The cobra is a basic pose in yoga whose health benefits go far beyond strengthening the lower back. It is an essential part of many yoga classes.
Here you will learn everything about the background, health benefits, and correct execution of the cobra pose.
What Is the Cobra Pose?
The cobra, or Bhujangasana in Sanskrit, is a yoga pose that belongs to the backbends. It involves stretching and opening the front of the body, especially the chest, and strengthening the back of the body.
Cobra pose can relieve back pain and improve posture when practiced regularly, counteracts fatigue, and has an energizing effect.
Energetically, it mainly affects the Anahata Chakra (heart chakra), which stands for love, self-love, and compassion.
The cobra is suitable for beginners. It is also used in Yin Yoga, where the position is held longer.
The pose can be practiced alone, at the beginning of a yoga class as a warm-up, during the classic sun salutation, or as a precursor to more intense backends.
During a backbend, the spine is arched backward and stretched. This movement, also called spinal stretching, is an excellent balance to counteract a round back and bad posture that we often make unconsciously in front of a computer or by looking at our cell phone.
The name Bhujanga (snake) alludes to the majestic movement of the king cobra, which is revered in India and is considered a symbol of wisdom. As the snake slides forward, it can keep the upper third of its body upright.
What Are the Benefits of the Cobra Pose?
The pose has many physical and energetic benefits:
1. Strengthens Muscles
The cobra strengthens and stabilizes the back muscles, especially the back extensor, hood muscle, broad back muscles, posterior thigh muscle, gluteal muscle, and triceps.
2. Improves Posture
Regular spinal stretching through the cobra can improve posture. This way, it counteracts the adverse effects of prolonged computer work, an upper body frequently bent forward, and slouching shoulders.
3. Relieves Back pain
The cobra pose positively affects back health and relieves pain, especially in the lower back.
This fact is underpinned by a study that showed back pain reduction among participants after 12 weeks of practicing a one-hour yoga program that used the cobra pose as one of its essential exercises (Telles et al. 20161).
4. Activates the Spine
The asana activates the energy flow in the spine and anterior chest area and counteracts fatigue. It also activates the heart chakra, the throat chakra, and the brow chakra.
5. Promotes Self-Esteem
The graceful cobra pose opens the body and mind, giving courage and new self-confidence.
Studies prove that especially teenagers can boost their self-esteem and concentration through yoga (Janjhua et al. 20202).
6. Reduces Depression
The asana is associated with a “feeling of rise” by raising the upper body and stretching the spine.
One study showed improvement in people with mild to moderate depression after participating in an eight-week hatha yoga program that included practicing the cobra twice a week (Prathikanti et al. 20173).
7. Improves Sleep
Although backbends are energizing and activating, regular practice of the cobra pose can reduce stress and improve sleep quality as a result.
Yoga incorporating the cobra pose has been found to have a more beneficial effect on sleep than traditional exercises, such as jogging (Ebrahimi et al. 20174).
In particular, women struggling with symptoms of menopause may find this yoga practice helpful in improving sleep quality (Jayabharathi et al. 20145).
8. Regulates the Menstrual Cycle
Practiced regularly, the asana helps regulate an irregular menstrual cycle. Researchers have even proven that the cobra pose reduces the severity and duration of period cramps (Rakhshaee 20116).
9. Promotes Fertility
When revitalizing the hormonal system and reproduction, the cobra pose helps in several ways when practiced regularly. It promotes blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, detoxifies the body, reduces anxiety and stress, and thus strengthens the entire reproductive system.
For this reason, the position is also practiced in hormone yoga.
10. Improves digestion
A regular practice of Cobra stimulates the digestive organs, relieves constipation, and stimulates gastrointestinal function.
11. Lowers Hypertension
A brand new study states that the cobra pose, in particular, can lower systolic blood pressure and improve grip strength of patients (Lai et al. 20237).
12. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is a common feature of chronic diseases.
A recent study of people with rheumatoid arthritis found significant improvements in inflammation after participants practiced yoga, including cobra pose, five times per week for eight weeks (Gautam et al. 20208).
How to Do the Cobra Pose
- Get into the prone position to set up the pose. The feet, legs, and pelvis must be in contact with the ground.
- Actively extend the legs and toes backward in parallel, resting the backs of the feet on the mat. The forehead faces the yoga mat.
- Place your hands under your shoulders, close to your chest. Bend the elbows so that they are above the wrists. Pull the shoulders back and down.
- Activate the leg muscles and actively push the backs of your feet to the floor.
- With an inhalation, lift the chest off the mat, drawing the collarbone long and the shoulder blades back together.
- Make sure that the power of the movement comes from your back. The arms can support the process slightly but not bear any weight. Keep your elbows close to your torso at all times.
- Raise your head last. Traditionally, your gaze goes upward when you do this. However, if you have a sensitive neck, avoid over-extending your head in this posture and raise it only enough to prevent wrinkles from forming in your neck. The gaze can be directed straight ahead or slightly downward to the floor.
- Hold the position for 4 to 8 breaths.
- Slowly release the position and return to prone or shift back to the child’s pose.
Tip: You can adjust the backbend according to the desired intensity by bending or extending the elbows (please never fully extend to protect the joints).
- Never fully extend your arms.
- Ensure the elbows are not pointing to the side but straight back.
- Pull the shoulders away from the ears.
- Place the hands close to the torso, fingers pointing forward.
- Feet are placed parallel to the floor.
Expert Tips to Improve
Take your time getting into position, and only go as far as feels good for your back and neck.
Keep your legs and creek activated, and actively extend backward through your toes. Make sure your elbows stay close to your body and point back. Actively push your pubic bone into the mat and ensure your hips are always in contact with the ground.
For a dynamic execution, raise your upper body with the inhalation and lower it with the exhalation. Repeat for four breaths.
Variations and Modifications
If you want a less intense variation, try the Sphinx Pose. The forearms are placed parallel on the mat, elbows under the shoulders.
If you want a more powerful variation, raise your arms and stretch them back along your torso towards your feet. Draw the shoulder blades toward each other. Either keep the arms extended to the side of the body or cross the hands behind the back for maximum intensity.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is cobra pose good for?
The cobra pose opens the chest, strengthens the lower back, and stretches the shoulders, activating and positively affecting posture.
How to do the cobra?
In the cobra, you get into a prone position and push your legs, pelvis, and the back of your feet into the floor. Inhaling, you gracefully lift your torso, drawing your shoulders back and opening your chest. Your hands are placed loosely beside your chest.
What is the difference between cobra pose and snake pose?
Your hands are on your back in the snake pose since it’s an unsupported back bend.
Which muscles does the cobra pose stretch?
The cobra stretches the abdominal, intercostal, pectoral, upper back, and lumbar muscles.
Who should not do the cobra pose?
You should not do the cobra pose if you have back injuries, severe headaches, or a hernia or are beyond the first trimester of pregnancy.
How long should you do the cobra pose for?
Hold the cobra for 4 to 10 breaths. In a dynamic flow, it is often held for only one breath.
Is the cobra suitable for beginners?
Yes, the cobra is one of the basic postures suitable for beginners and advanced practitioners.
Stephan is a writer and a true man of science, holding multiple diplomas and master's degrees in different research areas. His greatest passion is closing the gap between the conventional perception of health and the latest scientific evidence – always following the data.