What is Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)?
Cobra pose, also known as Bhujangasana, is a yoga exercise that involves lying on the stomach and lifting the upper body while keeping the hands and feet grounded. The pose is named after the cobra, as it resembles the raised hood of a cobra. To perform the pose, the practitioner lies down on the floor with the hands placed under the shoulders and the elbows close to the body.
Then, inhaling deeply, the upper body is lifted off the floor while keeping the lower body grounded. The practitioner looks forward and keeps the shoulders relaxed. The pose is held for a few breaths before releasing and returning to the starting position.
Cobra pose stretches the chest, shoulders, and abdomen, strengthens the spine and back muscles, and improves posture. It also stimulates the digestive and reproductive systems and can help relieve stress and fatigue.
Meaning of Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) is basically a Sanskrit word conventionally known as Cobra pose in English. Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) is also considered as an important foundational yoga posture or a preparatory pose for almost all other advanced back-bending asanas in Hatha yoga (Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga that emphasizes on physical postures and breathing techniques to promote physical and mental well-being.
In the word Bhujangasana the word “Bhujang” means “Cobra” or “Serpent” and “asana” means “posture’. Being a beginner’s level start-up pose the pose is easily accessible at all age groups. The pose is named as Bhujangasana as it resembles the cobra with raised hood.
Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) is a tender back-bend asana or posture which is commonly practiced during Surya namaskar or Sun salutation. To practice Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) the performer lays down over his/her stomach and tries to lift the chest and head off the ground with involvement of shoulders, arms, and hands.
A gradual stretch is involved in the whole body especially the lowest vertebrae during the practice which tends to promote various physical benefits in the body like strengthening of spine, improving posture, muscular strength.
Origins of Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
The origins of Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) takes us thousands of years back to the 17th century, where we find its inclusion in the ancient yoga text book Gheranda Samhita (Gheranda Samhita is one of the classical texts of Hatha yoga featuring multiple yogic kriyas and exercises) chapter 2 verses metrical composition 42-43.
Again in 19th century we can find Bhujangasana termed as Sarpasana, or the “Serpent pose” in the book Sritavanidhi (Sritavanidhi is a south Indian book which represents the images of Gods and Goddesses in different poses and the scientific principles involved with their poses also known as cryptography).
Later with the passage of time the pose is described in halftone as Bhujangasana in 1905 in Yogasopana Purvacatuska (Yogasopana Purvacatuska is a Marathi book on Hatha yoga). Later in the mid of 20th century the pose became a part of Surya namaskar or sun salutation. By the end of 20th century the pose was finally considered and named as “Bhujangasana” in yoga text.
Yogic Explanation of Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
From the yogic perspective the pose is deeply rooted to the Hindu mythology. The pose is directly linked to one of the three deities of Hindus, The lord Vishnu. According to the text books, once Lord Vishnu were seated in a deep meditation.
Suddenly a huge serpent named Sheshaa with countless head coiled himself to the neck of Lord Vishnu to serve as a shelter or roof to him. Rewarding the devotedness and respect, today we can always find Lord Vishnu portrayed dancing over the head of a serpent. That is why the pose represents the serpent laid down over the ground.
The pose is also practiced as a part of Sun salutation. Apart from the mythical beliefs the pose promotes strength to the spine and flexibility to the body. Along with its physical benefits the pose is said to activate Manipura chakra also known as Solar plexus chakra that is found in the abdomen region associated with fire element of the human body.
Activation of Manipura chakra promotes self confidence, inner awareness, and strength. Practicing the pose also leads to the activation of Kundalini nerve or energy. Activation of Kundalini nerve leads to self-awakening, transformation and opening of sixth sense in the human body.
How to practice Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)?
Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) is one of the most distinguished and outstanding back bending yoga posture with abundant features. Following is the step by step methodology to practice the pose :
- First of all find a flat surface or ground and a yoga mat to practice the pose.
- Now lie down flat on the floor while your stomach facing downwards.
- Your legs should be fully stretched out and tows should be flat on the floor.
- Now take a deep breath and gently lift your chest and head off the ground with the help of your palms fully grounded.
- Mind to keep your collar-bone area and shoulders relaxed and distant to your ears.
- Keep your vision as well as your head straight facing front forward.
- While practicing the pose, make sure your breathing movements are slow and steady.
