How to do Crocodile Pose (Makarasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Women performing Crocodile Pose (Makarasana)

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Also Known As: Makarasana

Targets: Chest, back, and chest

Level: Beginner

Crocodile Pose (Makarasana) is a beginner yoga pose that relaxes the whole body and helps relieve pain related to other yoga poses or other activities. By lying on your stomach with your chest and shoulders rest, you let go of tension in the lower back and open up your chest and shoulders. This pose is a great way to relieve stress.

This yoga pose can be performed as a concluding pose to end your session or sequence.

After your body is stretched and warmed from other poses, perform Crocodile Pose to return to a state of relaxation. It can also be incorporated in yoga sequences that target shoulder and back pain.

All you need to get started is a yoga mat or soft surface to lie on. Even more advanced versions of Crocodile Pose do not require any yoga straps or yoga blocks. A yoga towel is optional.

Benefits

Crocodile Pose has many benefits related to various parts of the back. The deeper the stretch, the lower the pose is felt in the back. Since we rely on our lower back for many daily activities, even sitting upright in a desk, it can feel relaxing to target this part of the body. People with back pain, especially lower back pain, may experience some relief.

This pose is also believed to be beneficial for people with health issues related to the spine. Since many people hunch over due to poor posture or spinal issues, Crocodile Pose challenges the body by relaxing the spine and reducing tension accumulated in that area. 

Keeping your back in a straight line also aligns the upper body with your hips. This can open up the hips and may help alleviate pain or discomfort in the hips.

Once your chest is lifted off the ground, Crocodile Pose also opens the chest and shoulders. You may also feel the stretch in your arms and neck. This pose can be especially beneficial for people who don’t use or stretch their upper body a lot.

Step-by-Step Instructions

To perform Crocodile Pose, you need a soft surface to lie on. A carpeted floor, yoga mat, or other comfortable surface is fine. You also won’t need any equipment, but you can use a yoga towel at any time during your sequence.

1. Begin by sitting on your knees, taking the form of Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana). Extend your arms in front of you so your hands touch the yoga mat. Safely extend your legs behind you so the balls of your feet touch the yoga mat.

2. Lower your body to the ground. First, lower your legs to the ground so the tops of your feet are on the ground. 

3. Then, lower your hips, stomach, chest, and shoulders to the mat. You should be facing down with your elbows tucked in at your sides, palms facing down.

4. Bring your hands to the front of the mat. Slowly cross your arms in front of you, creating support to rest your forehead. 

5. Optional: Bring your arms to your side and press your forehead into the ground. Place the toes on the mat to stretch the legs and straighten the spine.

6. To challenge yourself and stretch your lower back, lift your upper body similar to Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). This will open the chest and release tension in the shoulders and back. It will also improve flexibility in your lower back.

7. Release the pose by returning to the starting position. If lifted, lower the chest slowly. Rotate your arms safely to avoid causing discomfort in the shoulders.

Common Mistakes

Though Crocodile Pose is a beginner pose with low risk of injury, it’s important to prioritize safety by maintaining proper form. 

Don’t strain your neck

If you enter the lifted version of the position, it’s tempting to look upward. However, your gaze should be forward. If you enter the lowered version of the position, your gaze should be down. Avoid looking upward as this may strain your neck. Sending your head back can also strain your neck as well as put pressure on your lower back.

Don’t enter a plank position

The plank exercise has many benefits, but this is not the same as the Crocodile Pose. The plank position has both the lower body and upper body raised and pushing away from the ground. In Crocodile Pose, your lower body should press into the mat. Entering the plank position also puts beginners at risk of losing their balance and falling to the ground. A plank also puts pressure on the wrists and forearms, which is not the goal of Crocodile Pose.

Rotate your arms and shoulders carefully

As you lower your body to the ground and find a comfortable position for your arms and hands, you may need to rotate your shoulder blades carefully. Do so slowly to avoid causing an injury in your shoulders. Whether you choose to lower your head to the ground with your arms beside you or lift up on your arms, control the motions of your arms so that the movements are seamless.

Lifting quickly may strain your back

Crocodile Pose is meant to alleviate stress in your back. However, entering the pose too quickly can do the opposite and cause more tension in that area. If you choose to lift your upper body, do so slowly and with total control. This will increase the flexibility in your lower back without putting you at risk of a back-related injury.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

Though Crocodile Pose is a beginner pose, it requires a lot of control and some flexibility in your back. Beginners looking for a pose to end their sequence may prefer to start with the Corpse Pose (Savasana), which is also a relaxation pose.

If you can’t lift up onto the palms of your hands, stay lying in a horizontal position. Work your way up to lifting your shoulders by putting your hands at your shoulders and raising a couple of inches at a time. As you build your flexibility, you can lift up higher so that you feel a deep stretch in your lower back. 

Up for a Challenge?

Crocodile Pose can be made more challenging for those who are more advanced or want a deeper stretch in the lower back. Once you’ve mastered lifting the upper body, which flexes the lower back, try lifting your feet simultaneously. Your stomach, hips, and upper thighs will touch the mat, though your feet, chest, and head will be lifted. This requires balance and flexibility in the back. You will also use your core to support you.

When you’re ready to move on to the next challenging pose for relaxation and back stretching, you may be ready for Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana). This is another beginner pose similar to Crocodile Pose, though it jumps straight into lifting the upper body to stretch the back without resting face-down.

Another challenging pose to try after this one is Bow Pose (Dhanaruasana). Start by lying face-down on a yoga mat. Bend your knees so your feet come closer to the center. Reach your arms back and grasp your ankles. Slowly lift so your chest and legs are off the yoga mat. You will feel this pose in your lower back, but it will also open your chest and shoulders like Crocodile Pose. 

Safety and Precautions

Crocodile Pose is considered a safe yoga pose for all beginners. It should provide relief, but if you experience pain while performing this pose, release the pose safe safely, slowly, and with control.

Pregnant women should not perform this pose as it requires you to lie on your stomach. Advanced versions of Crocodile Pose also require balancing on your core.

If you have pre-existing pain or conditions related to the spine, back, neck, or shoulders, check with your doctor to see if it’s safe for you to perform this pose. Similarly, if you have had surgery recently, consult with a health professional before returning to your yoga practice.

Try It Out

Incorporate this yoga pose and similar ones into one of these popular yoga sequences geared towards back stretches:

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