Reach your tailbone toward your heels to lengthen your lower back.
- Keeping your lower body and hands grounded, pull your chest forward and up, allowing your shoulders to lift and your head to follow the line of your spine. You should feel an engagement of your back muscles from foot to crown. Come up only as high as you can without straining your back, neck, or shoulders.
- Make sure you engage your abdominal muscles to support the lifting and lengthening of your chest and spine. Extend the base of your skull away from your shoulders, lengthening the back of your neck. Your neck and head should follow the trajectory of your thoracic spine. If you feel a sensation of compression in your low back, lower your torso a bit and focus on lengthening your spine while maintaining core support.
- Once you’ve found your Cobra, you may now wish to leverage your arms more fully by bringing your upper arms toward your chest and drawing the heels of your hands isometrically toward your feet.
- Hold for several breaths, thinking about lengthening outward through the crown of your head, keeping the back of your neck long.
- On an exhalation lower down, or move to Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose) or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose).