Bhujangasana (cobra pose) is the key traditional backbend yoga pose, which is also one of the tremendous chest opener pose. This gentle spinal cord was believed to ignite a burning digestive fire and arouse the flow of dormant energy.
The word Bhujangasana comes from Bhujanga meaning cobra or snake and Asana meaning posture or pose. Bhujangasana is also known as Cobra Stretch. This pose is included in Sun Salutations (Suryanamaskar) as well as Padma Sadhana.
|Also name as:||Bhujangasana, cobra pose, cobra stretch|
|Total Time:||15 to 30 seconds|
|Stretches:||Shoulder, Abdomen, Thorax, Lung|
|Counter poses:||Adho mukha svanasana (Downward facing dog pose), Balasana (Child’s pose), Eka pada rajakapotasana (Half pigeon pose), Lying on belly|
|Preparatory poses:||Setu bandha sarvangasana (Bridge pose), Salamba bhujangasana (Sphinx pose)|
|Follow-up poses:||Urdhva mukha svanasana (Upward-facing dog), Urdhva dhanurasana (Upward-facing bow pose), Ustrasana (Camel pose)|
|Contraindications:||Pregnancy, carpal tunnel, headache, back injury|
Benefits of Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
It encourages digestion and elimination, while for many, helps reduce back pain. Increases strength and flexibility of spine, arms, back. Creates tension in the back, shoulders, neck. Stimulates the thyroid, kidney, adrenal. Improves digestion, elimination, reproduction, lung capacity. Secure precursor to other, more vigorous backbands.
- Opens the chest, shoulders, and throat
- Lengthens the spine and increases spinal flexibility
- Strengthens the low back, shoulders, and legs
- Improves posture
- Stimulates the circulatory, digestive, and lymphatic systems
- Reduces fatigue
Step by step Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Lie facedown on the floor with the hands alongside the chest in a push-up position.
There are three standard hand placements for the Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose).
- The most difficult placement is with your hands by your lower ribs, so your forearms are vertical and the wrists form a right angle with the floor.
- Placement is with your hands farther forward, fingertips in line with the top of your shoulders. Most people start the pose here.
- The standard hand placement is with your hands even farther forward so that both forearms are flat on the floor. The farther forward the hands are, the easier your pose will be; the farther back they are, the deeper the stretch.
Try each of these three, sense the differences, and determine which is the best for you.
In each of these three variations, spread your fingers fully and have the middle fingers pointing straight ahead.
Align your center first:
- Pull your abdominal muscles inward, contract your buttocks, and press the hips and pubis into the floor. Do this firmly, but not excessively. This initial action lengthens the lower back and aligns the pelvis in cat tilt.
- Then create a line of energy down the legs by pressing the tops of the feet firmly into the floor, tightening your thighs, and stretching straight backward through the legs and feet.
- Roll your shoulders up, away from the floor, and be on the forehead. Except for your hand placement, this initial alignment is similar to the starting position for Shalabhasana, Locust Pose.
- The tendency here is for your shoulders to roll down toward the floor and your elbows to splay outward. Instead, move your elbows inward toward one another, so your shoulders roll up away from the floor, and shrug your shoulders backward, away from your ears, toward your elbows.
- This action will open the chest, lengthen the back of the neck, and make the upper arms parallel with one another. You’ll feel the skin on the back of the upper arms moving toward your elbows.
- Sustain this action throughout the pose and continue hugging inward with your elbows. Snuggle the palms into the floor.
- Establish a smooth flowing breath and wait for the inner cue to begin before proceeding. When you are ready, exhale.
As you inhale, raise the torso away from the floor. As you exhale, come down. Go up and down gently, coordinating the movement with the breathing. Do this at least 5 times.
As you go up and down, do not use the arm strength. This will force your back to work and thereby develop tremendous spinal strength, one of the main benefits of Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). However, retain the alignment of the shoulders and arms. Hug inward with the elbows and continue shrugging your shoulders away from the ears. This will protect the neck and spine and help keep the chest expanded.
Be especially attentive to slide the shoulder blades down your back and to contract your upper back muscles as the torso leaves the floor. Doing this will help bring the curve into the upper back, out of the lumbar, thereby evenly spreading the curve through the entire spine. Be aware also to keep the back of the neck long and your gaze toward the floor. Do not retract the head backward into your neck by looking forward. Land lightly on the forehead when you come down.
Inhale and come up as far as you comfortably can without using the hands. Check the alignment, and breathe smoothly.
Curve deeper into the pose. Lift the torso farther away from the floor by slowly pressing the palms down. You are now using the arm strength, and this is fine, just minimize it. Exercise your back.
Come up gently, a little at a time. Do not rush to the deepest extension, and do not press the arms fully straight yet. Proceed slowly. Wait for the body to let you in. And as a general rule, until you become more skilled, do not let the navel leave the floor. This restriction will help insure correct alignment, safe performance of the pose, and make the back strong and flexible.
Press gently into the edges and tight areas. Become rounder and rounder. Do this by again snuggling the palms into the floor and then slowly, firmly pulling with the hands. Pull as though you were attempting to slide the floor backward underneath you, but don’t actually move the hands. Pull with the hands, curve your head and look upward, and press the chest forward through your shoulders. Doing this will not cause you to come farther up into the pose, but it will tighten the curve where you already are. Move the thoracic spine, behind the heart, deep into your back.
Notice how the apex of the curve moves down your back as you move deeper into the pose: your upper back, your middle back and your lumbar. Allow this to happen. It’s natural. But once you’re in the pose, and especially when you are pulling with the hands, try to bring the apex of the curve up your back again. Spread the curve evenly throughout the full length of the spine by expanding the chest forward through your shoulders.
Experience yourself as a strong arc of the curving energy. Climb into your curve, extend and tighten your curve, and follow the energy flow deeper into the pose. Get round. Savor the stretch, also be as effortless and strain-free as possible.
Eventually you can go ahead and press the arms fully straight, if you can keep your shoulders down while doing so; otherwise, keep them bent. If you cannot keep the shoulders down as you straighten your arms, then you’ve gone too far—in which case, bend the arms and back out of the pose a little. The idea here is not to “straighten your arms.” The idea is to strengthen the back and curve your spine evenly.
Bring the head to normal alignment at any time. Sometimes breathe deeply, other times softly, and always generate the perfect intensity and the right degree of current in the pose – not too much, not too little. It’s subjective. Stay with the now-experience to know what’s right.
If you choose to have the eyes open, turn them upward and gaze through the eyebrows, so the energy through the eyes pulls you deeper into the stretch. If you have the eyes closed, stretch mentally in that direction.
Stay as long or as little as you want, somewhere between 15 seconds and 2 or 3 minutes. Some time to curve the head backward, and some times bring it to normal alignment. When you sense it’s nearly time to come out of the pose, curve the head backward (or not) and accelerate the energy for a few seconds. Go faster. This feels fabulous. Then release the Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose).
Come down gently. Keep the elbows inward toward your body and land lightly on the forehead. Even here, though, come down gently, incrementally, not all at once. Do not be in a rush to get out of the Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). Come down a little, stop, and then pull with the hands for a few seconds to intensify the curve. Then roll forward a bit, stop, and then tighten the curve by pulling with your hands again. As you get closer to the floor, the top of the curve falls on your back. Take your time, press into as many areas as you can to exercise the full length of the spine.
Repeat the Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) 2 or 3 times, then turn the head to the side and relax. Enjoy the way you feel.