Cobra Yoga Pose

The ‘Cobra Pose’ is an excellent pose for those with back problems. While advanced practitioners of yoga benefit from incorporating it into their flow, it can be easily attempted by beginners as well. 

While it can be practiced on its own, the Cobra is an integral part of ‘Surya Namaskara’ (Sun Salutation) and ‘Chandra Namaskara’ (Moon Salutation) in Hatha yoga. 

As we will learn, the Cobra is an excellent backbend for beginners who do not want to risk injury when they start learning yoga. 

Basics of Cobra Pose:

Known as ‘Bhujangasana’ in Sanskrit, when you are in the Cobra pose, your body resembles that of a snake with a raised head. 

Although this pose is easy and primarily for beginners, intermediate practitioners of yoga find that the regular practice of this benefits them as well. 

The pose targets the back and spine. It opens up one’s Anahata (heart) chakra. 

Benefits of Cobra Pose:

Bhujangasana is the perfect pose for those suffering from a stiff back or more serious problems such as sciatica, slipped disc, or lumbago. It strengthens the spine and prevents one from getting backaches.

When we practice this pose, we open up our heart chakra. This helps our lungs gain more elasticity. 

It also promotes blood circulation in the pelvic region. 

How to Practice the Cobra Pose:

  1. Lie down on your mat, on your stomach with your face downwards towards the ground.
  2. Place your palms on the floor, beside your waist. Your fingers should point forwards, towards your head. Keep your feet slightly apart and your toes should point backward.
  3. Inhale and raise your head, your trunk, and stretch your arms so that they are now parallel to the ground, in a straight line. 
  4. Push your head as far back as possible. Gaze upwards towards your eyebrow center. 
  5. Your hips and thighs should remain on the floor and the weight of your body should be distributed equally in both palms to allow the spine to stretch as much as it is possible. 
  6. Stay in this final pose for as long as it is possible. Exhale and release it gently by bending your elbows and coming back to the starting position.

Common Mistakes During Practice

Many practitioners often confuse the Cobra pose for the Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) as followed by practitioners of the Ashtanga Vinyasa style of yoga. In the Cobra pose, do not lift your knees off the ground. 

Also, since this is a heart-opener, resume normal breathing when you are in the final pose. There is no need to take deep breaths since your chest is already in an expanded position.

Beginner’s Tips:

While it is recommended that you place your palms beside your chest, you can also place them beside your shoulders. For those unable to straighten their arms and lift their trunk comfortably, one can also keep their elbows placed firmly on the ground to achieve a lift.

Do not be too concerned about your arms being fully straight at first. You will gradually achieve it as your spine becomes more flexible. 

Cautions for Practicing Cobra Pose:

Those suffering from a hernia, intestinal tuberculosis, peptic ulcer, or hyperthyroidism should not practice this pose. 

If you have had any recent arm injury or back surgery, then you must consult with your medical doctor before you resume the practice of this pose. 

Variations of the Cobra Pose:

The placement of the palms is very crucial in this pose. Try and place the palms in different positions between your shoulders and waist every time you practice this pose to stretch out different parts of your spine. You will find that placing them closer to your waist will stretch your lower back more, whereas placing them beside your shoulders will bring relief to your upper back.

If you are looking for a slightly more intermediate variation of the Cobra pose, you can try the Upward Facing Dog pose. In this variation, you lift your thighs and knees off the ground. The weight of the body rests on your toes and palms only. However, if you are practicing this variation then make sure that your palms are parallel to your waist.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Cobra Pose good for?

This pose rejuvenates the spine and can bring relief to those suffering from back problems or pain. If your daily schedule requires you to be seated for long hours or hunch over, practice the Cobra Pose daily before you sleep will help keep your spine in better shape and help.

Who should not do Cobra Pose?

Those in their different stages of pregnancy should not practice this pose at all since it involves lying on their stomach. The same goes for anyone who has had any surgery recently. If you have hyperthyroidism, hernia, peptic ulcers, or intestinal tuberculosis you should not practice the Cobra Pose.

Does Cobra Pose increase breast fat?

While Cobra Pose does not increase breast fat, you will find that your chest muscles will develop strength over time due to the unrestricted blood circulation to the area. This will enhance the appearance of your chest area and you will develop better muscle tone regardless of your gender.   

How many times should you do Cobra Pose?

If you are an absolute beginner, practice this pose for 3-5 rounds and gradually increase the duration as your spine starts to get more flexible. While there is no restriction on the number of times, if you practice it excessively without also practicing a counterpose then you may cause injury to your spine.

How long should I hold Cobra Pose?

Start at short intervals of 10-15 seconds and gradually increase the duration as your start to become more comfortable. Some practitioners find it optimum to hold the Cobra Pose for 1 minute at a time and repeat it for multiple rounds. As a note of caution, remember to practice a relevant counter-pose if you hold the Cobra Pose for a long duration. 

Suyasha Sengupta

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References :

[0]Saraswati, S (1969). Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. (Third Edition 1996). Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India.

[1]Iyengar, B.K.(1966). The Illustrated Light On Yoga (Tenth Edition 2005). Harper Collins Publishers, New Delhi, India.