Cobra pose is a deeper backbend that starts from a face-down position, and strengthens the back muscles while opening up the chest. It's easy enough for beginners to do, but beneficial for yoga practitioners of all skill levels.
It's often recommended that menopausal women practicing cobra pose to strengthen abdominal muscles and reduce pain.
However, it's not recommended for carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers or individuals that suffer from back pain.
Cobra Pose Basics
Cobra pose is also called Bhujangsana in yoga practice. It's a back-bending asana in hatha and modern yoga, and is sometimes used during sun salutations.
It's an alterantive to the Upward Facing Dog or Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana in the Vinyasa sequence that is practiced by beginners, but it's pretty powerful and you want to start working on this in isolation.
You have to be careful not to strain your back when doing the exercise. You can move into this pose from Sphinx pose, distributing your weight throughout your spine and opening up the chest.
It's a good pose if you sit at your desk all day, and much less intense than Upward Facing Dog or other poses that target the entire spine.
Benefits of Cobra Pose
There are several benefits when you regularly practice cobra pose. Like many similar yoga poses, Cobra pose heals several ailments, including:
- Relieve depression and improve sleep quality
- Assist with spinal alignment and relieve lower back pain
- Reduce inflammation
- Like many yoga poses, practicing yoga can improve self esteem and self realization
- Improve your posture and health of abdominal organs
- Assist with emotional regulation
However, you should always consult a doctor before attempting new and challenging yoga poses to address any medical concerns upfront.
Cobra Pose Step-by-step instructions
You should start this pose by lying on your stomach in the plank position. Keep your hands beside your ribs and extend your toes back. Take a few deep breaths.
Press down with all your toes and the tops of your feet and rotate your inner thighs to widen your lower back muscles.
Press your hands down gently. Lift your head and lift your chest forward, rolling your shoulders back.
Keep your neck backward and focus on lifting your sternum, instead of your chin. Avoid putting too much pressure on your back.
Straighten your arms and keep your shoulders away from your ears. Slightly bend your elbows. Release back to your yoga mat to exit.
Common Mistakes of Cobra Pose
A lot of people make the mistake of lifting their chest higher than they should, placing pressure on their backs. Others subconsciously lift their hips (which should stay flat).
Make sure that you don't lock your elbows, but instead keep them relaxed and bent. You should also keep your legs close (hip width apart) to avoid straining your other body parts.
It's equally important to recognize your limitations. Cobra pose is not recommended for pregnant women, people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and individuals who battle lower back pain.
If you battle a little with Cobra pose, try starting the position in Locust pose. You can start on your belly, keeping your feet together. Reach down with your hands, palm facing the floor.
Extend your big toes straight back and press down with your toes. Slightly raise your head and chest and legs, beginning with your inner thighs.
Roll your shoulders back and up from the floor. Keep the back of your neck long and don't grip your glutes. Slowly release to exit the pose. You can try this a few times and then go into Cobra pose.
Variation cobra Pose
If you have a hard time with the cobra pose, you can try a modified version of the pose. Place a pillow, blanket or bolster underneath your hips.
You should widen the distance between your feet if you feel any pain - this creates space in your hips, and engages your glutes.
Always take a few breaths before moving in or out of the cobra pose. Exit the pose slowly.
Baby Cobra variation
You may also want to try the Baby Cobra variation.
To do the Baby Cobra pose, lay down on your belly with your forehead resting on the yoga mat.
Plant your hands underneath your shoulders and slowly lighten the pressure in your palms while engaging the core.
Draw your shoulders together and inhale to lift your chest from the mat. Rest with your chest lifted for a few breaths while above the mat.
How To Teach Cobra Pose
Bear in mind that even though Cobra pose is simple, it takes regular yoga practice to perfect. Ask your students to rest their forearms on the floor, keeping their elbows close to their sides.
Press elbows down and reach the heart up, drawing the shoulder blades away from the ears.
They can also try keeping their buttocks relaxed to avoid lower back pain and should keep their shoulders relaxed.
If they need more space in order to arch their back, they can place their hands a little further apart.
There's no specific recommend length for holding the cobra pose, but most people pause at the top for about 10 seconds or three breaths before releasing and lowering back down.
You can repeat this four to seven times during your regular yoga practice.
A few tips to keep in mind
Start the pose slowly while fostering your strength. You don’t need to be more than a few inches off the floor to start seeing the benefit. Build up from there.
Use your legs and feet to engage your quadriceps and lift from your knee caps.
Give yourself as much room as you need. Pull your legs back and down and pull your upper body forward to decompress the pressure in the lower back, and move your hands further apart if you need support.
Many people become extremely tense in cobra pose, so keep your shoulders relaxed.
Where to Buy
You can use the following accessories to help your Pyramid Pose:
- Gaiam Essentials Yoga Block 2 Pack & Yoga Strap Set
- Gaiam Yoga Bolster Rectangular Meditation Pillow
- WZHIJUN Yoga Mats
- Best Yoga Bolster For Plus Size Women and Men
- Best Yoga Blocks for Beginners
Cobra pose is a simple but extremely beneficial pose for students to learn as beginners or veterans.
As with any other pose, it's important to know your limits and to seek advice before attempting it.
If you haven't tried it before, it's a good idea to seek a professional teacher out to teach you the basics of cobra pose as the risk of injuring yourself is quite high.