[Pose of the Week] Don’t Fear the Cobra (Beginner)

Cobra Pose is sometimes dreaded by new yoga students who tend to over-extend in this pose. Here are some tips for making the most of this beginner yoga pose – and actually enjoying it!

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) is one of those foundational yoga poses that pops up in just about every beginner yoga class. However, as with many beginner yoga poses, while it may look simple, it isn’t always easy to do correctly – which is a shame, because when done correctly, Cobra pose opens the chest and strengthens the core and upper body, aligns the spine, and stimulates the kidneys and the nervous system. However, if you do it incorrectly, you may miss out on these benefits and could even cause or aggravate existing back injuries.

Unfortunately, many people who are new to the pose tend to overdo it, compromising lower back stability and compressing delicate vertebrae by extending the pose too far. This leads to many people giving up on this truly excellent pose before they ever understand its full benefits. If this sounds like you, I encourage you to give it another try, following the recommendations in this article.

Note: Just about anyone can benefit from Cobra pose, but if you have recent or chronic injury to the back, arms, shoulders or abdomen, or if you are pregnant, you should avoid this one.

Here are some instructions from YogaBasics.com on how to do Cobra Pose – plus some tips for avoiding common mistakes and making the most of the pose:

1. Lie on your belly, with the chin on the floor, palms flat on the floor under the shoulders and legs together.

2. Pull up the knee caps, squeeze the thighs and buttocks, engage mula bandha, and press the pubic bone down into the floor.

3. Without using the arms, inhale and lift the head and chest off of the floor, keeping the neck in line with the spine.

4. With the elbows close to your sides, press down into the palms and use the arms to lift you up even higher. Drop the shoulders down and back and press the chest forward. Keep the legs, buttocks, and mula bandha strong, and keep the pubic bone pressing down into the floor.

5. Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths.

6. To release: exhale and slowly lower the chest and head to the floor. Turn the head to one side and rest, rock the hips from side to side to release any tension in the low back.

Tips & Modifications:

  • Keep in mind that you do NOT have to straighten your arms. Go easy on your back, and listen to your body for signs of discomfort as you ease up into the pose. It’s okay to go to the edge of your discomfort, but don’t push beyond.
  • Instead of bending your back, think of lengthening your front and lifting your chest. Be sure to engage your thighs and butt muscles to press down into the floor.
  • Make sure to press your shoulder blades down your back, away from your ears. (This video gives a helpful demonstration of entering the pose safely.)
  • If you feel strain in the lower back, either bend your elbows, or walk your hands forward a bit.
  • If you feel like you can’t sustain the pose, start with Sphinx Pose, and move into Cobra when you feel comfortable.

Cobra Pose can be an uplifting and empowering pose if you keep in mind the supple nature of the pose’s namesake. Don’t force it – just allow your body to find it’s own way to the freedom and strength that this pose embodies, and you will no longer fear the Cobra!


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