How to Do Cobra Pose - Bhujangasana

Woman in low cobra yoga pose
Ben Goldstein

Type of pose: Backbend

Benefits: Increases the mobility of the spine, strengthens spinal support muscles, can help relieve back pain.

Cobra is most often done as part of a sun salutation. It's the alternative to upward facing dog in the vinyasa sequence for beginners. But it is also a powerful little backbend in its own right so it's worth taking some time to work on this pose in isolation. If you feel like you've never really understood how to lift your chest higher in this pose, here's a little exercise to help you get in touch with your back muscles.

First, make sure that your pelvis and legs are firmly rooted into the floor. They act as the anchor that allows your upper body to rise. Then come in and out of the pose three times, lifting the chest up on every inhale and lowering it back to the floor on every exhale. As you go through this undulation, see if you can lift up a little high each time you inhale. Do this exercise regularly as part of your home practice and see how your relationship to cobra changes over time.

Cobra done with the arms bent is sometimes called baby cobra. If you straighten your arms, that's full cobra. But don't be in a hurry to straighten the arms. It's really not a superior pose and is actually inferior in some ways. Yes, it's a deeper backbend, but it is also more dependent on the arms for support instead of the working to strengthen the back muscles.


1. If you're in the middle of a sun salutation, you'll be coming into cobra from knees, chest, and chin. If not, you can begin by lying down flat on your stomach.

2. Place your palms flat on the ground directly under your shoulders. Bend your elbows straight back and hug them into your sides.

3. Pause for a moment looking straight down at your mat with your neck in a neutral position. Anchor your pubic bone to the floor.

4. Inhale to lift your chest off the floor. Roll your shoulders back and keep your low ribs on the floor. Make sure your elbows continue hugging your sides. Don't let them wing out to either side.

5. Keep your neck neutral. Don’t crank it up. The gaze stays on the floor.

6. Exhale to release back to the floor (or push back to downward facing dog in you are doing a sun salutation).

Beginners' Tips

1. Strongly engaging the legs and pressing them down will help you bring your chest higher.

Advanced Tips

1. Keeping the chest high, take all the weight out of our hands until you can hover the palms above the floor.

2. Keep the palms on the floor and start to move the arms toward straight for a more intense backbend. Make sure that you keep your shoulders down away from your ears as you straighten the arms. It's ok to keep a slight bend in your arms in the full pose.

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