Be careful when you perform the Bhujangasana, better known as the cobra pose. You might notice your body becoming serpent-like, suddenly your hair will turn into multiple snakes, and your gaze will turn everyone into stone… Okay, let’s stop being overdramatic. Of course, performing the cobra pose won’t turn you into Medusa! Although Yoga might be older than the story of Medusa or Greek Mythology in general.
Bhujangasana Or Cobra Pose – Origin And Significance
Bhujangasana is the Sanskrit term for asana Yoga, alternatively known as cobra pose. Bhujangasana is a highly regarded Yoga cobra position, first outlined in the Gheranda Samhita (better known as Gherandas collection and one of the ancient texts of Hatha yoga cobra pose), one of the three classical Hatha Yoga scriptures of the 17th century. Chapter 2 of this manuscript identifies thirty-two asanas for strengthening the body, out of which the cobra pose is the penultimate pose.
Reflective of its name, traditional scriptures say that Bhujangasana or cobra pose boosts body heat. When the body’s heat is freed to rise through the repeated practice of meditation and Yoga, it creates a sense of liberation. Its significance is also seen in the illustrations of the Buddha with a cobra placed above his head, marking his enlightened state.
Cobra Pose – Scientific Significance
Yoga masters or teachers recommend the mastery of one asana, i.e., the cobra pose. Performing Pranayama (a powerful yogic breathing technique) precisely and in a peaceful and quiet environment, the muscles and joints relax. The soothing impulses return to the brain and unwind.
Other benefits include mental wellbeing, better health, and fearlessness of mind. Bhujangasana aims to reinforce the spine and stretches everything between the navel and the chin. Even a little time spent in Bhujangasana counts for a lot to reduce stress and anxiety in particular.
The cobra pose expands the shoulders and the neck, stretches the muscle fibers in the shoulders and chest, and strengthens the arms. It can be considerably effective at relieving distress in the back, neck, and abdominal muscles.
One of the significant advantages of Bhujangasana is that it greatly improves blood circulation. Yoga Cobra pose is perceived to be one of the best asanas to have a flat stomach.
Which Muscles Benefit From The Cobra Pose
- Trapezius: The Trapezius muscle extends from the back of the head down to the shoulder blade.Trapezius is partly responsible for the movement of the head and the neck.
- Hamstring: The three long muscles that run along the back of the thigh are the hamstring muscles. They stretch the hip, bend the knee, and rotate the lower leg. In the cobra pose, the hamstrings in the hip extension of the pose are the focal point.
- Erector Spinae: It is a collection of muscles and tendons in the back that regulate the extension and rotation of the spine. Because they are responsible for straightening the spine, the resilience of the erector spinae muscles is closely linked to the yoga cobra pose.
- Abdominal muscles- Rectus abdominis: The abdominals are found in the lower abdomen between the ribs and the pelvis. They govern the pelvis tilting and the lower spine curve. Engaging the transversus abdominis muscle (one of the muscles in the belly) during the cobra pose stabilizes the spine.
Benefits Of Bhujangasana Or Cobra Pose
It is one of the uncommon exercises that benefit the whole body from the toes to the head and improves physical and mental health. The most appreciative point is that it does not necessitate any specific types of tools to be conducted and can be accomplished in-home within a minute. Given below are some benefits of incorporating the yoga cobra stretch in your daily fitness routine:
- Works On And Strengthens Your Spine:
As the yoga Cobra position is useful in helping your back with a good lengthening, it is very beneficial in strengthening your spine. It is designed to stretch the lower and upper areas of your back. But if you have chronic back pain, consulting a doctor is recommended to make sure you do not have any potential side effects.
A research paper was published on the influence of postures, especially Cobra Pose, and its effects on a hormonal level. It was only done on seven men and one woman in the age between 22-50 years. The results showed an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol. Therefore it might help in anxiety.
- Might Improve Circulation Of Oxygenated Blood:
Good circulation of blood is the key to staying productive and invigorated. One of the major advantages of Bhujangasana is that it significantly improves blood circulation. Once you’ve got your blood flowing, your cells will have enough nutrients and oxygen. Improved circulation of blood will also help restore hormonal balance.
- May relieve Shooting Pains Caused By Sciatica (Back pain caused by having issues with a nerve in the lower back) :
The deformation of the sciatic nerve causes pain in the legs or is generally recognized as tight soft muscles. The only solution to this problem is expanding flexibility and lengthening the spinal cord to alleviate the pressure off the soft tissues. Yoga cobra stretch is the most helpful for healing this pain and plays a vital role in gentle spinal straining. For those who are enduring this problem, cobra stretch is the perfect cure for it. However, for Yogis, which had or have a Spinal Canal Stenosis (Congestion of spinal canal), which is the cause of this sciatic pain, we recommend to speak with their doctor or physiotherapist before doing this pose. Extension in Spinal Canal can worsen the pain!
