Benefit the Spine with Bhujangasana, Cobra pose for Self Esteem

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Techniques of Yoga articles

Bhujangasana is the Sanskrit

equivalent of the serpent,

snake in English.

Since the snake lacks any limb

like other creatures in nature,

its spine has been endowed with

a peculiar strength and flexibility,

imparting the animal the required agility and strength,

as would be necessary for its survival in the given circumstances.

More than 90 % of a snake’s skeleton is its spine along with its curvy modifications.

Cobra pose or Bhujangasana resembles the raised frontal section of a snake’s spine, head included, like a hood above the ground. The raising of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the human spine like a Cobra raising its hood, imparts amazing benefits to the practitioner. Placement of spine or Merudand, as it is called in Sanskrit plays a pivotal role in understanding almost all Yoga asanas.

The spine is the main axis around which the other parts of the human body are woven. This makes practicing Bhujangasana all the more significant for any serious student of Yoga. A serious practitioner of Yoga must perform all Yoga asanas with proper understanding of the asana concept and the rules to be adhered to while practicing them.

Preparatory Postures for Bhujangasana

  • Setubandha Asana
  • Urdhvamukhasvan Asana

How to do Bhujangasana ( Supported by Arms) 

  1. Lie prone, on the Abdomen, legs stretched back with the tops of the feet resting on the floor, keep the legs together, the insides of the feet touching each other
  2. Place the palms, with fingers spread out under the shoulders, the fingertips should be in line with the tops of the shoulders, the elbows are raised upward and pushed inward hugging the sides of the torso, forehead placed on the floor, the shoulders are kept away from the ears, toes should point outward, lift the chest a little and push it forward increasing the length of the abdomen and place it back on the floor for straightening the spine, this will also help complete extension of the torso on the anterior side
  3. Take an inhalation, push the palms into the floor and raise the forehead, neck, upper back and the lower back up till the navel region, vertebra by vertebra in the same order, let the pressure gets transferred from the cervical region of the spine to the sacral region synchronized with the lifting action of the torso, simultaneously straighten the elbows, push the shoulders up, push the sternum up aided by the inhalation
  4. Use the back muscles more than the arms for lifting up, the entire body falling below the navel region must be in contact with the floor, only the length of the body above the navel is raised up
  5. Push the chin up, increase the curve in the raised spine by tilting the head backward, push the chest out slightly, not a lot, or it will harden the lower back, the buttocks are kept soft but firm, press the tailbone in (towards the Pubis)
  6. Roll the shoulders backward, slide the shoulder blades toward each other reducing the distance between them, the contraction of the posterior spine must be equally distributed across its entire length, hold the breath in the final posture till it’s comfortable
  7. For coming out of the pose start exhaling and lower the raised body parts to the floor, in the reverse order to as they were raised, vertebra by vertebra, simultaneously bend the elbows as was to start with

Rest, relax the lower back muscles, in Makarasana till the breath returns to normal.

This is one round

Watch the video on Cobra Pose


Breathing Pattern & duration ( Bhujangasana)

In case of dynamic variation ( Breath coordinated rhythmically with every movement )

Raise the torso up for 3 seconds while inhaling smoothly. Retain or hold the breath for 6 seconds in the final posture. Release the pose, the torso is placed on the floor,  by exhaling for 3 seconds.

For therapeutic purpose do 3 rounds of Bhujangasana – with the above-mentioned breathing pattern – in 1 minute

In case of Static variation (No breathing pattern is followed)

Inhale while lifting the torso, to begin with. Breathe normal, slow and rhythmically in the final pose of Bhujangasana for not more than 2 minutes. Exhale while releasing the pose back to the starting position.

Start with practicing Bhujangasana in a static form.  As one attains control over the breath gradually move to the Dynamic version.

For the therapeutic purpose, the dynamic version of  Bhujangasana should be practiced. Practice up to 5 rounds in a single session, gradually increase the time of stay in the final posture as described above.

Alignment essentials and Modifications – Bhujangasana

  • Keep the pelvis on the floor as far as possible, this will impart a deep stretch to the front of the raised torso, moreover, if the pelvis is raised the hips and legs do not get the required stretched for getting toned, a proper backbend is difficult to achieve with the hips raised up
  • Keep the feet together throughout, a stiff lower back hinders the efforts for making the feet touch at the inner lines, do not lift the shoulders up to the ears, the shoulders must be pressed down and then backward, Raised shoulders shortens the length of the spine and restricts the chest opening forward, it may also cause lower back pain later as the raised shoulders shift the weight to this region
  • Drive the strength to hold Bhujangasana from the palms, shoulders (deltoid muscle), core and the upper back,  keep the shoulders relaxed, keep the elbows as close to the body as possible, the chin must point up, the chest must be pushed out lightly with the shoulder blades pushed toward each other
  • In case one feels difficulty in breathing during the pose, check in case the chin is jutted to high, lower it a bit to start breathing comfortably again, elbows can be held slightly bent depending on the flexibility of the spine, the spine must be kept elongated at every step
  • Try to support the final posture, Bhujangasana, with the strength of the spine and not the palms ( Do not put the entire weight on the palms for support), cobras do not have hands thus use them the least possible, gazing at the area between the eyes brows while lifting up into the pose help intensify the backward arch, gaze at the nose tip while releasing the torso to the floor as you come out of the pose

In order to derive maximum benefits from practicing yoga asana one must be aware of the general principles of alignment in yoga and the concepts of right action, and attitude related to the same.

