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4 Ways to Make Cobra for Beginners Easier

4 Ways to Make Cobra for Beginners Easier

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how to do cobra for beginners

If you are new to yoga, one of the first things that you probably learned to do was a sun salutation. Interestingly, a couple of the poses in sun salutations aren’t for beginners. Cobra being one of them.

When most people do cobra, they end up with a bend just in the lower back, and then it’s straight up to the head. 

You see, in order to properly execute cobra, you have to have great spinal flexibility. Chances are if you’re a beginner, yours is not so flexy. So you need to modify it, a “cobra for beginners,” so to speak.

Now, I have been working on my upper back flexibility for almost a year (as of the picture you see here) and I’ve been practicing yoga for almost 5 years. So I’m far from a newbie. And although I do have fairly good flexibility in my limbs, you’ll even see in the photo of me in cobra, that I don’t have a great full expression of cobra.

That’s why I say it’s not a beginner pose. In this post, I will explain how the full expression of cobra is supposed to be and how to get into it from a prone position and from the most common pose before it, chaturanga. 

I will also give you several modifications and variations to help you improve your back strength and flexibility to help you achieve Cobra.

Basic Pose Information

Sanskrit:

Bhujangasana

English:

Cobra

Level:

Intermediate

 

Position:

Prone

Type:

Back bend

Chakras

  • Throat Chakra (Vishuddha Chakra) 
  • Heart Chakra (Anahata Chakra)
  • Solar Plexus (Manipura Chakra)
  • Sacral Chakra (Swadisthana Chakra)
  • Root Chakra (Muladhara Chakra)

Benefits of Cobra

  • Lower Back: Strengthen the Psoas with stabilizes the lower back (eccentric contraction).
  • Middle Back: Erector Spinae- the muscles that you use to sit and stand up “straight” (concentric contraction).
  • Arms: Biceps (eccentric contraction), Triceps (concentric contraction).
  • Upper Back: Serratus Anterior stabilizes the scapula (shoulder blades).
  • Shoulders: the Rotator Cuff stabilizes the shoulders.
  • Strengthen Abdominals  which stabilize the core (eccentric contraction).

To Get into Cobra Pose in Isolation

  1. Begin lying on your stomach, with hands under the shoulders.
  2. Inhale, press into the hands, lifting the chest forward and up off the mat, looking up.
  3. Continue your inhale, beginning to straighten the arms, peeling up off the mat, one vertebra at a time.
  4. The pelvis should remain on the mat.
  5. The tops of your feet should press down into the mat.
  6. The arch in the back should be evenly distributed through the entire spine, not dumped into the lower back.

To Get into This Pose from Chaturanga

In sun salutations, and as part of a vinyasa, cobra is preceded by chaturanga. Regardless of whether or not you are modifying chaturanga or not you can use these instructions to get to cobra.

  1. This pose is often entered from Chaturanga (sometimes from plank).
  2. Inhale, press into the hands, straightening the elbows.
  3. Draw the shoulder blades together, bringing the chest forward, increasing the bend in the upper back.
  4. Untuck the toes, bringing the legs and pelvis to the mat.
  5. The tops of your feet should press down into the mat.
  6. The arch in the back should be evenly distributed through the entire spine, not dumped into the lower back.

Cobra for Beginners

Common Misalignments, Injuries, and Modifications


The most important thing you need in any pose in yoga is to do it safely.  

There are many injuries that can result if you have poor alignment in any pose in yoga. 

Here are a few common misalignments, the injuries they can cause, and modifications you can take to avoid them.

Misalignment 1. Dumping the whole back bend into the lower back

Possible Cause: 

Insufficient flexibility in the upper back. Since many people want to emulate the full expression of the pose, they straighten their arms, even if their upper back is not flexible enough to support this.

Possible Resulting Injury: 

Lower Back Pain. 

Baby Cobra, cobra modification

Adjustment/Modification: Baby Cobra

  1. Use baby cobra instead, peeling up just a little more each time you do the pose during the same practice. 

 

Working Toward Full Cobra: 

  1. Work on pressing the chest forward and the shoulders back.
  2. Each time you get into baby cobra during a single yoga session, peel up just a little more.
  3. Use Cow Pose to work on upper back flexibility by focusing on the upper back curving while tucking the pelvis toward the belly button (this will eliminate the lower back bend).

You might not get to full cobra by the end of the practice (or even after several practices). As you can see from the pictures above, I still have less than the necessary upper back flexibility even after almost a year of working on it.

Misalignment 2: Pelvis Not on the Mat

Cause 1:

Insufficient Back Flexibility.

Possible Resulting Injury:

This not likely to injure you at all, it’s just poor form.

Modification 1:

Instead of cobra, you may choose to do upward facing dog instead. It uses less of a curve in the back and may be more comfortable.

  1. Lift the pelvis off the mat.
  2. Lift the knees off the mat as well. 

Modification 2:

Cobra with rolled up towel

Place a bolster or rolled up towel under your thighs.

*This is also useful for pregnant people who need to keep the pressure off the belly.  
(For pregnant people, don’t begin lying down, enter this pose from plank.)*

Cause 2:

Lack of Awareness

Possible Resulting Injury:

Not having the pelvis on the floor is not likely to result in any injury at all.

Adjustment:

  1. Press the pelvis into the floor.
  2. If this causes discomfort in the lower back, try using one of the modifications.

3. Misalignment: Sinking into the Shoulders

Notice how the shoulders are scrunched up next to the ears.

Cause 1:

Insufficient Grounding in the Palms.

Possible Resulting Injury: 

Wrist pain, shoulder pain, or neck pain.

Modification:

Ground down through the hands.

  1. Spread the fingers wide.
  2. Grip the mat with your fingertips.
  3. Lift the palms up. (This may just be a feeling at first, but as you work on it, it will start to happen.)
  4. Focusing the weight on the center of the hand- which is the lowest knuckle of the  middle finger.
  5. Press more firmly into the mat
  6. Reach out through the crown of the head.
*This may cause your pelvis to lift off the mat (as seen in the picture) if your back is not flexible enough. If this is the case, see the next modification below.*

Cause 2:

Sinking into the shoulders in cobra usually happens because you want to straighten your arms but don’t want to compromise the back bend or the pelvis on the floor.

Possible Resulting Injury: 

Wrist pain, shoulder pain, or neck pain.

Modification:

Bend the elbows.

It’s more important that your back and shoulder alignment are good than your arms are straight.
4 modifications to help make cobra pose easier. Cobra pose for beginners
4 modifications to help make cobra pose easier. Cobra pose for beginners
4 modifications to help make cobra pose easier. Cobra pose for beginners
4 modifications to help make cobra pose easier. Cobra pose for beginners
4 modifications to help make cobra pose easier. Cobra pose for beginners
4 modifications to help make cobra pose easier. Cobra pose for beginners
4 modifications to help make cobra pose easier. Cobra pose for beginners
4 modifications to help make cobra pose easier. Cobra pose for beginners
4 modifications to help make cobra pose easier. Cobra pose for beginners

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