Cobra pose...one of my new favorite poses. It has taken on new meaning to me recently after really learning how to access the full potential of the pose and after hearing its symbology. Cobra pose is normally practiced alone as part of a backbend asana or in sun salutations as an option for upward facing dog. I used to hear my teachers say, "Updog or Cobra" during sun salutations and think.."Why would I do cobra...when updog is so expansive and strong looking?". Well, as it turns out cobra is actually a harder pose physically to perform. It takes a lot of balancing of muscle work between the core and the back and the releasing of the shoulders down and back so that the chest is free..all with the strong support of the arms to assist in the expansion. I sometimes found that in "Updog" I was just hanging out there and no doing much with my legs or my back. Yes, I was getting a chest opener but that was about it. I started substituting more cobras in for down dogs and I have found myself getting stronger...and besides yoga is not about looks..
Cobra pose is a reminder to ourselves to seek from within. Snakes do not have ears and so they sense motion and sounds by vibration. They are close to the earth so they "feel" it. Yes, they can see but they do not rely only on their sight. It is a great reminder to us to stop more and to feel what is going on inside us...not just how do things look? Sometimes we can get ourselves into a pose but does it feel therapeutic? Perhaps if we could turn off our vision and our ears and just listen and feel we would truly trust the inner wisdom we have.
Here are some tips on getting into cobra more effectively:
* Plant your hands beside your ribs (away from the crown of the head). Hands can be wider and do not have to be right beside the ribs if this causes you to force your shoulders towards your ears or if this limits the backbending potential.
* Firm up the legs! Press into the front of the feet and the legs. Cobra draws upon a strong base so keep your legs engaged in the pose! It also helps to think about pressing the outer seams of the legs away from you (without actually moving them away). Pretend someone was standing on the outside of your legs and you were pressing the outsides of your calves into their inner edges of their calves. This inwardly rotates the thighs which naturally causes you to have a backbend.
* Move the shoulders out of the way! Lift the shoulder blades up , draw them together (without slamming them together), and press them away from your ears. This will naturally open the chest.
*Engage the core! Draw your belly in and pull it back towards the spine to peel it away from the floor.
*Press into the hands and balance the arm strength and support with the legs and the core. Think synergy!
*Tuck your chin and lengthen the neck. Draw the front of the throat towards the back of the throat. This keeps tension from forming in the neck and shoulders.
* Keep re-adjusting. Press more into the legs and then lift more through the belly, draw the shoulders further down your back and breath in deeply. You do not have to be in the fullest extension of the pose in the first breath!
Benefits from the Pose:
•Strengthens the spine
•Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
•Firms the buttocks
•Stimulates abdominal organs
•Helps relieve stress and fatigue
•Opens the heart and lungs
•Therapeutic for asthma
•Traditional texts say that Bhujangasana increases body heat, destroys disease, and awakens kundalini.
For beginners: Roll up a blanket so that it is triple rolled and long like a tube. Place this blanket horizontally between your hip bones and naval. This will give you a little boost so that you can feel the lift of the chest.