Sphinx Pose — Salamba Bhujangasana is the gentle backbend that supports overall spine health and provides awareness of the shoulder girdle. This can be practiced with an active or passive approach in yoga that helps open the chest, lungs, and lower back.
It is a modified variation of the backbend, cobra pose (bhujangasana), which is suitable for people with wrist pain, injury or carpal tunnel syndrome, so that it can be easier for beginners.
Since the Sphinx Pose — Salamba Bhujangasana is performed on the forearms, it takes pressure from the wrist, providing all the benefits of a cobra pose.
According to the American Spinal Decompression Association, 80 percent of us will experience back pain at some stage of life – and very likely in our sixth decade. Supplements like Since the Sphinx Pose — Salamba Bhujangasana (and other common yoga backbands) can help relieve this potential back pain that gets you down the road.
|Known as:||Sphinx Pose, Salamba Bhujangasana, Niravalasana|
|Sanskrit name:||षलम्ब भुजङ्गासन|
|Focus:||Spine, shoulders, chest|
|Total Time:||3–5 minutes|
|Chakra:||Heart chakra (Anahata), Throat chakra (Vishuddha), Third eye chakra (Ajna)|
|Indications:||Vertebral column, Abdomen, Thorax, Lung, Shoulder, Depression, Fatigue|
|Counter poses:||Child’s Pose (Balasana), Downward-facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Cat-Cow Stretch (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana), Belly-down savasan|
|Preparatory poses:||Cat-Cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana), Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), Child’s pose (Balasana), Downward-facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Low Cobra Pose (Ardha Bhujangasana), Phalakasana (Plank pose or Adho Mukha Dandasana)|
|Follow-up poses:||Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), Setu bandha sarvangasana (Bridge pose), Upward-facing Dog pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), Child’s pose (Balasana), Downward-facing Dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)|
|Contraindications:||Headache, Major back injury, Pregnant women, High blood pressure|
Meaning + Origin
Salamba Bhujangasana is the Sanskrit name for the Sphinx pose. It is a combination of three words — Salamba + Bhujanga + Asana:
- “Salamba” = “supported or sustained”
- “Bhujanga” = “cobra or snake”
- “Asana” = “pose or posture”
Hence, Salamba Bhujangasana can be translated to mean “Supported Cobra Pose” or “Supported Snake Pose.” The name suggests that this pose is a variation or a modification of the Cobra pose, where the forearms are used for support instead of the hands. The Sphinx pose is often used as a preparatory pose for deeper backbends, such as the Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) or the Upward-facing Dog pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).
The name “Sphinx” comes from the resemblance of the pose to the Sphinx statue in ancient Egyptian mythology, which was known for its strength and wisdom.
The Sphinx was typically depicted as a creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion, and was typically associated with strength, wisdom, and mystery. The most famous Sphinx statue is the Great Sphinx of Giza, which is located in Egypt and is one of the largest and oldest statues in the world.
The Sphinx pose is believed to have been inspired by the shape of the Sphinx statue, with the pose resembling the Sphinx’s body and the practitioner’s head and shoulders resembling the Sphinx’s head. While the Sphinx pose is not directly connected to Egyptian mythology, it is typically associated with the ancient wisdom and strength that the Sphinx represents.
In yoga, mythology, and symbolism are often used to deepen the practice and connect the physical postures to the larger spiritual and philosophical aspects of the tradition. While the Sphinx pose may not have a specific mythological story, it can still be a powerful and meaningful practice for those who wish to explore its symbolism and energetic effects.
The pose can be traced back to the ancient tradition of Hatha yoga, which emerged in India around the 11th century CE. Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga that focuses on physical postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama) as a means of balancing and purifying the body and mind.
