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How to Do Bhujangasana (The Cobra Pose): Steps and Benefits

  |  Updated: August 23, 2016 16:02 IST

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How to Do Bhujangasana (The Cobra Pose): Steps and Benefits
Highlights
  • Bhujangasana is often referred to as the Cobra Pose
  • This yoga asana helps tones the abdomen and strengthen the spine
  • We've listed 16 benefits of Bhujangasana and 7 common mistakes to avoid
The name Bhujangasana comes from the Sanskrit word 'bhujanga' which translates to 'snake' or 'serpent' and 'asana' meaning 'posture'. Hence, it is often referred to as the Cobra Pose, as it reflects the posture of a cobra that has its hood raised.

Seema Sondhi of The Yoga Studio in Delhi says, "The Cobra Pose opens up the shoulders and the neck, stretches muscles in the shoulders and chest, strengthens the arms and also helps treat constipation". It can be significantly useful at relieving discomfort in the muscles of the back, neck and abdomen. Just a little time spent in Bhujangasana goes a long way; especially towards reducing stress and anxiety. It is part of the sequence of yoga postures in Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation.

Zubin Atre, Founder of The Atre Yoga Studio says, "If done right, Bhujangasana helps strengthen the spine, and stretches anything between the navel and the chin".

16 Benefits of Bhujangasana

1. Increases flexibility

2. Tones the abdomen

3. Strengthens the arms and shoulders

4. Decreases stiffness of the lower back

5. Stretches muscles in the shoulders, chest and abdominals

6. Improves menstrual irregularities

7. Elevates mood

8. Firms and tones the buttocks

9. Stimulates organs in the abdomen, like the kidneys

10. Improves blood circulation

11. Relieves stress and fatigue

12. Opens the chest and helps to clear the passages of the heart and lungs

13. Improves digestion

14. Strengthens the spine

15. Soothes sciatica

16. Helps to ease symptoms of asthma
 


Getting into Bhujangasana

Start in the prone position, by lying flat on your stomach on a comfortable, level surface (preferably a yoga mat). Make sure your feet are together, with the toes against the floor. "Spread your hands on the floor and ensure you elbows are placed close to the rib cage," says Zubin Atre, Founder of The Atre Yoga Studio. Close your eyes and inhale slowly. "Focus more on inhaling, really breathe in," adds Zubin. Feel the stability in your pelvis and thighs, imagine them rooted to the ground throughout Bhujangasana. Exhale gradually before opening your eyes. Continue breathing slow and deep.

As you inhale, make a gently effort to push the chest forward and steadily straighten your arms. Deepen your stretch to create a graceful, even arc in your back. "Your navel should be off the mat by maximum 5 cm", says Zubin Atre. Ensure you're stretching just as much as you can; do not force.

Keep your shoulders broad, but relaxed. Lift from the top of your sternum, but avoid pushing the front of your ribs forward. Try to distribute the stretch evenly along your spine. Breathe calmly and hold here for 5 to 10 breaths. As you exhale, gently release your body back to the floor.



7 Common Mistakes to Avoid

"Cobra pose is simple enough for beginners, but there are a surprisingly high number of mistakes made", says Seema Sondhi, The Yoga Studio.

1. Wrong hand placement: "Before you lift your head and chest from the floor, make sure your hands are positioned correctly", advises Zubin Atre, Founder, The Atre Yoga Studio. If your hands are too far away from your body, you'll likely end up jamming your shoulders toward your ears-a Bhujangasana no-no. Your hands should be next to your chest and under your shoulders.

2. Locking the elbows: "Many people keep their arms totally straight while getting into Bhujangasana and that is incorrect. Locked elbows can jam your shoulders toward your ears. So slightly bend your arms and relax", adds Zubin Atre.

3. Jamming the neck: In the classical version of Cobra pose, the neck is arched back in a graceful extension of the spine. This healthy arc can easily turn into unhealthily throwing the head backwards. To maintain length in the upper spine, gaze directly forward or diagonally downward.

4. Crunching the lower back: Cobra isn't about how high you can lift but about your spinal extension. Peel yourself off the floor one vertebra at a time to create a beautiful, even arc. If your arc is turning into more of an L shape, you've come up too high and should lower a few inches to avoid crunching your low back.

5. Clenching the buttocks: According to Zubin, The Atre Yoga Studio, "There is a temptation to squeeze the buttocks in Bhujangasana as the backward bend doesn't come naturally to the body. Save energy and relax your glutes instead".

6. Crowding the feet: If you're getting into low Cobra Pose, then it's okay to have your feet together. However if you're rising into extended Cobra Pose, your feet should at least be hip-distance wide to lessen pressure on the low back. Point your feet straight back, heels toward the sky and tuck your toes under.

7. Lifting the hips: Cobra pose uses the back muscles to maintain the lift rather than the arms and legs. While keeping the hips on the floor, use your back muscles-instead of brute arm strength-to lift your torso. Stop just before your hips lift off the floor.


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