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The cobra posture is a common Yoga back bend. When you perform the cobra, you stretch the front of the torso and the spine. Take a deep inhalation and notice how your torso and spine naturally extend during this opening phase of the breathing cycle, inviting you to bend backwards.

The two cobra postures presented here vary only in the level of difficulty. The Cobra I emphasizes the upper back and is easier than the Cobra II. When doing either cobra posture, the farther forward you move your hands, the less difficult the cobra is; if you move your hands farther back, you increase the difficulty.

To make these postures easier, place a small pillow or a folded blanket underneath you between your abdomen and your chest. You can move the blanket a little forward or backward to suit your needs.

When you lie face down on the floor, raise your chest and head, and use your arms in some fashion, you’re doing some form of the cobra posture.

Move slowly and cautiously in 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, described in the next section. To do this first version of the 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 (see Figure A).

    [Credit: Photographs by Adam Latham]
    Credit: Photographs by Adam Latham
  3. As you inhale, engage your back muscles, press your forearms against the floor, and raise your chest and head.

    Look straight ahead, as shown in Figure B. 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 six to eight 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 the Cobra I. In addition, the Cobra II emphasizes flexibility in your lower back. The following steps walk you through the 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, as shown in Figure A.

    [Credit: Photographs by Adam Latham]
    Credit: Photographs by Adam Latham
  3. As you inhale, press your palms against the floor, engage your back muscles, and raise your chest and head.

    Look straight ahead (see Figure B). Keep the top front of your pelvis on the floor and your shoulders relaxed. Unless you’re very flexible, keep your elbows slightly bent.

  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 six to eight breaths.


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