Cobra Pose Tutorial: Yoga for Beginners

Cobra is one of my favorite yoga poses. It’s a backbend and heart opening pose that can be modified to fit whatever your body needs.

Sometimes, nothing feels better than a massive, expansive, chest-opening cobra while other times, I crave just a really small movement—maybe a slight rolling back of the shoulders with a little, baby backbend.

The pose is part of sun salutations and is a common pose in most yoga classes. It’s a posture that can be really therapeutic for the neck, shoulders, and low back, however, without proper alignment and muscle activation, it can actually feel a little crunchy and tight in all of those places instead.

Below are my guidelines for a safe, enjoyable, strength-building, and expanding cobra pose.

Everything You Need to Know About Cobra Pose

Sanskrit name: Bhujangasana

Benefits: Strengthens the spine, stretches the frontside of the body, opens the heart, stimulates the abdomen, can help alleviate back pain

Precautions: back injuries (always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program)

1. How to Begin

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  • Start lying down on your belly with your forehead down on the mat

  • Place your hands next to your chest—spread your fingers nice and wide

  • Before you lift your chest, spread your toenails down onto the earth—feet can be touching together or spread apart as much as you need

  • Activate the legs by pressing the tops of your feet down and hugging the inner thighs in towards each other

  • Point the tip of your tailbone down towards the earth

  • Pull your navel in and up—core is engaged to protect your low back

  • Roll your shoulder blades down your back, away from your ears

  • Gently press your hands into the mat (be mindful not to put all your weight into your hands) and draw a line up towards the wall in front of you with your nose—inhale

  • Elbows are hugging in towards your body and pointing straight back, try not to let them splay out to the sides

  • Keep your neck lengthening forward and up—take all the wrinkles out of the back of your neck

  • Hold the backbend as long as you want—breathe in and out through the nose

  • To come out of the pose, draw a line back down towards the earth with your nose, relax the body—exhale

2. Bonus Tips & Tricks

  • In warmup, try several cobras back-to-back, inhaling as you lift your heart forward, exhaling as you lower back down towards the mat

  • Experiment with “Spider Cobra”

    • Take your hands wide off the mat, tent your fingertips, follow normal cobra alignment

    • Add a twist by dipping one shoulder down while you look over the opposite

  • Try cobra with your hands hovering off the mat

  • Play around with straightening the arms more to get a deeper backbend/chest opener (photo below)—do your best to maintain core engagement and avoiding putting all your weight in your hands

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Thanks for reading!

If you want more pose breakdowns like this one, check out my other tutorials below:

Forward Fold

Halfway Lift


Downward Facing Dog