- Could Be Supportive If You Are Suffering Under Dysmenorrhea Better Known As Painful Menstrual Cramps:
As a woman, I don’t have to tell you when your monthlies arrive. Meanwhile, you are lying in your bed with a hot-water bottle, trying to ease your pain and showing your nails and fangs to the world. In this study, conducted on 92 female students (18-22 years), it has been highlighted that performing the cobra pose, along with cat and fish poses, reduced the pain and span of primary dysmenorrhea. So it might help you if you perform the Asanas regularly.
- It Might Be Helpful In Losing Belly Fat:
It is well-known that the yoga pose helps to burn belly fat. Retaining the pose for a prolonged time provides the entire abdominal region with appropriate stretching. The metabolic processes in the body are also regulated, and it helps to resolve weight and obesity issues. Not only does it solve weight problems, but it is also helpful for a flat stomach.
- Maybe Good For Therapeutic Neck And Back Pain:
One often feels pain or discomfort in their neck and shoulder regions after a difficult, hectic day. If you want to relieve the strain from the neck and the back region and put some pressure off, exercise the cobra stretch. With this, we can find the solution to Yoga cobra pose back pain queries that people search over the internet. The cobra stretch is the most appropriate option for you to loosen all your muscles, mainly the back ones.
- Might Work On The Digestive System:
Regular cobra workout practice promotes gastric juice efflux, which acts on challenges such as indigestion, constipation, etc. The yoga asana also provides the gastrointestinal tract a soothing massage by flexing the frontal plane, promoting the ideal working of abdominal organs.
- Can Be Helpful For Asthmatic Patients (Under Strict Supervision):
Yoga cobra pose ensures an optimal expansion of the chest and lungs. It mainly helps in expanding the inner region of the lungs. That it might be helpful for Asthma is also listed in this research paper. Lung expansion prevents asthmatic incidents and other problems with breathing.
- Could Tone Your Upper And Lower Body:
In cobra stretch, as you contour your back, the spine receives a decent stretch, helping to strengthen the spinal column. Also, it strengthens and tones the biceps, triceps, chest, shoulders, deltoid muscles and firms and tones the buttocks, leading to a great, healthy physical structure.
When To Perform This Asana?
Bhujangasana requires you to sleep on your stomach to perform this pose. It also necessitates a body to do a lot of contorting and bending. Therefore, make sure that you conduct a cobra pose on an empty stomach. Practicing Yoga on an empty stomach is the best way to get the most from a yoga practice. This includes eating the last big meal 4 hours before, with the option of a quick snack up to 1 hour before. A quick snack counts as something light, like a salad or fruit.
Doing yoga positions removes energy from digestion since that energy is now consumed by bending and twisting and constant inhalation and exhalation. It means that your body doesn’t process vitamins and minerals fully, and food might get stuck instead of moving along. It could leave you painfully bloated or gaseous.
Early morning is the best recommended time to perform this asana since your body is rejuvenated, and most benefits can be squeezed out of this asana. Choose a calm and peaceful environment, where early morning sunlight and air can penetrate, preferably on a terrace or in a backyard.
10 to 15 minutes and 5 to 6 repetitions of the asana are enough, do not overexert any muscle that may cause you irritation later.
When To Avoid Performing Cobra Pose?
There are various situations when one should avoid performing a cobra pose or perform it under expert guidance. Such situations are elaborated on below.
- Individuals suffering from severe back problems related to the spinal column must be discouraged to practice the yoga pose.
- Should your neck problems be related to spondylitis (Inflammatory arthritis affecting the spine and large joints) should avoid this yoga pose as well.
- Pregnant women should not practice this yoga position as a great deal of pressure is noticed in the lower abdomen. It can also lead to injuries if the stance of the arms is not accurate in this posture.
- Avoid exercising Bhujangasana Yoga if you have broken ribs or wrists or have recently undergone abdominal surgery, such as a hernia.
- Also, discourage doing Bhujangasana if you are suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome causes intense pain, tingling, and loss of feeling in your hand due to median nerve stress in your wrist.
- Patients with severe Asthma might also avoid these postures and work on breathing exercises through Pranayama before actually trying the cobra pose.
How To Initiate Cobra Pose?
Start with Sukshma Vyayam (a small warm-up before Yoga) or slight exercises to initiate your practice. These include a delicate rotation of the neck, arms, wrists, hips, and ankles to warm up the joints steadily.
Before starting with any Yoga asana, which involves muscles, warm up your muscles, i.e., take a walk, some light standing exercises that mobilize your muscles. Do not tire your muscles and joints.
This will prepare your body for a workout and keep you safe from injuries associated with exercise. Make sure your body is adequately warmed up before you try any back-bending stances.