Benefits of Sphinx Pose — Salamba Bhujangasana
Sphinx pose offers many benefits. It strengthens various areas of your body, such as your back, spine, chest, shoulders, abdominal muscles, neck, and arms. These benefits are explained below:
Stretch and Strength: The practice of Sphinx Pose — Salamba Bhujangasana mainly extends your spine muscles, chest and shoulders, abdominal muscles, neck, and arms. Through this process of stretching, it strengthens your spine, back, arms and helps to tighten the muscles of your gluteus (buttocks). Tightening of these muscles supports your hips, spine, and pelvis.
Blood circulation and nervous system: Acts as a backbone, this pose is good for improving oxygen levels in the blood, thus improving circulation of blood. It stretches your back muscles activating various joints such as your hips, pelvic girdle, spine, rib cage, shoulder, elbow, neck, etc., thereby improving the better functioning of the nerves. It helps to keep your nervous system active and under control.
Toning: When Sphinx Pose — Salamba Bhujangasana is practiced for a long period, it helps to improve the posture of your spine to ensure that the breath is deep and slow. The natural curve of your lower back, and upper back are maintained with the help of a hump back. Stretching of your arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, and pelvis helps tone your body with strong muscles of your respective areas.
Back and neck pain: Sphinx Pose — Salamba Bhujangasana is good for helping yogis suffering from issues related to any part of the spine. It helps in a therapeutic way to relieve back pain or neck pain when done under the guidance of a yoga teacher/instructor.
Stretch abdominal and improve lung capacity: Stretching of your abdominal area and chest helps to activate your adrenal glands giving gentle massage to the kidneys, stimulating them. In this, the digestive system is also stimulated by a gentle stretch of your upper abdominal area. Stretching in your chest helps in better breathing, thus improving your lung capacity in a very conscious manner.
Relieve stress and fatigue: Salamba Bhujangasana helps to open your lower back with gentle stretching of your hips and leg muscles, it is said to be a simple therapeutic yoga posture to relieve stress and anxiety. It’s the great way to help reduce body anxiety and fatigue when going to bed, being a part of the night yoga.
How to do Sphinx Pose — Salamba Bhujangasana
- Start on the belly and slide the forearms forward, aligning the elbows directly under your shoulders, your middle fingers pointing forward, and all four corners of your hand pressing evenly into the mat.
- Draw your heart forward by pressing down and forward into your forearms and drawing your elbows back.
- Press your pubic bone into the floor and lengthen your lower back by tilting your pelvis towards the face.
- Draw your shoulders away from your ears, relax the tops of your feet on the floor, and roll your inner thighs upward and your outer thighs down.
- Feel your lower belly lift, bringing the backbend into the upper back.
- Gaze directly or tilt the chin down slightly.
- To relax your neck, place a block under your forehead for support.
- If you are experiencing discomfort as frontal hip points press into the floor, place a blanket under that area to add extra cushions.
Note: It puts a lot of pressure on your abdominal area. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid practicing it as it may harm the baby.
Precautions and contraindications
This yoga pose is generally considered as a safe yoga pose for most people, but there are some precautions and contraindications that should be to kept in mind while practicing this yoga pose to prevent any injury or discomfort.
- Lower back injury: If someone has a history of lower back injury or pain, you should approach this yoga pose with caution or avoid it altogether. The Sphinx pose can place a lot of pressure on the lumbar spine, especially if it is not properly supported by the core and legs.
- Shoulder injury: Individual with shoulder injury or pain, you should avoid putting too much weight on your arms and shoulders during this pose. Instead, focus on engaging your core and using your back muscles to lift your chest and head off the ground.
- Neck injury: Individual with neck injury or pain should avoid hyperextending your neck during this pose. Instead, keep your gaze forward and lengthen your neck without straining.
- Pregnancy: If you are pregnant, you should avoid deep backbends like the Sphinx pose, as they can put too much pressure on the abdomen and pelvic region. Instead, focus on gentle yoga poses that support the body during pregnancy.
- High blood pressure: People with high blood pressure should avoid doing this pose for too long or practicing it with a lot of effort, as it can increase blood pressure.