Cobra Pose, Bhujangasana for a Flexible Back
There are many poses in yoga that are done in a prone (on the stomach) position. The Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana is a prone backbend yoga pose with many benefits which is energizing sending a fresh supply of blood to the lower back and pelvis. It is easy to perform and can be done by beginners as well as advanced students.
The Sanskrit word Bhujangasana is a combined word meaning:
bhujanga = serpent, snake
asana = pose
Prone yoga poses promote flexibility and strengthen the back and arms. Many also open the chest, stretch the abdominal muscles, and lengthen the hip flexors. The backbending positions massage and stimulate the kidneys. Backbends also warm the system, increases energy and are invigorating. They bring flexibility to the central axis of support and strengthen weak back muscles.
Did you know that doing backbend yoga poses helps to massage the kidneys?
Benefits of Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana
We spend most of the day bending forward, sitting, driving, housework and working at the desk. Backbends such as the cobra pose are a good counterpose to perform during our yoga practice. There are many other benefits to doing the cobra pose:
- strengthens arm muscles
- promotes flexibility of the spine
- opens the chest
- stimulates the digestive organs
- increases mobility in the vertebral column
- energizing and invigorating
- tones the back, kidneys, and buttocks
- expands the rib cage
- tones the abdomen
- firms the neck and throat
- Helps relieve stress and fatigue
- increases circulation
- soothes sciatica pain
- therapeutic for asthma
The cobra pose requires more arm strength than the Sphinx pose. Opening the chest promotes better breathing and the heart center expands bringing vitality into the body.
Tips to do Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana
How to do the Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana
Performing the cobra pose requires some preparation before reaching the final position:
- Lie face down with your forehead on the mat
- Keep your feet comfortably close together with the toes pointing
- place the palms on the floor under the shoulders, fingers facing forward
- over several releasing exhalations, make your body as long and alive as possible
- engage the abdominal muscles and feel the hip creases press into the floor
PREPARING FOR COBRA POSE
- Inhale: curl your upper body off the floor 2-3 inches as you slowly raise your forehead, nose, chin, shoulders, and chest. Pelvis remains on the floor.
- Lift your hands off the floor and feel your lower back muscles being strengthened.
- Hold for 3 breaths. Make sure your shoulders drop away from your ears.
- Place hands on the floor. Slowly release your upper body back onto the floor and rest. Turn your head to one side if you feel the need.
COMING INTO COBRA POSE
- Place the palms again beneath the shoulders, elbows bent and tucked next to the body.
- Tuck the tailbone under so the pubic bone presses to the floor.
- Lift the straight knees off the floor while keeping the tops of the feet pressing down to the floor.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and press both palms into the floor, slowly raising the forehead, nose, chin, shoulders, and chest off the floor. Shoulders are down and away from the ears. Keep your elbows bent at a 45 degrees angle or less. The navel remains on the floor.
- Lengthen your neck and gaze straight ahead. Hold for 3-5 breaths
- Upper body remains raised
- keep the inner legs and feet together as you press the pubic bone into the floor and move the back arching action a little higher up into the middle back. Pull back with the heels of the hands, so it feels like you are pulling your chest forward, through the arms.
- Keep the shoulders soft and move down the back as you straighten the arms. Tuck the chin in toward the throat so the back of the neck remains long.
- Stay in this position for a few breaths, expanding the chest on the inhalation and lengthening the spine on the exhalation
- when you combine this pose with a hissing sound on each inhalation and an awareness of the line of energy from the perineum to the sacrum, it becomes a mudra, Serpent Seal.
- Exhale and slowly begin lowering your body from the waist, chest, chin, nose and forehead
- pause and repeat
Couterpose: Relax and stretch the back in child pose or balasana
Caution: Pregnant women should avoid this cobra pose.
Practice moving smoothly in and out of the pose before holding it for longer periods. When gazing straight, gaze at the third eye or upward to infinity. Imagine a cobra as it rises and gets ready to strike. The cobra pose is one of several ancient prone poses that have traditionally been part of hatha yoga for centuries such as Full Locust and Child Pose.
Resources for Spine Strengthening
- Yoga Poses for the Spine: Strength and Flexibility
The spine is like the trunk of a tree, supporting the entire body structure. Taking care of it and maintaining its strength and flexibility is of primary importance. Find out some of the yoga poses that you can incorporate into your yoga practice.
- Camel Yoga Pose, Ustrasana
The Camel Pose or Ustrasana is an intermediate level kneeling backbend yoga pose. It stretches and strengthens the spine, thighs, abdomen and back muscles. It is an energizing and improves posture.
- Half Forward Bend, Ardha Uttanasana Yoga Pose
This pose helps to strengthen the back and relax the neck muscles which is the region of tension because it has to support the head in an upright position. Find out how to stretch and strengthen them.
- How to Perform the Locust Pose in Yoga
The half locust and the full locust pose in yoga are both beneficial to strengthen the buttocks, legs and increase energy and circulation in the body. Learn how to perform both the variations.