Salamba Bhujangasana: Sphinx Pose
Related to the cobra pose, the sphinx pose is a more restorative way to stretch and lengthen the spine. Salamba bhujangasana (SA-lumb-aa BHU-jung-AAHS-uh-nuh) is one of the gentlest backbends in a yoga 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 can 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.
- Lie down on your stomach. Place your forearms parallel to each other with elbows under your shoulders and palms facing the ground.
- Place the tops of your feet on the ground and rotate the inseam of your pants toward the ceiling.
- Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels.
- Focus on your lower abdomen, drawing your low belly slightly away from the floor.
- 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.
- Salamba = supported
- Bhujang = cobra
- Asana = pose
- Stretches and lengthens the spine.
- Stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders, and abdomen.
- Firms the glutes.
- Relieves stress.
- Calms the mind.
Janu Sirsasana: Head to Knee Pose
Janu sirsasana (JAH-new shear-SHAHS-anna), may look simple, but it combines elements of a forward fold, twist, and side body stretch. Head to knee pose stretches the hamstrings, low back, and groins and can be adjusted to be very challenging or very relaxing.
Philosophy + Origin
While the name of the pose may seem to reveal an intention based on physical anatomy (head to knee pose), janu sirsasana is really all about turning inward and creating space for self-reflection. Instead of focusing on the intensity of the posture — or a desire to bring your head to your knee — turn your attention to the peace and stillness that may be hiding beneath the more prominent sensations.