- Hold the pose for 10-15 seconds.
- Now slowly release your breath or gently exhale and lower your chest and hands back to the floor and rest in child’s pose or corpse posture.
- Repeat all the steps in a similar fashion to practice the pose.
Always remember to listen to your body. While practicing the pose do not push your body too hard beyond your capability. As you gain some handsome experience over the pose, you can increase the duration of the pose to find better and more positive results.
Additional tips while practicing the cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
Following are some additional steps to keep in mind while practicing the pose:
- Warm-up exercises: Before you start practicing the pose it is highly recommended to go for a warm-up exercise to avoid any muscular sprain or injury. Warm-up exercise includes little stretching and to and-fro body movements to loosen the muscles.
- Accurate body orientation: While practicing the pose make sure your body is accurately oriented or aligned. The shoulders should be positioned away from the ears and the elbows close to the body.
- Respiratory movements: while going into the pose take a deep breath and release your breath while ending the pose. Your breathing movements should be gentle, slow and steady to avoid fatigue.
- The cervix or neck: While practicing the pose try to position your neck as well as your vision front forward.
- Modification: In case of any health issue or any pre medical history you can modify the pose with respect to your comfort level.
- Slow and steady: The pose must be practiced at a slow and steady rate to avoid fatigue and tiring early.
Benefits of Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) aids to the development of body, mind and soul. Following are some of the privileges and merits of Cobra pose (Bhujangasana):
- Stimulates abdominal organs: The compression and release action in Cobra Pose massages and stimulates the abdominal organs, including the kidneys, liver, and digestive organs. This can aid in digestion, improve organ function, and support overall digestive health.
- Tones the buttocks: Cobra Pose engages the muscles of the buttocks, including the gluteus maximus (Gluteus maximus is a quadrangular shape muscle responsible for maintaining the straight posture of upper body). Regular practice can help tone and strengthen these muscles, improving stability and posture.
- Increases circulation: The gentle backbend in Cobra Pose helps increase blood circulation throughout the body. This increased blood flow delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, organs, and tissues, promoting overall vitality and well-being.
- Relieves stress and fatigue: Backbends, including Cobra Pose, stimulate the adrenal glands, which release cortisol, a natural stress-fighting hormone. Regular practice of this pose can help reduce stress, anxiety, and fatigue, leaving you feeling more energized and rejuvenated.
- Improves posture: Cobra Pose strengthens the muscles in the back and core, which are crucial for maintaining good posture. Regular practice helps align the spine, improve posture, and prevent slouching or hunching.
- Enhances mood and uplifts spirits: The combination of opening the chest, increasing circulation, and releasing tension in the body can have a positive impact on mood. Cobra Pose can help uplift spirits, reduce feelings of depression, and promote a sense of well-being.
- Increases spinal mobility: Cobra Pose improves the mobility and flexibility of the entire spine, from the cervical to the lumbar region. This increased range of motion can help alleviate stiffness, reduce the risk of spinal injuries, and enhance overall physical performance.
- Improves Kidney Function: The gentle compression on the kidneys in Cobra Pose stimulates their functioning and enhances detoxification processes. It supports kidney health and promotes overall renal function.
- Relieves Menstrual Discomfort: Cobra Pose can help relieve menstrual discomfort by stretching the abdominal area and reducing cramps. It also stimulates blood flow to the pelvic region, alleviating pain and discomfort.
- Enhances Lung Function: By expanding the chest and opening the lungs, Cobra Pose improves lung capacity and deepens breathing. It increases oxygen intake, purifies the blood, and improves overall respiratory health.
It’s important to practice Cobra Pose with proper alignment and avoid straining the lower back. Beginners or individuals with back injuries should start with a gentle variation of the pose and gradually work their way up to a deeper expression with time and practice. Consulting a qualified yoga instructor is recommended to ensure correct form and technique.
Injuries and helpful tips to avoid injuries while practicing the Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
Every single yogic kriya or exercise or yoga posture is associated with or prone to develop some injuries if not correctly performed. Let us find some injuries associated with the pose and helpful tips to avoid them as following:
- Strained lower back: To prevent lower back strains, engage your core muscles and distribute the backbend evenly along the entire spine. Do not bend your lumbar region more than your body’s capability.
