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
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