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Bhujangasana: Cobra Pose


Bhujangasana (boo-jang-GAHS-anna) is a great way to stretch the chest and shoulders, and is often practiced as part of a transition back to downward-facing dog. Practicing cobra pose regularly can improve your lung capacity, reduce stress, and stimulate many of the internal organs in your body.

Philosophy + Origin

Although often perceived as evil or dangerous, snakes also have a rich history of power and worship. In some yoga traditions, the snake known as Kundalini rests coiled at the base of the spine. By awakening this snake, we enliven our body’s energy and create a pathway towards enlightenment. This connection with enlightenment is also seen in many portrayals of the Buddha where he is shown with a cobra over his head.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • For a gentler backbend, practice sphinx pose by placing your forearms on the floor.
  • Bend the elbows as much or as little as necessary to find a stretch that doesn’t put too much strain on your back or spine.

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • Lower back problems or injury.
  • Arthritis in spine or wrists.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Internal organ surgery.
  • Headaches.

TIPS:

It can be tempting to try to straighten your arms in this pose more than necessary. While some people have more flexibility in the spine, this pose benefits from extension, rather than a super deep backbend. Take your time in this pose, paying attention to your spine and shoulders. Focus on extending through the crown of the head, feeling spacious in your low back and with your ears away from your shoulders.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Start by lying on the floor on your belly. Extend your legs behind you with the tops of your feet on the floor. Place your hands palm down on the floor a couple inches away from your shoulders. Squeeze your elbows towards your body, rather than letting them splay out to the sides.
  2. Press firmly down through the tops of your feet and your thighs. Draw your tailbone toward the ground.
  3. On an inhale, reach your chest forward and up. Draw your shoulders away from your ears.
  4. Stay here, or press into your palms and begin to straighten your elbow. Keep your legs engaged as you lift your chest forward and up.
  5. If you feel too much of the pose in your lower back, bend the elbows more. If you feel too much in your shoulders, focus on engaging the legs and keeping the shoulder blades drawing down.
  6. Stay in the pose for up to 30 seconds. To release, lower your body as you exhale and rest on the floor.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Bridge pose | Setu bandha sarvangasana
  • Sphinx pose

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

  • Upward-facing dog | Urdhva mukha svanasana
  • Lord of the dance pose | Natarajasana
  • Upward-facing bow pose | Urdhva Dhanurasana
  • Half pigeon pose | Eka pada rajakapotasana

SANSKRIT:

  • Bhujanga = snake
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Strengthens arms and muscles of the back.
  • Increases flexibility in the spine.
  • Stretches chest, shoulders, lungs, and abdomen.
  • Stretches and massages internal organs.
  • Firms buttocks.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Relieves stress and fatigue.
  • Awakens kundalini.
  • Opens heart and throat chakras.

MANTRA:

Waheguru mantra

Correlating to the crown chakra, or seventh chakra in the body, using the mantra Waheguru aids in self-realization and connects you to the infinite. Waheguru translates to “wonderful teacher.”

MUDRA: Abhaya Hrdaya Mudra

Also referred to as the fearless heart mudra, this gesture will connect you directly to your heart, allowing you to be fearless on your journey to your own truth. To practice, bring your hands in prayer position in front of your heart. Bring your right wrist in front of your left so that they cross, palms facing away from each other. Join the backs of your hands together. Intertwine your index, middle and pinky fingers. Touch your index fingers with your thumbs to create a seal.

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