- Hamstring strain: Warm up your hamstrings before attempting the Cobra Pose. Avoid overstretching them by keeping a gentle bend in the knees and gradually working towards straighter legs.
- Hip injury: Protect your hips by keeping them grounded and stable throughout the pose. Avoid excessive twisting or tilting of the pelvis, and focus on elongating the spine instead.
- Elbow pain: Keep a slight bend in your elbows to avoid hyperextension. Engage the muscles around the elbows to support the pose and prevent unnecessary strain on the joints.
- Knee strain: Protect your knees by maintaining a soft bend in them. Avoid locking them out or putting excessive pressure on them while coming into or out of the pose.
- Overstretching of the back: Avoid pushing beyond your comfortable range of motion. Listen to your body, work within your limits, and gradually increase the depth of the backbend over time.
Additional tips to prevent injuries while practicing the Cobra Pose include
- Warm up your body before attempting any deep backbends.
- Practice proper alignment and form, and seek guidance from a qualified yoga instructor if you’re new to the pose.
- Always listen to your body and respect its limits. Avoid pushing into pain or discomfort.
- Use props like yoga blocks or blankets to modify the pose and provide support when needed.
- Breathe deeply and smoothly throughout the pose to relax your body and promote better alignment.
- Take breaks as needed and don’t overdo it. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your practice over time.
Limitations of Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
Although the Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) aids in human body development and has remarkable benefits, still the pose is limited to certain boundaries to practice. Here are some limitations of the pose explained below:
- Chronic backache: Chronic backache patients or people with severe back troubles should avoid this pose. As the pose is associated with lots of stretching, the consequences can be fatal.
- Pregnant women: Pregnant women are strongly advised to avoid practicing the Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) after the first trimester as the pose incubates lots of pressure over the abdomen area and uterus which in turn can cause damage to the developing foetus inside.
- Topical surgery: The pose is not recommended for patients who have undergone any recent surgery of the spine or abdominal area.
- Hypertension patients: Patients with high blood pressure are sincerely advised not to practice the pose without any pre-medical advice or recommendation. During the backbend, there are chances of a rise in blood pressure and results for hypertension patients can be fatal.
- Osteoporosis: Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) is not recommended for people with low bone density, having weaker bones or people suffering from osteoporosis as practising the pose could lead to severe multiple fractures of the spinal cord or the bones involved during the back bending. Osteoporosis patients should not intimate the pose at home without any recommendation.
Summary of Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra pose or Bhujangasana is a startup yoga pose that aims to promote multifarious physical, mental and emotional benefits. The benefits of the pose also include muscular strength, a powerful spine, an improved digestive system etc. Apart from its physical benefits the pose minimizes mental stress, reduces fatigue and improves brain functioning and aids in better sleeping patterns and overall wellness.
While practicing the pose it is importantly required to practice the pose with the utmost care, mindfulness, and awareness to avoid any severe consequences. Like every yoga pose the cobra pose marks certain boundaries and is restricted for pregnant ladies, patients who have undergone any recent surgery, hypertension patients and people with low bone density. Overall the pose is one of the best startup poses for human body development.
(Q) What are the benefits of practicing Cobra Pose?
(A) Cobra Pose stretches and strengthens the muscles of the back, shoulders, and arms. It improves spinal flexibility, opens up the chest, and helps relieve stress and fatigue. It can also stimulate abdominal organs and improve digestion.
(Q) How do you perform Cobra Pose?
(A) To perform Cobra Pose, lie flat on your stomach with your legs extended behind you. Place your hands under your shoulders, fingers pointing forward. Inhale, press your palms into the floor, and lift your chest while keeping your lower body grounded. Hold the pose for a few breaths and then exhale to release.
(Q) Can anyone practice Cobra Pose?
(A) Cobra Pose is generally safe for most people. However, individuals with back injuries or conditions such as herniated discs should avoid or modify this pose. Pregnant women should also modify the pose by keeping their hands on blocks or practicing a gentle variation.
(Q) Does Cobra Pose help with back pain?
(A) Cobra Pose can help alleviate mild back pain by strengthening the back muscles and improving spinal flexibility. However, if you have chronic or severe back pain, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before attempting this pose.
(Q) How long should I hold Cobra Pose?
(A) Initially, start by holding the pose for 15 to 30 seconds and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable. Aim for holding the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.