Called the "infant of the backbend family," Sphinx Pose is one of the very first backbends you can learn before moving on to learn the full Cobra Pose and the other more-challenging backbends. Some people practice a passive version of this pose as part of yoga therapy for the back by using a rolled up towel for support, as described under the section labelled "Beginner's Tip."
(Pronounced as "are-dah boo-jun-GAHS-anna")
Its Sanskrit name Ardha Bhujangasana literally translates into "half of the cobra pose."
Lie face downward on your yoga mat. Put your feet together. Straighten your legs and point your toes behind you. While you're still lying down, press your palms into the floor underneath your shoulders. Tuck your tailbone in firmly toward your pelvis to protect your lower back from excessive strain before you come up. Make sure your knees are touching each other by rolling your thighs slightly in toward each other.
Take a breath as you inhale and push your torso up with your hands. Lengthen your tailbone out behind you and keep tucking it in at all times. Activate your back muscles to help hold yourself up and lift your sternum.
Adjust your elbows so that they are directly below your shoulders. The bottoms of your forearms, elbows and hands press into the mat and remain parallel to each other. Lengthen your neck to stretch your head up so that your shoulders do not crunch up around your neck.
Now pull your belly in slightly. Visualize stretching and elongating every muscle from your pubic bone all the way up through the front of your chest to your neck. Hold yourself up enough that you could draw an imaginary vertical line from the crown of your head through the middle of your neck and down through the center of your chest.
Breathe at a normal rate, holding this posture for up to 10 breaths. To come out of the pose, exhale as you slowly lower your head and torso back down to the mat.
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