In this era where practically most activities can be done from home, our muscles are rarely stretched, and our bodies become less and less flexible by time.
What we end up with is a slouched back, along with back pain at the end of the day.
This is where the cobra stretch, a form of yoga, usually comes in.
It provides a practical abdominal stretch that provides lengthening to neck muscles, shoulders, chests, and abdominal muscles throughout the day.
However, despite that the cobra stretch brings more flexibility to your spine, it can very easily cause you back pain itself if not implemented and practiced correctly.
In this article, we’ll cover the traps many fall into when trying the pose by explaining the basics of the stretch.
What Is The Cobra Pose Stretch?
For starters, let’s settle together on what the cobra pose actually is and what it’s supposed to do. The pose is an introductory yoga backbend that equips the body for deeper backbends.
If you’re wondering about the origin of the name, the cobra pose is originally called Bhujangasana. The name comes from the Sanskrit words “bhujanga” and “asana,” meaning serpent and pose.
What Muscles Does The Cobra Pose Stretch?
Now, let’s move on to what muscles precisely the cobra pose stretches.
Being a form of yoga, it stretches and strengthens your abdominal muscles and is exceptionally beneficial for toning uterine muscles as well.
Moreover, it also contracts the dorsal muscles in the lower part of your spine, toning, and flushing out your kidneys and aligning your spinal column.
In doing so, your wrists, arms, shoulders, and back muscles are all significantly strengthened. Not to mention, this also expands your chest, strengthens your lungs, and enables deeper breathing.
Tip For Girls:
This stretch is ideal for alleviating menstrual disorders. Even on a lower scale, the back muscles’ pain or uterine pain that accompanies menstruation and menopause are long gone with this position’s help! It can relieve pain like magic.
Does Cobra Pose Reduce Belly Fat?
This is a common question, and we’re here to give you the good news! Yes, if done right and regularly, the cobra pose can reduce belly fat and cure digestive ailments like constipation.
This is because it puts both your belly and spine muscles into practice, serving as a tummy toning pose.
Then, Why Does Cobra Pose Hurt My Lower Back?
You’re probably wondering: if the cobra pose is that great for the back and spine, then why is it hurting my lower back?
First things first, you should be avoiding the cobra pose altogether if you:
- Had a recent back or spine injury or;
- Suffer from a chronic pain/inflammation or abdominal surgery or;
- Suffer from inflammation during pregnancy after the third month.
However, if you don’t, then we have a simple “how-to” to offer you for the cobra pose to ensure that the cobra pose doesn’t damage your back:
- Make sure that you’re lying face-down on the floor with your legs extended behind you and your feet being spread a couple of inches apart.
- The top of your feet should be resting on the yoga mat, and your toes shouldn’t be tucked. If they are, you’ll easily crunch your spine. Press them all into the ground to engage your leg muscles.
- Place your hands under your shoulder and have your fingers point down towards the top of the mat. Then, hug your elbows into the sides of your body.
- Press down through the top of your feet and public bones. Again, make sure to spread your toes.
- Inhale slowly and start gently lifting your head and chest off the floor, but keep your lower ribs unaltered.
- Draw your shoulders back and direct your heart forward. Do this slowly to avoid crunching your neck. Keep your shoulders sloped down away from your ears, and if you’re a beginner or suffer from neck pain, keep your gaze towards the floor. Otherwise, keep your gaze to the sky instead.
- Gradually, straighten your arms and lift your chest off the floor while pressing your thighs fronts down firmly into the floor. FYI: this is known as the “low cobra.” Here, be sure not to push away from the floor too drastically. This will cause a backbend, so instead, allow the lift to come as naturally as could be.
- There should be no weight on your hands- you should be able to lift your palms easily for a few seconds.
- Keep your arms straight to the extent that your body will allow. Yet, avoid straining to achieve a deeper backbend. If you’re very flexible, you can straighten them throughout while still maintaining the connection between the front of your pelvis and legs with the floor. FYI: this is known as the “high cobra.”
- Press your shoulder blades into the upper back, while keeping your elbows hugged into the sides. Broaden across your collar bones, while lifting your heart.
