HOW TO DO COBRA POSE
Say it like this: boo-jahn-GAHS-uh-na
The Sanskrit name comes from the word Bhujanga meaning serpent, and asana meaning pose.
The Cobra Pose is an essential part of the Sun Salutations sequence and is often used as an alternative to practicing Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).
The Low Cobra variation of this pose is suited to those with less flexibility of the spine and for beginners.The High Cobra version is for more experienced yoga practitioners. This pose can also be practised in a standing position with hands against the wall.
Cobra pose has many benefits.Traditional yoga texts claim that the Cobra Pose heals the body of disease and awakens Kundalini which is the divine cosmic energy that brings self-realisation.
In particular it is very beneficial for increasing spine flexibility and spine strength. It also strengthens the shoulders. It opens the lungs which is beneficial for asthma, and digestion is improved because of the stimulation of the abdominal organs. Because it is a backbending pose it is energising and reduces stress and fatigue. It tones the shoulders, abdomen and buttocks and can help to ease sciatic pain.
Start by lying face down on the mat, legs extended and just a few inches apart with your toes on the floor and not tucked under which could crunch your spine. Keep your palms under your shoulders.
Your elbows should be hugged to the side of the body and your hands on the floor next to your chest with your fingers pointing forward to the top of the mat. Spread your toes and press your pubic bone into the floor.
Inhale and slowly and gently lift your upper chest and head off the floor without using your arms. Keep the lower ribs on the floor and straighten the arms pressing the tops of the thighs and the pubis down to the mat. Keep the neck in line with the extended spine. At this stage this is Low Cobra.
If you are a beginner, keep your gaze on the floor but if you are more flexible you can look up toward the ceiling. You should draw your shoulders back but be careful not to crunch your neck or to force the backbend. Allow the lift to be a natural extension of the spine. There should be hardly any weight on your hands and you could now try to lift your hands off the mat momentarily while still in the pose. You will now be able to feel your back doing the work.
As you get more experienced and flexible you can deepen the stretch by straightening your arms according to your physical ability but avoid straining to achieve a deeper backbend. If you are very supple you will be able to stretch your arms to their full extent while keeping the connection of the front legs and pelvis to the floor. When achieved this is High Cobra.
Hold the pose from 15 to 30 seconds or for 2 to 6 breaths. Be patient and curious, observe how your spine feels and enjoy the sensations you feel in your body.
To release slowly lower your chest and forehead to the mat whilst exhaling. Turn your head to one side and lay your head on the mat resting on the opposite ear. Relax your arms at the side of your body. You can rock your hips from side to side to release any tension in the lower back.To reduce strain in the low back you can increase the bend in your elbows or walk your hands a little further forward.
You can repeat the pose as many as five times.
If you are practising Cobra Pose as part of the Sun Salutations, move directly into Downward Facing Dog.