Steps Involving Cobra Pose
- Lie Face Down Flat On Your Belly On The Mat
Your legs ought to be flat on the ground, and your hands must be flat on either side of you. Extend your back legs, the tops of your feet on the ground. Stretch your hands under your shoulders on the mat. Hug your elbows into your body.
TIP: If you have a trivial backache due to stiffness of muscle and not any other reason, make a gap of 1-2 feet between the legs. Also, in this pose, your toes must never be tucked underneath you.
- Press Onto The Floor With Both Hands
You need your palms to be marginally lower than your shoulder, so your fingertips are nearly just below the muscles of your shoulder. Spread your fingers and uniformly push your palms into the floor. At this level, you will be only a few inches off the floor, with your spine mostly still straight.
TIP: Relax, close your eyes, and steadily but deeply, inhale and exhale once. Envision the stability of the top of your pelvis, thighs, and feet. Imagine that portion is now rooted to the ground.
- Start Pulling Your Shoulders Back
On an inhalation, start straightening your arms to hoist your chest off the floor, only heading to a height at which you can stay connected to your legs through your pubis. Your arms must be stood up straight, and this should not feel uncomfortable. Stretch and broaden your stretch to establish an elegant arc in your back.
TIP: Instead of trying to exert yourself to gain altitude and risk overtaking the spine, use the length in your legs and back. Let your buttocks be semi-relaxed.
- Maintain The Asana Or Position For 15 To 20 Seconds
Before discharging gently to the floor or stretching back further for another round, attempt to keep the cobra pose for five full breaths, release the pose instantly if you begin to feel discomfort or tightness in your back.
Keep your neck completely balanced. Don’t pump it up. Your gaze is supposed to stay on the ceiling, i.e., upwards. Gradually come to the initial position with a deep exhalation following the same steps backward.
If you practice regularly, try to stretch your arms fully so they become straight.
If you practice regularly, try to stretch your arms fully, so they become straight.
TIP: Ensure your elbows proceed to hug your sides. Never let them tail out on either corner. You can use variations and adjustments to make this pose more effective for you, whether you’re a newbie or an advanced practitioner.
If You Are A Newbie To Cobra Pose
If you are very unbending, we suggest that you practice this asana with the help of a prop instead of doing this position on the ground. Brace a sturdy folding chair against a wall, place your hands on the front edge of the seat, the balls of your legs on the floor, and then try this pose.
If Cobra Stretch Poses Challenge For You
A delicate variation that involves only the back muscles is the Yoga baby cobra pose. Elevate the palms off the mat so they’re less than an inch (2.5 cm) above it.
Using just the back, lift the shoulders and chest and interact with your thighs and abdomen to avoid tightness for a mini backbend.
To reduce pressure in the lower back, spread the feet farther apart. If staring up triggers strain in your neck or spine, retain your gaze ahead.
If You Want To Try More Advanced Pose And Test Your Limits
To confront your balance while you’re in the cobra pose, bend your right knee and snatch your right-hand ankle for half a frog pose. Hold on for five breaths, relax, and repeat the process. Grab your ankle with your flip side for an even greater challenge.
Only advance to a deeper backbend if the cobra pose is easy for you and you’re looking for something a little more challenging.
Precautions To Be Taken While Performing The Cobra Pose
- Stretch Is Not About How High You Can Bend
The cobra pose is not about how high you can lift but rather about your spinal extension. To produce a stunning, even arc, peel yourself off the ground one vertebra at a time.
There might be a case where a yoga cobra pose hurts the lower back if you’ve come up very high. In such cases, you should lower a few inches (or cm) to avoid grinding your lower back as it can cause shooting back pain if your arc is converting into more of an L-shape.
- Properly Position The Hands To Avoid Pulling Major Muscles
Before you raise your head and chest from the mat, make sure your hands are properly positioned. Your hands are supposed to be next to your chest and under your shoulders.
- Clenching The Buttocks
There is a compulsion to squeeze the buttocks in Bhujangasana, as the backbend does not happen easily to the body. Save your energy and relax your glutes.
- Not Using Hips To Lift The Ground
Cobra pose uses the glutes to hold the lift rather than the arms and legs. While maintaining your hips on the floor, use your back muscles instead of brute arm strength to lift your upper body.
Stop right before your hips get off the floor, do not exert the arc beyond your capacity.
Try to alter your point of view when practicing the cobra pose. Feel the air filling your chest as you rise against the force of gravity. In a quest to reach ease amid endeavor, reduce anxiety in your arms. You will find the power to hold the cobra pose with a simple, slow breath only via surrender. Let this process help you to remove anxiety. It is recommended that you inculcate the cobra pose as well as many other more daunting poses in your practice.
Sri Lakshmi and Dr. Mishra