Cobra

written by
Joel Runyon
last updated
October 14, 2021

The cobra pose is one that is often practiced in yoga as a way to open the heart and work towards increasing flexibility in the spine. It can also be used as a version of a backbend. Full backbends can be an intimidating posture to attempt. They are an advanced move that should be done with proper care and with an understanding of the fundamentals of the movement. If a backbend is a goal of yours, cobra is one posture that you can work on that will help you build up the flexibility and strength to do it eventually. 

The cobra pose is in the same family as the sphinx pose and upward facing dog. This is a beginner level pose and is great for people who are attempting to increase strength in the spine and stretch the front side of the body. Cobra is a deeper backbend in the lower back. It also allows you to play around with a deeper backbend shape to build up the strength and flexibility to attempt a full one someday if you so wish. 

What is the Cobra Pose? 

The cobra pose is a beginner level pose that is normally done in yoga as part of a sun salutation. It is a pose that occurs on the floor and can be adapted for almost any ability level. 

To perform this pose, you will start on your stomach on the floor. Extend your legs fully behind you and press the tops of your feet into the floor. From here, place your hands on the floor near your armpits. Your palms should be pressing into the floor with your fingers spread wide. 

With a big inhale, lift your chest away from the floor until your arms are fully straight. You can also think about pressing your pubic bone area into the floor as your chest rises off of the ground. The glutes should feel firm in the top of this position, but try not to clinch them. Your lower ribs should stay in contact with the floor and your elbows tucked in tight to your side. Avoid the elbows flaring out away from your body.  

Hold this position as you breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. You should feel a nice stretch in your back and chest. We recommend holding for at least 30 seconds and then slowly coming out of the posture. Once you have mastered the cobra pose, you can work your way to safely performing the upward dog and any other backbend variation you desire. 

Benefits of the Cobra Pose

If you’re someone who sits hunched forward for long periods of time at a desk, the benefits to your lower back should be felt immediately as it realigns the natural curve of the spine that has been compressed in a chair all day long. You’ll find a noticeable improvement in your posture if you perform this stretch on a regular basis. 

This pose helps open the chest and heart area when performed regularly.. As you hold the position, remember to focus on your breathing as well, letting your belly rise and fall. Most find the cobra position, when combined with steady breathing, to have a calming effect both physically and mentally. So, if you find yourself feeling stressed throughout the day, try coming into the sphinx pose as a bit of a reset. 

Cobra Pose Modifications

First things first. If you have experienced back or neck trauma in your past, it may be best to first consult with your personal healthcare professional before attempting any sort of backbend including this cobra pose. If you have received the green light from your doctor, start slowly with this pose. 

We recommend starting with the least intense version and then working your way up to the standard pose. If, at any point throughout the movement, you start to experience pain, come safely out of the pose immediately. 

If you are just attempting backbend practice for the first time, this pose may still be a little bit too intense for you. The first modification is to start with a less intense posture. Our suggestion would be the sphinx pose. This should bring you into a slight backbend and help prep you for moving deeper into the posture. If you reference our sphinx article, you will find other ways to modify the movement if that is still too much for your body at the moment. 

If you are struggling to bring your chest high in the traditional cobra pose, it might be helpful to think about firmly pressing your legs into the ground as you move into this posture. You can engage your legs against the ground and bring your chest up. Hold here for a second and the return your chest to the floor. Repeat this sequence two or three more times and see if you can get a little bit deeper into the backbend each time.

cobra stretch demo

Lie on your stomach with your legs flat on the floor, place your hands near your armpits and push against the floor. Raise your chest and head and look straight ahead. Hold this for the duration of the movement.

written by
Joel Runyon

Joel is the founder of IMPOSSIBLE and the founder of MoveWell. Joel founded MoveWell after sustaining an injury while running an ultra marathon on every continent. Joel is writes about mobility, pain management and health and wellness overall.

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