- Glide your shoulder tops away from your ears, and distribute the length of your backbend evenly through your spine.
By following these steps, we guarantee that you won’t be feeling any back pain while doing your cobra stretch.
You can also practice with Desiree Rumbaugh and Andrew Rivin in this short video to simplify things further. Now, this brings us to another crucial question:
How Long Should You Hold The Cobra Pose?
Ideally, try to hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Then, to release, exhale, and slowly lower your chest and forehead to your yoga mat.
Turn your head to the right, resting your left ear on the yoga mat, and relax your arms alongside your body. You could repeat the pose up to five times for the best results.
In a Nutshell
After you’ve read our steps for implementing the right cobra position, you may still feel that you’re ticking all the boxes, yet ending up with back pain.
Thus, we’re about to briefly wrap it up once more and provide you with the final tips to avoid back pain during the cobra pose.
Bend Your Elbows
Always remember to bend or ‘hug’ your elbows. If you tend to straighten your arms, you will end up with less motion range in your shoulder.
While, on the other hand, if you bend them even slightly, you will have more motion range. So, keep them somewhat bent to allow you to move your shoulders backward!
Bring Your Forearms Vertical
We do advise placing your hands under your shoulders, especially for beginners.
Then, a sudden trunk lift from this position and pushing of the ground away will lead the force from your arms to go backward, resulting in compression in your lower spine.
Therefore, if you know you tend to make this mistake, you may bring your palms further back so that your forearms become vertical.
If you come up from this pose, all the force is directed towards the floor. Accordingly, it helps you lift your chest higher without compressing your low back muscles.
Lift Your Chest Up
Don’t push your scapulae downward towards your low back; this also creates compression.
Instead, make sure to bring the tips of your shoulder blades closer to each other and lift your chest forward then up.
Bring Your Legs Closer Together
You may think that the wider the distance between your legs, the better.
Quite the opposite, actually. When the gap becomes too wide, your thighs become outwardly rotated, again creating compression in your sacrum.
You should aim to bring your legs closer together and inwardly rotate your thighs.
In other words, your feet midlines should be hip-width apart to help eliminate any compression. Don’t lengthen the distance too far!
Create More Space in Your Lower Back
Feeling pain in your back during the cobra pose means that it’s your lower back that’s hurting.
To avoid that, you can either push your lower body down and back, move your upper body up and forward, or mix both to decompress your back.
Keep Your Neck Long
The cobra pose triggers a certain ‘snake’ imagery in our minds. That thereby usually comes with hyperextending your neck to the extent of having wrinkles outside your neck.
That’s not so good, since those wrinkles are also inside your body, compressing your airway.
Make sure only to keep a gentle curve in your neck and lengthen it to allow you to breathe more freely, and accordingly, not influence your back or cause compression.
Push Your Thighs Away
Don’t forget to lift your knees up and push your thigh bones backward to create more space for the hip flexor.
As you’ve seen, the cobra stretch is far from bringing harm for the back. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of that; it just boils down to how you’re doing it.
If you do it right, you’ll reap the benefits of soothing back pain and relieving and mobilizing your spine. Besides, you’ll strengthen your spine, legs, buttocks, forearms, and shoulders along the way.
If you’re new to yoga in general, it’s recommended that you acquaint yourself with the cobra stretch by starting off with the low cobra variation that we’ve mentioned.
It generally requires less flexibility in the spine, and accordingly, fewer chances of back pain.
And when you feel that you’ve become more advanced, you can gradually transition to the high cobra option.
Yet, in either case, remember to take it slowly and don’t pressure your body into more than what it can handle. The deeper backbends will come but at their own pace and by practice.
Therefore, whenever you feel the slightest bit of discomfort in your back or neck, go ahead and only lift your chest as high as possible without feeling pain.
Andreea is a fitness enthusiast with a keen interest in nutrition. She has gone from 98Kg to 70Kg through relentless hard work and getting her nutrition right with the help of a personal trainer.
She writes articles to empower anyone to take control and not let go of their mental and physical health.