Cobra pose, or bhujangasana, is a basic backbend posed used in many forms of yoga. Well-supported and adaptable, cobra pose is suitable for beginners and can be great for those with chronic back problems. Slipping into a quick cobra pose is also a great way to fight the poor posture developed from hours at the computer.
There are several different ways to get into cobra pose. It commonly is a part of the popular sun salutation sequence, and follows chaturanga pose, also known as knees, chest, and chin. To get to cobra easily, get into a high push-up position with hands and elbows directly under shoulders. Sink knees down to the floor, bend the arms, and slide the chin and chest down and forward, so that legs are straight with the tops of the feet pressing into the floor, and shoulders rest on the hands.
From this position, cobra pose is quite simple to achieve. First, pull the elbows close to the body, pulling down on the shoulder blades. While inhaling, press the chest forward and up. The chin should be raised just slightly, and most of the weight of the body is held in the hands and arms. By keeping the shoulder blades pulled down and back, the chest will expand. This pose, with the arms still bent, is often known as “baby cobra pose.”
A more advanced version of cobra pose is known as full cobra or upward-facing dog. From baby cobra, the arms are slowly straightened, while keeping the shoulders down and extending the back bend through the mid and upper back. Full cobra should never feel painful or like any part of the spine is jamming into the parts below it. A full cobra backbend should be a smooth, graceful, and strong arc that incorporates the entire spine. If doing a full cobra pose is uncomfortable, arms should be straightened only to the point of control and comfort.
Care should be taken not to create too deep of an arch in cobra pose. It is easy to overload the lower back with pressure by allowing the belly to flop and the ribs to shift forward. Instead, imagine a string pulling the belly button back toward the spine to help firm the core, and let the ribs float neutrally atop the core muscles.
Though relatively basic, cobra pose helps the body in a number of ways. The back bend helps build strength all along the spine, while relieving tension and pressure caused by stress and bad posture. The expansion of the chest may help improve lung capacity and stretch the muscles in the chest. The pose also helps build flexibility into the spine, and strengthen the core of the body.