Sphinx Pose Yoga

Sphinx pose is a back bending pose found in yoga. It’s a pose that is done low to the ground whereby the person practicing it has to lay on their stomach to do it. It’s a gentle pose that doesn’t require a lot of strength but can be an extremely deep stretch for some people.

Sphinx pose is commonly found near the end or at the beginning of a yoga flow because it’s low to the ground. The name of the sphinx pose comes from the alignment of the pose. The shape that the pose makes creates the same shape as the mythical sphinx creature found in the ancient Greek tradition. It’s also the same shape as the sphinx found in Egypt.

The basics of sphinx pose

Sphinx pose is known as Salamba Bhujangasana in Sanskrit. The pose targets the spine, shoulders, neck, and forearms. The glutes are also slightly targeted in this pose but aren’t needed too much for the pose to be held. Hardly any strength is needed to hold the pose, except for some minor arm strength.

The sphinx pose is a gentle pose that can be found in all yoga classes. It’s a beginner level pose that can be made to be more difficult for advanced levels. It’s been used in all levels of classes because of its adaptability. It’s an easy pose to hold for many and is often used to slow the class down or allow the class to catch their breath.

The benefits of practicing sphinx pose 

There are many benefits that come from practicing sphinx pose. This includes a deep stretch in the upper and lower back. The pose strengthens the arms and engages the glutes. It opens the chest area and shoulder, which also improves overall posture. Sphinx pose stimulates the internal organs, which can improve digestion and ease any pain in the stomach area.

The sphinx pose is targeted at the back and continuous practice of the pose strengthens the back muscles and increases spinal flexibility. The gentleness of the pose calms a person. The pose ensures that a person reaches stillness and is focused on the breath, as well as the present moment.

How to do sphinx pose

Step by step instructions for getting into the pose

  1. Begin in a lying-down position with the stomach flat to the mat. Ensure that there is enough space in front of your head on the mat. Have the arms next to your side and forehead placed down on the mat.
  2. Start to move your hands to the front of the mat and push into them to lift some of the upper body off of the mat.
  3. Move your elbows so that they are placed directly underneath your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and make sure that the hands and forearms are pointing to the front of the mat. The forearms should also be parallel to one another.
  4. Push into your hands and forearms to lift the chest. Lengthen the collarbone forward and look directly ahead of you. Don’t look down or upwards. Make sure the neck is in one long line.
  5. Squeeze the glutes and roll the shoulders back. If there is any pinching felt in the lower back, move the feet further apart from each other.
  6. Hold this position for 5-10 breaths and remember to breathe deeply. When releasing from the pose, do so slowly and gently.

Common mistakes made when doing the pose

The biggest mistake that people make when trying to do sphinx pose is that they either have their elbows too far back or too far forward. The placement of the elbows is what holds the pose together. Having them too far forward or too far back can be extremely uncomfortable and won’t make for a good stretch.

Another mistake that people do when practicing sphinx pose is pushing into the forearms too much so that the elbows lift slightly off the ground. This can be a difficult pose to hold and will cause more of a stretch in the lower back. That variation is only for those who have flexible spines.

Beginners’ tips

A good tip for beginners who are trying out sphinx for the first time is to use a blanket. The blanket can be placed under the stomach area, which will allow the upper body to be lifted easier. It also makes it easier and more comfortable to hold the position.

Another tip for beginners would be to start with the legs further apart and slowly move them closer together over time. This makes the pose more gentle and easier to get used to. In this version, the glutes don’t have to work or engage as much either.

Cautions

If someone is injured in the area of their arms, shoulders, spine, or glutes then they shouldn’t be doing sphinx pose. Similarly, if someone is experiencing pain in any of those areas then they should also avoid the pose. Pregnant people shouldn’t be practicing the sphinx pose either. The pressure on the stomach would be too much for a pregnant woman.

Always listen to your body and don’t push past any pain that may be felt. Slowly back off if any pain arises whilst trying the pose out. Consult a doctor or physician before doing any physical exercise or trying out any yoga pose.

Variations of sphinx pose 

An easier variation of sphinx pose would be cobra pose whereby only the hands push into the floor and the upper body is lifted off the floor. It stretches the same areas and engages the same muscles but can’t be held for long periods of time like sphinx pose.

A more difficult variation of sphinx pose would be seal pose. To get into seal pose, you go into sphinx pose first and then push into the hands to lift the arms completely off the mat. The gaze stays straight ahead, and the shoulders stay open. This creates a deeper and more intense backbend for those who are already flexible in the spine and want more of a stretch.

Kate Viljoen

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References :


[0]B.K.S Iyengar. (1966). Light on yoga. Retrieved 01 March 2022.

[1]Noa Belling. (2018, January 06). The Mindful Body. Retrieved 01 March 2022.

[2]Daniel Lacerda. (2015, November 10). 2100 Asanas, The Complete Yoga Poses. Retrieved 01 March 2022.