Realign and tone your spine while opening up your heart in Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana).
(Pronounced as "boo-jang-GAHS-anna")
The Sanskrit word bhujanga means "serpent" or "snake." In this pose, you roll your torso up like a snake preparing to strike its prey.
Lie face down on your yoga mat. Put your legs and feet together, keeping the fronts of your feet resting on the ground. Point your toes. Press the palms of your hands down on the mat by the sides of your pelvis. Keep your elbows in line with your wrists.
Tighten your knees to straighten your legs firmly. Tuck your tailbone in and press the tops of your thighs into the floor.
Inhale while pressing your palms down to lift your torso up from the floor. Your pelvis stays in contact with the mat while you keep the weight of your body on your hands and legs. Use your legs and abdominal muscles to pull yourself up so that your torso and head are perpendicular to the ground. Do not lift your pelvis off the ground to achieve this stretch; simply stretch up as far as you can.
Inhale as you raise your sternum up and expand your chest. Do not try to push your ribs forward. Instead, try to lengthen the front of your torso straight up. Use each inhalation to let your chest raise up as you tuck your shoulder blades into your back, keeping your shoulders down. Use each exhalation to let your tailbone and pelvis sink down more to the floor. Do not straighten your arms unless you do the advanced variation described later under "Deepen The Pose."
Remain in the pose from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing normally. Roll back down to the floor on a long exhalation.
If you struggle trying to raise yourself from the floor, then try a chair variation. Brace a chair against the wall and place the palms of your hands onto the front of the chair's seat, facing the wall. Then extend your legs straight out behind you into the Cobra Pose, keeping your weight on the balls of your feet.
If you are comfortable enough to move into a deeper backbend, then try this variation after you reach your full extension in Cobra Pose:
Walk your hands as far in front of you on the floor as you can without moving your shoulders away from their position above your hips. Straighten your arms. Inhale, press your hands into the floor and arch your head back to look up at the ceiling.
Ask a partner to help your muscles feel the correct arching action of your entire back in Cobra Pose. When you lie down on the floor, have them stand behind you and face the same direction you are. They should stand with one foot on either side of your legs.
Ask them to grab your wrists. Then arch your back while they pull you up into Cobra Pose by your straightened arms. The extra force of their lift will help you create more space in your chest and let your pelvis descend fully to form a perfectly round arch.
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