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.
Natarajasana: Lord of the Dance Pose
Natarajasana (not-ah-raj-AHS-anna) is a physically challenging, beautiful pose that requires flexibility in the spine, legs, and hips. To practice the pose, use a thoughtful sequence filled with plenty of preparatory poses in order to make sure your body – and mind – are adequately prepared. Regular practice will help develop strong mental fortitude and determined concentration.
Philosophy + Origin
A physical embodiment of King Nataraja, a form of the lord Shiva, lord of the dance pose (also referred to as king dancer pose) is a tribute to this powerful god of destruction. Embracing destruction and even death as part of the cycle of change and growth, this pose is a helpful reminder that no good can exist without evil, no birth without death.
In most depictions of King Nataraja, he is standing on one leg (hence the shape of the pose), gazing over the head of a small dwarf, whose presence represents ignorance. In this way, lord of the dance pose encourages our consciousness to elevate above ignorance, above the common thoughts and misunderstandings that cloud our view. The balance that comes from the pose awakens our understanding that clarity brings steadiness.