From the Paschimothanasa and inclined plane poses move on to your belly to start with a series of back bend poses. The first one is the bhujangasana or cobra pose (Sanskrit भुजङ्गासन).
- Strengthens the spine
- Tones the deep and superficial muscles of the back
- Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
- Stimulates abdominal organs
- Opens the heart and lungs
- Soothes sciatica
- Combats constipation
- Tones the ovaries and uterus and alleviates menstrual problems
STEP 1 – PREPARE
Lie on your belly, make a pillow with your hands and lie with one cheek on your hands, your big toes touch and your heels fall open to the side.
Take a couple of deep abdominal breaths and feel how you massage your abdominal organs with each inhalation (your belly is pressed against your yoga mat) and try to consciously release your lower back muscles on an inhalation. Prepare for your posture by placing your hands flat on the floor next to your chest , your finger tips are underneath your shoulders, your elbows are close to your upper body, your legs and feet are together, your forehead is down on the floor.
STEP 2 – ROLL UP
On an inhalation slowly stretch your chin and head forward, then bring your chest and head up, roll your shoulders back. Move slowly and consciously, so that you feel each vertebra arching back. Your pubic bone and legs stay down on the floor, your legs stay together.
STEP 3 – HOLD
Continue to breathe deeply in the abdomen, keep your head and shoulders back and open the chest as much as possible while arching your spine. Hold the pose for 10 to 60 seconds. Slowly roll down, keeping your head back until last. As you do the cobra, make sure you are not overextending the lower back. No pain should be felt in the lower back. You may want to repeat it two more times.
- Do not overextend the arms.
- Do not pull your shoulders to your ears.
- Keep your legs together.
MUSCLE USAGE (courtesy of Leslie Kaminoff)
- Back injury
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
THE ADVANCED COBRA – VARIATIONS
Once you are comfortable and proficient in the above steps, you can attempt some variations.
- While in the cobra pose, turn your head to look over your right shoulder, trying to see your left heel. Hold for about 10 seconds, then return your head to the center and repeat while looking over the other shoulder.
- From the starting position, lift your hands off the ground and roll your body up using only your back muscles.
- Always return to a resting position on your abdomen after these poses.
- With practice you may be able to attempt the “King cobra” variation in which your feet touch your head by moving your hands a bit more backward, extending the arms, lift the chest up to the sky, arch your spine, bend the head back, bend your legs to bring your head to rest on the soles of your feet.