Salamba Bhujangasana: Sphinx Pose
Related to the Cobra pose, the Sphinx pose is a less demanding, more restorative way to stretch and lengthen the spine. Also known as Salamba Bhujangasana (SA-lumb-aa-BHu-jung-AAhs-uh-nuh), Sphinx pose is one of the gentlest backbends you can practice, making it a great entry point for beginners, and an effective warm up at the beginning of practice. Sphinx pose is also a great way to reduce stress and stimulate the abdominal organs.
Philosophy + Origin
Cobras and snakes evoke feelings of fear, discomfort, and disgust. But in Vedic traditions the cobra symbolizes overcoming and mastering fear. Nataraja, an incarnation of Shiva, is often portrayed with a cobra draped around his neck. The cobra’s venom is said to represent avidya, or ignorance — the veil that prevents us from recognizing universal truths. By mastering fear and learning to see beyond the surface we can come to know freedom, or liberation.
- Use a blanket under your forearms or pelvis for added comfort
- Bring your gaze to the floor for a neck release and stretch
CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:
- Back or spinal injury
Because the lift in the belly is the key to this posture, many beginners benefit from using a blanket as support when learning Sphinx pose. Bring the ends of a rolled blanket together to make a U shape. Position the blanket under your body so that the bottom curve of the U is above your pubic bone. Arrange the two sides of the U so that they are along the sides of your belly. This will lift your belly and allow you to experience the posture’s stretch and expansion.
- Lie on the center of your mat on your stomach. Bring your legs together so your the inner legs touch along the inseams of your yoga pants. Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels and rotate your outer thighs down towards your mat. This will protect your back and prepare you to safely achieve a deeper backbend.
- Extend out through your toes as you firm (not harden) your thighs and glutes. Place your forearms parallel to each other on the ground so your elbows are stacked under your shoulders. Inhale while lifting your head and upper body off the ground.
- Focus on your lower abdomen, drawing the belly between the pubic bone and navel slightly away from the floor. This should produce a small, subtle dome shape in your lower back. Do not over-exaggerate this action or try to force a large gap. This gentle cue can soothe your lower back by evenly distributing the backbend along the entire length of the spine.
- Hold the pose for up to 10 deep breaths. Exhale while slowly releasing down to the floor. Rest on the floor, head turned to one side, to experience energetic and mental shifts. Repeat again if you’d like.
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- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
- Salamba = supported
- Bhujang = cobra
- Asana = pose
- Stretches and lengthens the spine
- Stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders, abdomen
- Firms the glutes
- Stimulates abdominal organs
- Relieves stress
- Calms the mind
- Awakens kundalini
“Sikh Mool Mantra”
The Sikh Mool mantra is used for clear perception and compassion. Practice this simple mantra while in the pose or in seated meditation. The pronunciation is “ek ong kar satnam.”
MUDRA: Hakini Mudra
Used to promote clarity and concentration, form the Hakini mudra by joining the fingertips of your right hand and your left hand to make a tent-like shape. Your thumbs will face your heart as the rest of your fingers spread wide. Press firmly between fingertips to create pressure on the first joint of each finger.
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