Sphinx Pose is a wonderful, entry-level backbend that most yogis can access. Its Sanskrit name, Salamba Bhujangasana, means Supported Cobra Pose.
Because Sphinx Pose asks less of the spine in terms of arching, it allows new yogis, or even yogis with back pain, to access the benefits without adding pressure to the spine.
According to the American Spinal Decompression Association, 80 percent of us will experience back pain at some stage of life — and very likely in our sixth decade. Poses like Sphinx (and other common yoga backbends) can help ward off this potential back pain from haunting you down the road.
Salamba Bhujangasana strengthens the spine while stretching the front of the heart, the chest, the shoulders, and the tummy. It expands the lungs and stimulates the abdominal organs and digestive system and improves blood circulation to rejuvenate your back.
Like it’s big sister Cobra, Sphinx is a lovely way to strengthen and tone the glutes!
- Lie face down on your tummy.
- Lift your kneecaps, connect your inner thighs, and press the tops of your feet firmly into the Earth.
- Slide your hands back until your elbows are directly under your shoulders and press up onto your forearms.
- Press firmly into your palms (facing down).
- Send your heart forward and play with the amount of intensity that’s nourishing for you right now.
- Extend out of the crown of your head and create space between your ears and your shoulders.
- .Send your breath to any tight places and hold the pose for at least one minute, or longer if it remains comfortable.
Tips, Tricks, and Restrictions
Preparatory postures include most standard warm-up poses like Child’s Pose, Downward Facing Dog Pose, Plank, and Cat/Cow. You can use this posture as part of a larger backbending series by moving into Cobra, Locust, and Bow afterward.
A great tip for new yogis is to roll up a towel in a horseshoe shape on the floor. Place the bottom of the horseshoe just above your pelvic bone and let the sides of the horseshoe support the sides of your belly. This will give you greater accessibility into the posture and help extend the spine by creating more space for the belly to lift.
The beauty of Salamba Bhujangasana is its accessibility for nearly every level of experience, and is a relatively safe pose. With that said, pregnant women should avoid this pose given its belly-down nature.
In this vein, anyone that’s had abdominal pain, symptoms, surgery, or rib injuries should avoid it as well. Anyone with a recent back injury should steer clear until ample time for healing has passed.
Sphinx Pose is a beautiful way to strengthen and lengthen the back after a long day at work. So even if you only have five minutes at the end of the evening, press up on to those forearms and feel the asana do what it does best.
Remember, a happy spine is a happy life!