Open Your Heart to Cobra Pose
by Tarra Madore

Bhujangasana or cobra pose is a wonderful pose for energizing and opening the body. Sadly, the pose is often done in transition as part of a flow sequence and not as a separate pose that gets much attention to proper form. To gain the full benefits of this pose, it should be done slowly and carefully. Moving quickly through this pose to get to the next won’t allow your body, mind and spirit the chance to absorb the benefits of bhujangasana. Whether you practice vinyasa or not, you will want to be in this pose for a few breaths at some point during your practice.
When it’s done well, it can improve the overall health of the body including the circulatory, digestive and lymphatic systems. While it opens the shoulders, chest and heart, it also strengthens the legs, low back and shoulders – even reducing fatigue. Who doesn’t want that?

The instructions that follow for bhujangasana are detailed so that you can get the most out of the pose. It will take you longer to read the details than it will actually take to perform the actions. Getting into a yoga pose is a lot like preparing to paint a room. If you take the time to set everything up – taping off the ceiling and moldings – it will be easier and faster to paint the room. If you take the time to set up the foundation of your poses, your practice will be more efficient and effective. With all of that in mind, here are some key points to remember when practicing bhujangasana to experience the intricacies of the fabulous pose.

Your Lower Body

Start on your belly. You want to begin slowly, giving yourself the chance to connect with your breath and then connect with your foundation. Use your breath to help your body to soften. Bring your attention to your feet. They should face straight back. Press the tops of your feet firmly into the floor. This will give your legs strength. Hug your shins in, right above your ankles. Your thighs will engage, and as you continue pressing into your feet, your thigh bones will press into the backs of your legs. Then you can lengthen your tailbone toward your feet and down toward the mat. This action lengthens and protects your low back. If possible you’d like to try using the smaller muscles deep inside your pelvis to create this movement in your tailbone rather than over-gripping with the larger, superficial gluteal muscles. The action of scooping the tailbone will create a lift in the abdomen that will begin the process of opening up into the backbend. Using all of these muscles together will help promote strength and tone throughout the lower body rather than overworking one area and causing pain. The stronger the lower body works to set the foundation, the more length you will get out of the upper body, leading to a beautiful pose.

Your Upper Body

Start with your forehead resting on the floor and your hands next to your chest. Be careful to allow some space between your hands and your chest. This will give you the opportunity to expand through the center of your chest, bringing your shoulders further back. As you press down into your hands be sure to bring weight into all parts of the hands, including the pads of the hands, all of the fingers, and especially the index finger and thumb side of your hands. As you continue the pose, maintain an even distribution of weight in all parts of the hands. Many people experience wrist pain with this and other poses where body weight is transfered to the hands. This is as a result of letting too much weight sink into the heel of the hand. Keeping the pads of the hand and finger tips pressed down will alleviate unwanted pressure in the wrists.

Before initiating any movement connect to your foundation. Lift your shoulders as far away from the floor as you can, bringing your elbows and shoulders in line with each other. This action of lifting the shoulders away from the floor will engage the muscles between your shoulder blades without overly squeezing them. From here, lengthen the spine by scooping the tailbone down and lengthening the crown of the head forward. 

Your Full Expression

To come into the full expression of the pose, keep all of the engagement mentioned above and with your inhale slide the head and chest forward and up. It is important to keep the arm bones lifted and the shoulders back. As you press your hands sown, do the action of dragging them back toward your feet, allowing your heart to melt forward and lift. Keeping your shoulders back, bring your head straight back. The movement of your head comes from the palate and the base of your skull moving back. Be careful not to move from the top of your head. When you move the top of the head back and stick the chin out, you compress the cervical spine and collapse through the upper back. Breathe in the pose for 30-90 seconds. 

As you can see there's a lot more to bhujangasana than can be experienced when simply passing through it on the way to the next pose in your vinyasa sequence. The stronger you can root down through your lower body, the more you can lengthen and lift through the upper body. Remember to keep your spine long. You will get all the benefits by keeping the spine long, the shoulders up and back, and the shoulder blades anchored to your back. Enjoy your time exploring bhujangasana and the elevated mood and increased energy it provides!


About the Author

Tarra Piparo Madore is a yoga instructor and retired chiropractor who has studied at Palmer College of Chiropractic, Himalayan Institute and most recently with senior certified Anusara teachers Naime Jezzeny and Sue Elkind. She is Director of Inner Light Yoga Center in North Brunswick, NJ and is also Co-Publisher and Creative Director for New Jersey Namaste News magazine.
















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