Derived from the roots bhujanga = snake, and asana = posture. Thus, Bhujangasana means to be in the posture of the snake. We often refer to this as the Cobra Pose (Dr. Jyoti Gangwal et al., 2019). This pose is characterized by lying prone on the ground while the back is bent and pointed upwards towards the sky.
How to perform Bhujangasana
- Lie on the ground face down (prone) on a blanket. Lengthen and stretch the back of your legs and tops of your feet. Keep elbows hugged to the body and palms flat on the ground below the shoulders.
- Press the thighs, tops of the feet (including the little toe) and pubis gently into the ground.
- On inhale, straighten the arms to lift the chest off of the ground. Gently refrain at the height whereby the pubis and lower body are still grounded. Let the tailbone extend upwards and lift as evenly as the upper body lifts, pivoting at the level of S1. (This can be helpful in reducing counter-nutation).
- Pull up the pubis toward the navel. Decrease the distance between the hip points. Make the buttocks firm but avoid over tightening the muscles. Find a place of steadiness and ease.
- Bring your shoulder blades to the back, squeezing them together gently and allow the side ribs to move forward. Elevate the sternum, but avoid bringing the front ribs forward, as this will only harden the lower back region. The backbend or extension must be distributed evenly throughout the length of the spine.
- Breathe easily in this pose for 15-30 seconds to open the chest and lungs. Exhale and return to the starting position.
- It helps in relieving stress and fatigue (Colgrove et al., 2019; Dr. Jyoti Gangwal et al., 2019).
- It helps in strengthening and rejuvenating the spine, and is recommended for those with a stiff back (Rakhshaee, 2011; Rathore et al., 2013; Sumchai, 2015).
- It helps in stretching shoulders, abdomen, chest and lungs.
- It helps in firming the buttocks (Dr. Jyoti Gangwal et al., 2019).
- It helps in stimulating the organs in the abdominal region (Dr. Jyoti Gangwal et al., 2019).
- It opens up the lungs and heart (Dr. Jyoti Gangwal et al., 2019).
- It is helpful in relieving pain from sciatica (Dr. Jyoti Gangwal et al., 2019).
- Improves menstrual irregularities (Dr. Jyoti Gangwal et al., 2019), and can help with painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea) (Rakhshaee, 2011).
- Diminishes kyphosis (Morse, 2007)
- The pose causes abdominal compression which may be helpful in relieving constipation (Morse, 2007; Sinclair, 2011).
- Aids in strengthening muscles that assist in exhalation, making it also therapeutic for individuals with asthma (Morse, 2007).
- It elevates mind and heart
- it stimulates udana vayu
- It places pressure on Nabhi (navel) and Basti (bladder) marmas bringing pranice flow to these regions of the body
- It opens anahata akash (the heart space)
- It opens the KUM region of the body, bridging a sense of lightness to the whole body and mind
- It is mentioned in traditional texts that Bhujanhasana increases body heat, kills disease and awakens kundalini.
Contradictions and Cautions
- This pose should not be performed while pregnant
- Avoid practicing this pose if you suffer from:
- back injury
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
- Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Follow up Poses
Don’t overdo the backbend or any extension of the spine. It is best to find the height at which you can be comfortable and avoid the feeling of your back being strained. Take your hands off the floor for a moment, so the height you find is through extension, not the pressure you place on the hands.
Modifications and Props
If your back is feeling stiff, it may be better to avoid performing this pose on the floor. Place a metal folding chair against the wall. Then perform the pose with your hands on the front edge of the seat while the balls of your feet are on the floor. Practice on a bolster to make it harder to balance whilst performing the pose. Use bricks under the hands and draw them into the body to increase the amount of extension in the spine. Do remember to bring your shoulders down, and away from the ears.
Deepen the Pose
If your armpits, chest and groin are flexible, you can move deeper into the backbend. To do so, walk the hands a little farther forward and straighten your elbows, turning the arms outward. Life the top of the sternum upwards toward the ceiling, keeping the back of the neck long.
This pose is recommended for the alleviation of lumbago and prolapsed discs of spine because this pose increases the flexibility of the spine. This pose, alongside other poses, is therapeutic toward patients with asthma (Vedanthan et al., n.d.). It helps in increasing the blood circulation in the pelvic region and keeps the organs situated in the pelvis healthy (Dr. Jyoti Gangwal et al., 2019). The research suggests that gentle daily back strengthening work is often considered better than back surgery in the recovery from chronic lower back pain. As Professor Lorimer Moseley states, ‘movement is king’ in the recovery from chronic pain.
Further information sourced from Australian Yoga Journal
Colgrove, Y., Gravino-Dunn, N., Dinyer, S., Sis, E., Heier, A., & Sharma, N. (2019). Physical and physiological effects of yoga for an underserved population with chronic low back pain. International Journal of Yoga, 12(3), 252. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.ijoy_78_18
Dr. Jyoti Gangwal, Kholiya, Dr. S., Bhatnagar, Dr. V., & Lahange, Dr. S. M. (2019). Importance of Bhujangasana in Daily Life. International Journal of Trend in Scientific Research and Development, 4(1), 646–651. https://www.ijtsrd.com/papers/ijtsrd29662.pdf%0Ahttps://www.ijtsrd.com/medicine/ayurvedic/29662/importance-of-bhujangasana-in-daily-life/dr-jyoti-gangwal
Morse, D. (2007). Yoga for Asthma. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 17(1), 81–88. https://doi.org/10.17761/ijyt.17.1.a4228q443v020h52
Rakhshaee, Z. (2011). Effect of Three Yoga Poses (Cobra, Cat and Fish Poses) in Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 24(4), 192–196. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpag.2011.01.059
Rathore, M., Mb, S., Trivedi, S., & Siddiqui, A. U. (2013). An Anatomical Insight into the Biomechanics of Cobra Posture. Undefined.
Sinclair, M. (2011). The use of abdominal massage to treat chronic constipation. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 15(4), 436–445. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2010.07.007
Sumchai, A. P. (2015). The Human Spine is like a Precious Strand of Pearls. Journal of Womens Health Care, 04(05), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.4172/2167-0420.1000258
Vedanthan, P. K., Kesavalu, L. N., Murthy, K. C., Duvall, K., Hall, M. J., Baker, S., & Nagarathna, S. (n.d.). Clinical Study of Yoga Techniques in University Students with Asthma: A Controlled Study.