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cobra pose - woman in blue yoga outfit performing the pose

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana): How To Perform It Safely

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana ) is an introductory backbend that stretches your shoulders, back, abdominals, and reduces stress. And when it comes to relieving the pressure caused by hunching over at your desk, it doesn’t get much better than this. In this post, we’ll show you how to properly perform the Cobra Pose step-by-step as well as provide you with some tips and modifications. Let’s get started…

How to do Cobra Pose step by step 

woman performing cobra pose in yoga room

Step 1: Begin on your yoga mat, lying on your belly with your hands placed just beneath your shoulders. Your legs should be about shoulder-width apart, straight down, with the tops of your feet pressed into the floor. 

Step 2: Tuck in your pelvis and draw your belly in towards your spine. 

Step 3: Now roll your shoulders back and down away from your ears, bring your elbows in close to your sides, lengthen your spine and rest your forehead on the yoga mat. 

Step 4:  Spread your fingers apart as if they’re roots going into the ground. Take a deep breath and slowly bring yourself up by pressing away from the earth and using your back muscles. As you’re rising up, keep your heart forward and your head up. Double-check that you’re not tensing your shoulders or bringing them up toward your ears. 

Step 5: Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. Do your best to relax, breathe deep, and keep your heart facing forward. Then slowly release yourself back down to your mat when finished. 

Tips and Modifications:

The biggest tip is that you want to avoid “muscling” yourself into this pose. In other words, if it’s entirely your arms that are keeping you up, you’re going to end up with hunched shoulders and limited benefits. Instead, use the muscles of your back to lift you into the pose and use your arms for stability and support. It can help to perform a few reps by slowly moving into and out of cobra before locking into the final 5-10 breath hold. This warms up the muscles of your back making it easier. 

When performing the Cobra Pose for the first time, you might realize that you can’t bend that far. It’s perfectly fine. Just spend your time perfecting your form and getting used to the pose. Keep practicing and you’ll increase your flexibility over time. 

When you’re in the pose, push down and back as if you’re trying to pull your yoga mat down towards your belly (without actually pulling hard enough to accomplish that). Keep your chest out, your heart forward and your body relaxed. Focus on your breath and pulling your shoulders back and down away from your ears. 

When you’re exiting the Cobra, gently lower yourself to your yoga mat. I find that it makes it easier when I inhale and then let myself down on the exhale. This gives your spine time to decompress from the pose while keeping your motion fluid and relaxed. 

Modifying Cobra Pose: 

  • If you’re pregnant or just have trouble practicing on the floor, you can practice the pose from a standing position. To perform the standing version, start by facing a wall just like you would be on the floor. Now perform the same steps from above by pressing away from the wall, pulling your shoulders down and back, and keeping your chest up. 
  • If you’re a pro yogi, you can intensify the pose by lifting your hands off the floor when you’re in the full Cobra Position. This leverages all the muscles of your core and back to hold the pose which can be very challenging. 
  • Keep your base firm and press the tops of your feet into the floor the whole time you’re performing the pose.

Note: The deepness of your backbend is irrelevant. As long as you’re getting a good stretch and you feel the pose working, you’re in good shape. 

Benefits of Cobra Pose

There are so many benefits to yoga in general that it’s hard to nail them all down to a single list. 

First, there are the mental benefits that come with giving yourself a few minutes of breathing and self-care. It’s known to reduce stress and help you focus. You also get the physical benefits that come from putting tension on your muscles (improved tone, bone density, muscle mass, etc.) as well as the physical benefits that come from reducing stress. 

In addition to these benefits, the Cobra Pose specifically improves spinal flexibility and back health. It stretches your chest, shoulders, abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and opens your airways to help you breathe deeper. 

Here are a few more benefits: 

  • Improved strength in arms, back, and glutes. 
  • Increased spinal flexibility. 
  • Relieves stress. 
  • Improves energy. 
  • Tones shoulder muscles. 
  • Opens the chakras of your heart and throat. 

Risks and contradictions

Cobra Pose is a backbend that requires you to push up from your hands. So, if you have any issues with carpal tunnel, wrist injuries, or any back problems its best to keep away from this and other backbend poses. If you’re pregnant, you also want to avoid practicing this pose on the floor. You may be able to perform the pose standing but consult with your doctor first. 

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Pose information 

  • Sanskrit Name: Bhujangasana 
  • Difficulty: Beginner