Common Faults – Cobra Pose

  • Pushing up into the Cobra pose: one must roll into and out of the pose in a smooth manner and not push up with a jerk,
  • The shoulders are near the ears and pushed inward
  • Mouth is open while doing Bhujangasana
  • Head is falling forward
  • To start with the hands are in front of the shoulders or away from the body limits
  • The pelvis is above the floor while practicing Bhujangasana
  • Using too much of the arms strength to lift the torso to the extent that the lower back tenses up

Follow up poses  – Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose

  • Paschimottanasana, or another forward bend as a counterpose
  • Bhujangasana is best done in conjunction with Shalabhasana and Dhanurasana for reaping maximum benefits
  • Headstand
  • Crow Pose

Contraindications – When not to do Cobra Pose

 Persons with below-mentioned conditions must avoid doing ( or do it with extra precautions where ever mentioned) Bhujangasana, Cobra pose.

  • Heart issues ( lighter version can be attempted with not tensing the shoulders at all)
  • A hernia, ulcers or other inflammatory conditions of the abdomen
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Intestinal Tuberculosis
  • A headache
  • Advanced Pregnancy
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Any  back injury
  • Menstruation

Advantages- Benefits of doing Bhujangasana- Cobra Pose 

Bhujangasana involves bending of the spine against the pull of the gravity, which imparts the maximum possible strength to it. Cobra pose, by way of its intense contraction of the posterior and stretching the anterior, provides the practitioner with umpteen advantages as listed below.

  • Calms the Mind and fights stress
  • If held for long with relaxed breathing it can arrest anger and anxiety
  • Helps one come out of depression
  • Stimulates the Mind and fights dullness and fatigue
  • If held for long durations it develops mental stamina, yoga for building mental stamina is incomplete without this asana
  • Induces acceptance, thus is always apart of yoga for inculcating acceptance, and love and compassion in the personality of the practitioner if one practices it regularly as a part of yoga for developing compassion
  • Prevents lower back issues like Lumbago ( lower back pain) and Myalgia ( muscle pain of the back), in fact, its a significant tool in the kit of yoga for relieving Myalgia
  • The back muscles are toned providing enhanced support to the spinal vertebra, helping with conditions like slip disc, Bhujangasana also adjusts minor displacements of the vertebra relieving the vertebral foramen of any undue pressure on them
  •  Bhujangasana tones the spinal nerves which are connected to all the vital functions of the body, this makes restoring the homeostasis, after the body is subjected to stress, much faster and easier along with improving blood circulation along the back, bhujangasana along with other  techniques form an effective group of yoga techniques for maintaining homeostasis
  • Stress is handled well as the Adrenal glands located at the back are massaged effectively
  • Any Postural defects are taken care off
  • Thyroid glands are adequately impacted regulating the overall metabolism ( body heat) of the body
  •  Cobra pose impacts the Parathyroid sufficiently,  rejuvenating the tissues of the body
  • Bhujangasana, like all chest openers, impacts the Thymus gland situated there, which boosts the immune system, it is an idle pose to be included in the yoga techniques for a healthy thymus gland
  • As this pose works on the intercostal muscles- muscle fibers connecting two ribs along their length – it improves the expandability of the lungs adding significantly to the breathing capacity of the practitioner  helping with Asthma
  • Improves Urogenital health
  • Tones the kidneys and reduces extra fat from the abdominal region
  • Tones the entire digestive system, stimulates appetite, alleviated constipation, more specifically the Pancreas, aiding with managing Diabetes, it also removes air trapped in the upper digestive tract
  • Legs and hips are shaped up and toned
  •  Bhujangasana removes double chin as it stretches the neck muscles upward, it also presses upon various acupressure points along the jawline, as the chin is held up, triggering the fountain of youth in the practitioner, preserving youth ( glow on the face) for longer
  • On account of its impact on the vocal cords, it adds a dulcet effect to the voice, it adds value to the curricula of yoga for a healthy voice
  • Tones the uterus and ovaries, helping with associated menstrual and gynae issues: Amenorrhea ( Absence of mensuration), Dysmenorrhea ( painful mensuration), Leucorrhea ( whitish discharge from the vagina)
  • As this pose stretches the deep muscles of the spine, Erector Spinae, it helps the pain associated with the Sciatica nerve to some extent
  • The stretch involved in Cobra pose relieves compression of the Diaphragm improving the depth of the breath
  • It helps improve Kyphosis

Body Reading for Bhujangasana

  • Weak Erector Spinae muscles would make lifting of the chest above the floor challenging
  • Legs are difficult to keep together if the Psoas muscle is tight and the adductors are weak
  • In case one is suffering from Knock knees the feet can’t be kept together
  • In the event of the presence of Lordosis, or tight hip flexors the feet will remain above the floor
  • Tight pectorals and weak middle Trapezius will not allow the elbows to be held in alignment with the shoulders and the wrists
  • The back of the neck will scrunch due to the weakness in the Sternocleidomastoid and fatigue in the upper Trapezius muscles

The Chakras which Bhujangasana comes under:

Bhujangasana works on multiple nerve centers ( Chakras) in the body: Swadhisthana,  Manipura, Anahata, and Vishudhi chakras.

Bhujangasana – The Mind should be on:

Physically the attention should be on the smooth synchronization of the breath with the movements and on the arching of the back.

Spiritual awareness must rest on The Swadhisthana Chakra