In 15 years of teaching yoga, I've rarely seen a person do cobra pose in a way that provides the highly-touted benefits of a backbend. In my teacher training programs, students and teachers alike are often shocked to discover the magic they’ve been missing.
Cobra pose can be just another rote movement that does nothing to change our posture or open our heart, or it can be a catalyst for transformation. It can improve posture and increase our capacity for love and connection.
It all depends on how we do the pose.
Picture the energy of your heart shrinking into the center of your chest, and imagine slumping your shoulders forward. This is the scenario that develops for millions of Americans, due to the hours and hours we spend sitting at desks, on couches, in cars…and protecting ourselves emotionally.
Now picture the movement of cobra pose.
You lay on your belly with your hands under your shoulders and lift up. At this point, it's likely that you either:
(1) push up with your arms and bend into the lower back and neck; or
(2) hover your hands off the ground and use your lower back to lift the upper body away from the ground.
In both scenarios, you're not opening the chest and strengthening the upper back and you're missing an opportunity to counteract the habitual posture of slumping forward. And you're not opening and freeing the energy of the heart.
To do these things, you must set aside the desire to lift up as high as you can, and commit to finding more ease in the lower back.
The video below demonstrates how to do cobra pose in a way that will improve your posture, open your heart, and allow you to eventually do deeper backbends in a way that will support and deepen this opening process.
Key Actions of Cobra Pose (as shown in the video)
1. Relax the lower back.
2. Keep the back of the neck long. (Don’t look up.)
3. Arch the upper back, attempting to move from the thoracic spine rather than the lumbar or cervical spine.
4. Repeat several times and then pause in the pose to breath deeply.
Watch the video.