The Cobra pose or Bhujangasana is a basic Hatha yoga pose, and as such, is very often practiced either on its own, or as part of the Sun Salutations.
Bhujanga means snake in Sanskrit, and in this pose we imitate a snake lifting its head while working the shoulders, upper back and spine. The Bhujangasana is also believed to be a great aid for the digestive fire, helping to purify the body.
Benefits of Bhujangasana
If you are suffering from rounded shoulders or stiff upper back and neck, Cobra pose can help relieve your upper body stiffness. The pose strengthens the entire shoulder area and upper back. It also creates more flexibility into the lower back, massages the digestive organs and relieves menstrual pain.
This pose not only opens the physical body, but also provides a gentle opening for the heart as well. We open up our chest, become a bit more vulnerable, and practice being open in the world.
- To start the pose, lie on your stomach and place your forehead on the floor.
- You can have your feet together, or hip width apart.
- Keep the tops of your feet pressing against the floor.
- Place your hands underneath your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.
- Draw your shoulder blades back and down, and try to maintain this throughout the pose.
- Draw your pubic bone towards the floor to stabilize your lower back, and press your feet actively onto the floor.
- With the next inhale, start lifting your head and chest off the floor. Be mindful of opening the chest, and don't place all of your weight onto your hands. Keep the elbows lightly bent and keep the back muscles working. Take your hands off from the floor for a moment to see what is a comfortable, maintainable height for you.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- With exhale lower yourself back onto the ground.
- Take 2-3 rounds of inhaling yourself up into the cobra, and exhaling down to the floor. Then hold for 2-3 full breaths, and come back down. Rest on the floor for a few breaths, or enjoy Child's pose as a gentle counter pose.
Variations and Modifications
Before coming up to the pose, take your focus onto your third eye, the space between your eyebrows. This will make you look cross-eyed and silly, but don't let that stop you. From there, start lifting your head and upper back, and roll yourself up to the Cobra pose, keeping the spine and neck long.
Following your third eye often allows you to come higher and into a naturally deeper back bend. On your way back down, take your gaze onto the tip of your nose and follow it all the way down to the floor.
Avoid the Cobra pose if you are pregnant or have undergone abdominal surgery. Keep your lower back relaxed, and avoid the temptation to go for the height before your body is ready. Keep your gaze forward or on the floor if your neck feels strained.
To ease the wrists, you can stay on your elbows, (Sphinx pose from Yin yoga) and elevate the elbows with a block if you would like to get a deeper back bend.
Enjoy this gentle backbend and heart-opening pose during your yoga practice. It provides us a great way to counterbalance the stresses of daily life by opening the shoulders and making us more open to life.