YOGA ALIGNMENT: COBRA POSE
HOW TO RELEASE LOW BACK PAIN IN BACKBENDS
If you feel back pain in backbends, you are not alone.
Many people experience low back pain in backbends. If you’re experiencing this or just feeling stuck in your yoga poses (or you’re a yoga teacher), then you have come to the right place. When done properly, backbends feel like a lengthening of the spine rather than stiff and compressive. With the right actions, backbends also strengthen each segment of the back, which weakens after hours of sitting — something most of us do each day.
Cobra (Bhujangasana) is one of the most overlooked backbend poses because it’s not as sexy or challenging as other backbends, but it shouldn’t be. For most people, it’s one of the most effective and accessible postures to increase spinal mobility. While most teachers focus on Upward-Facing Dog, I practice and teach Cobra because it’s hands-down the best prep for backbends.
BENEFITS OF COBRA POSE
Cobra Pose is my top suggested pose to release low back pain in backbends.
Here’s why I think we should give this pose its due props. First, Cobra is done from the mat, so it’s more stable and doesn’t require balance. Why is that important? When balance is involved, the midsection will unconsciously hold tension, much of which happens in the abdominals. So? Too much abdominal engagement decreases spinal extension (backbending), likely causing compression instead of an expansion.
When the body is stable, it relaxes, and this is one of the keys to backbends. You cannot approach a backbend from a place of fear, aggression, frustration, motivation, or any emotional state associated with an overly active sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). In other words, when it comes to these postures, force does not work the way it would when approaching something like an arm balance or heavy weight-lifting.
I’m not preaching that there is no effort in Cobra, but rather that backbends require softness, surrender, and extremely accurate and well-placed effort. This is best learned in a stable environment, and Cobra Pose is where I suggest you train.
Second, students can take the pose to the level that is right for their bodies, and with consistent practice, progress becomes apparent fairly quickly. With the alignment I share in Cobra Pose, your elbows are bent, and rather than pushing your way into a backbend, you pull yourself up. This makes it harder to mistakenly compress the spine as in a posture like Upward Dog.
Today I want to share with you exactly how to release low back pain in backbends, through what I call the “3-part Cobra.” This approach to Cobra can truly help both teachers and students access a more complete range of motion while building strength, length, and flexibility through the core region of their bodies. Let’s go over this 3-part Cobra that I teach in all of my online immersions and online teacher trainings
The Heart Openers Immersion provides you with the necessary techniques to develop your body awareness for pain-free yoga backbends. Learn techniques to decompress the spine like "bowing the spine". Learn the anatomy of each posture while you practice. Some of the postures you will develop are
- Cobra Pose, Bow Pose, Camel Pose
- Wild Thing, Dancer Pose, Chapasana
- Full Wheel and its variations
- King Cobra, King Pigeon, King Dancer
ALL Levels Appropriate, Lifetime Access to All Classes, Unlimited Views
Tripod Headstand to Crow for Controlled AccessinversionsTRIPOD HEADSTAND TO CROW POSE When exploring an inversion like Tripod Headstand, the shoulder muscles become part of the primary focus. Tripod Headstand on its own can be challenging enough, but adding a...
Shoulder Connections 3 Postures for Increased Mobilityshoulder stabilitySHOULDER CONNECTIONS To increase mobility in our shoulders, we must first understand how they move, so we become more connected with their function and how they inform a variety of yoga postures....
Deep Dive Into Chaturanga Shoulder Action Controversyshoulder stabilityDEEP DIVE INTO CHATURANGA Earlier this week, Matt posted a video on his Instagram page highlighting the shoulder blade movement that takes place in Chaturanga—moving from protraction to retraction....
Strengthen Your "Shelf" for Mayurasana How to Prepare for This Unique Arm BalanceDELTOIDSSTRENGTHEN YOUR "SHELF" FOR MAYURASANA Let’s note that muscle groups do not work in isolation: The activation of accessory muscles, although not necessarily the focal point, are...
What Are the Tilts of the Scapulae? 4 Postures to Help You Lock Into These Shoulder ActionsSHOULDER ROTATIONWHAT ARE THE TILTS OF THE SCAPULAE? When we first dive into studying anatomy, it’s all about the basics. Once the foundation is laid, it becomes easier to...
Awaken Your Rotator Cuff Muscles 6 Exercises for a More Stable Side PlankBELIEFAWAKEN YOUR ROTATOR CUFF MUSCLES The rotator cuff muscles carry a great deal of responsibility. When healthy and strong, they help to keep the head of the humerus inside of the glenoid...