Cobra pose is frequently practiced as part of the classic sun salutation sequence. If you are practicing cobra during sun salutation, you’d move through the sequence until you come to plank pose, then gently lower your belly down to the floor. Cobra can also be practiced independently: begin by lying on the floor on your belly.
- Place the hands lightly on the floor, palm down, under the shoulders. Hug the elbows against the body. Legs are active but relaxed, with the tops of the feet resting on the floor.
- Press the legs firmly into the floor. Using only your back and abdominal muscles, lift your head and shoulders off the floor.
- Press your shoulders back, opening your chest. Check on your elbows, making sure they are tucked back, keeping your forearms parallel to each other. Close the eyes or gaze at an unmoving point on the floor in front of you.
- All the effort of the pose should be in the back, not the arms – you should be able to lift the hands up off the floor.
- For a deeper variation, press through the hands, begin to straighten the arms, and lift yourself into a deeper backbend. Extend the neck and stretch the crown of your head toward the ceiling.
- Breathe deeply, extending further into the pose on each inhalation.
- To exit the pose, gently lower yourself down to rest fully on the ground. If you’re practicing sun salutations, exhale and press back to downward-facing dog.
Cobra pose is a backbend and chest opener. It keeps the spine healthy and expands the chest.
Those with lower back problems should be very gentle with this pose, practicing only the basic pose and not pressing with the arms. Those with wrist problems may want to practice a different backbend like sphinx that puts less pressure on the wrists.
My Experience of Cobra Pose:
The vinyasa yoga classes I attended in the past emphasized practicing upward-facing dog during sun salutations, so I rarely practiced either sphinx or cobra before coming to East Eagle Yoga, and never really understood before that these poses could substitute for upward dog in a sun salutation. Since beginning my practice at East Eagle, I’ve really enjoyed playing with these poses, especially because upward dog tends to make my back hurt if I hold it too long. At first I felt like I was taking a step backward by choosing cobra over up dog, but now cobra pose has become a really good alternative for me – as a gentler backbend, it allows me to work my back muscles without my arms forcing me into an uncomfortable posture. Also, practicing cobra at the beginning of my practice warms my back up and prepares it for more intensive stretches later on. I like the feeling of opening in my chest that I get when I do cobra pose. Even more, I like the feeling that I’m protecting and strengthening my spine.