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bhujangasana: cobra pose


A great way to stretch your chest and shoulders, Cobra pose, or Bhujanagasana (boo-jang-GAHS-anna)is so much more than a transition pose. An incredible tool for opening your heart and throat chakras. Practicing Cobra pose regularly and giving it the attention it deserves 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 being sacred and powerful. In different yoga traditions, texts refer to a snake, known as Kundalini, coiled at the base of the spine. By awakening this snake, you enliven your 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 to symbolize his enlightenment

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • For less of a backbend, practice Sphinx pose by placing your forearms on the floor.
  • For some people, using a chair, rather than bringing your entire front body to the floor, is much more accessible. Keep the balls of your feet on the floor while pressing the palms of your hands into the seat or back of the chair.
  • 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 directly beneath your shoulders. Squeeze your elbows towards your body, rather than letting them splay out to the sides.
  2. Keep your pubis bone on the floor. Press firmly down through the tops of your feet and your thighs.
  3. Take a breath in as you lift your chest off the floor by pressing into your palms and start to straighten your arms. Keep your legs engaged as you extend through the spine. Your glutes should be firm but not hard.
  4. Move your shoulders away from your ears by drawing your shoulder blades towards each other down your back. As you inhale, expand horizontally through your chest, breathing deep into your lungs. Lift your sternum while simultaneously drawing your front ribs down, rather than letting them lift up. While in this pose, your entire spine should be equally stretching. 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.
  5. Stay in the pose for up to 30 seconds. To release, lower your body as you exhale and rest prone on the floor.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

  • Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana
  • Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
  • Natarajasana
  • Urdhva Dhanurasana

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
  • Soothes sciatica

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Relieves stress and fatigue
  • Awakens kundalini
  • Opens heart and throat chakra

MANTRA:

Waheguru Mantra

Correlating to the crown chakra, or 7th 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 mudra 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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