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How to Do the Cobra I, II and III Yoga Postures

Daily life entails lots of forward bending: putting on a pair of pants; tying shoelaces; playing sports, and so on. The cobra and other Yoga back bends, which stretch the front of the torso (and spine) provide an antidote for the cumulative effects of forward bending. A forward bend closes the front of the torso, shortens the front of the spine, and rounds the back.

This closing and rounding is exaggerated by the unhealthy habit of bending forward from the waist rather than from the hip joints. Bending forward in the wrong way day in and day out can lead to spinal problems.

Move slowly and cautiously in all of the cobra postures. Avoid any of the postures that cause pain in your lower back, upper back, or neck.

Cobra I

The cobra posture increases the flexibility and strength of the muscles of the arms, chest, shoulders, and back. Cobra I especially emphasizes the upper back. The cobra opens the chest, increases lung capacity, and stimulates the kidneys and the adrenals.

This first cobra posture is also called The Sphinx. It’s a variation of of bhujangasana. To do this first version of cobra, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your abdomen with your legs spread at hip width and the tops of your feet on the floor.

  2. Rest your forehead on the floor and relax your shoulders; bend your elbows and place your forearms on the floor with your palms turned down and positioned near the sides of your head.

  3. As you inhale, engage your back muscles, press your forearms against the floor, and raise your chest and head.

    Look straight ahead. Keep your forearms and the front of your pelvis on the floor, being mindful of relaxing your shoulders.

  4. As you exhale, lower your torso and head slowly back to the floor.

  5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 three times and then stay in Step 3 (the last raised position) for 6 to 8 breaths.

If you have lower back problems, separate your legs wider than your hips and let your heels turn out and your toes turn in.

Cobra II: Bhujangasana

This posture rewards you with most of the same benefits as cobra I. In addition, cobra II emphasizes flexibility in your lower back.

The following steps walk you through cobra II:

  1. Lie on your abdomen with your legs spread at hip width and the tops of your feet on the floor.

  2. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor with your thumbs near your armpits.

    Rest your forehead on the floor and relax your shoulders.

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