All the mind-body benefits of the cobra pose

If you\’re looking for a chest-opening yoga pose, a backbend, or a move that aids digestion among other juicy benefits, look no further than the cobra pose. The cobra pose, or bhujangasana in Sanskrit, is a classic in the yoga world, says instructor Michelle Justice. It involves lying on your stomach and pushing your torso off the floor while maintaining hip contact much like a cobra rearing its head.

Not only does cobra pose introduce a backbend into your practice, it also opens up the front of your body and feels really good on your hips. The cobra pose is like a whole wellness package, says Justice. It\’s a fantastic back strengthener and chest opener, stretches the shoulders, and can also help improve digestion by massaging the abdomen. Try the cobra pose next time you\’re constipated and it might, uh, move things around.

This pose is good to try after traveling or after spending too many hours sitting at a desk as a way to loosen up tight hips. The backbend will do wonders for your posture, says yoga teacher Kate Ingram, RYT-500, so you feel less slumped. There are some mental health benefits to be had as well. Because the cobra is a heart-opening pose that helps with oxygen intake, Ingram says it can help you feel grounded, energized, and even a little less anxious.

As a bonus, studies have found that the cobra pose is helpful when it comes to reducing menstrual cramps due to the way it stretches and massages your lower abdomen. It\’s also a boon for back pain since it improves circulation and provides a nice stretch for the spine, says Lindsay Payne, RYT-500, yoga leader at Life Time Edina in Southdale. And you don\’t have to be super flexible to do it. Ingram notes that it\’s particularly beginner-friendly. It lets you develop a lot of upper-body strength, which is helpful in many other poses, he notes. Ahead, the yogis explain how to do the cobra pose correctly so you can reap all of its many benefits.

How to do cobra pose

While this pose looks a lot like upward facing dog, there are a few things that set the cobra apart. The main difference is that in upward facing dog, the thighs and hips are off the ground while the wrists are right under the shoulders, Justice explains. In cobra, your hips stay on the ground and your hands can be in front of your shoulders so it\’s less intense. Here, she explains how to get into the cobra pose using good form.

– Start by lying on your stomach on a mat.

– Extend your legs behind you and point your toes.

– Place your hands under your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.

– As you inhale, press your hands down.

– Lift your chest off the ground and roll your shoulders back.

– Maintain a slight bend in the elbows to avoid locking them.

– Hold for 15-30 seconds.

– Release as you exhale.

How to change the cobra pose

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According to Payne, you can make cobra pose less challenging by allowing your lower half to remain gentle and passive, so you don\’t straighten your toes or push into your hips. Straighten your arms a little or a lot, depending on how much energy feels good to put into the form, he tells Bustle. You can also keep your forearms flat on the floor or support yourself with a blanket or pillow.

To add something extra to your cobra, Payne suggests pressing between your hands so your arms lengthen and your chest widens. Yogis can also engage their lower half by pointing their toes and feeding energy and sensation up their legs, he tells Bustle.

Common mistakes in cobra pose to avoid

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It\’s tempting to push really hard into your hands while doing cobra pose, but Ingram says there\’s no need. You are still getting all the benefits [from the gentle variation] effortlessly, he tells Bustle.

While you\’re at it, keep an eye on your shoulders. If they twist forward, they\’ll close your breath, which negates all the benefits of chest-opening postures like this one. As long as you perform the cobra with good form, you\’ll reap the benefits and feel much more open once you step off the mat.

Studies referred to:

Rakhshaee, Z. (2011). Effect of three yoga poses (cobra, cat, and fish) in women with primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized clinical trial. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2011.01.059.

Sherman, K. J. (2010). Comparison of yoga and stretching for chronic low back pain: Yoga Exercise Self-care (YES) study protocol. Evidence. doi:10.1186/1745-6215-11-36.


Michelle Justice, yoga instructor

Kate Ingram, RYT-500yoga instructor

Lindsay Payne, RYT-500, yoga instructor

#mindbody #benefits #cobra #pose

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