When you can’t do push-ups, the Cobra is a good yoga pose to build strength in the arm muscles. In addition to the arm muscles, the back muscles, large buttock muscles and hamstrings are also trained in this pose. In this blog I’ll share more about the effects of the Cobra.
What is the Cobra?
This is a basic posture: bending backwards from a prone position. In yoga jargon this posture is called “Bhujangasana”. Bhujanga means snake. Bhuja stands for arm or shoulder and ang stands for limb. In the Cobra the focus is on the spine, arms and legs. Many think that the legs are passive in this position but especially the hamstrings can be active just like the big gluteal muscle.
What is the effect of the Cobra?
By raising the upper body, the entire group of the dorsal back muscles and the abdominal muscles are active. This movement ensures that these muscles get stronger, which reduces, among other things, low back pain. The triceps, biceps and large and small pectoral muscles in the arms are especially trained. By regularly doing the Cobra, strength in the arms increases. Because the upper body goes up, the hamstrings automatically stretch. When they feel stiff or aren’t trained, the Cobra can be a challenge for the leg muscles. The big buttock muscle will automatically activate when this pose is a challenge for the hamstrings to help the body to stay in position.
That’s how you do the Cobra
Lie on your stomach and place your forehead on the mat. The hands come under the shoulders and the arms against the body. At an inhalation the hands push the body upwards, the arms stay slightly bent and against the body. The chest is pushed forward and chin up. Because the upper body goes up, the glutes and hamstrings tighten. Use this tension by pushing the hips towards the ground and thereby increasing the intensity of the asana. Although it is customary to raise the body on the inhalation, it can sometimes feel better to do this on the exhale. This depends on the breathing at that moment whether it is high (at the chest) or low (at the abdomen). Do what feels most comfortable for you to get the most out of this pose.
Does it hurt your (lower) back, shoulder or arms? These alternatives help you to do the Cobra with more ease.
How higher the upper body is pushed up, the more pressure comes on the (lower) back and on the back muscles. The goal is not to bring the upper body as high as possible but at a height that feels good to you. Strength increases automatically and so does the ease of doing this pose.
With stiff shoulder and / or neck muscles, it may be nice not to put the hands under the shoulders but further apart or slightly forward. It can certainly help to pull the shoulder blades together to remove tension at the shoulders and neck.
Arms (and wrists)
In this position, the arms remain close to the body. When that doesn’t feel good, it is fine to have the elbows pointing outwards, which reduces the pressure on the arm muscles. If the wrists are sensitive, it can help to make fists with the hands and rest on them.
When you practice this pose for the first time, the muscles can (slightly) tremble. That is a sign of effort. Concentrate on your breathing to hold on to this pose and build up strength in the arms.