SmartMat Pose of the Week – Cobra Pose
Cobra Pose, Bhujangasana, is aptly named since its shape easily resembles that of a hooded cobra rising up. A powerful yet accessible backbend, Cobra pose is a fantastic stretch for opening the shoulders and chest; strengthening the back; toning the abdominals, improving circulation; and reducing fatigue and stress. And on an emotional level, this pose can lead to an experience of heart-opening release, the kind that provides you with an audible exhale of “Ahhhhh.” Who wouldn’t want that?
Cobra pose also holds a profound metaphor for us too. Imagine sliding out of an “old skin” and shedding that which no longer serves you. The execution of this pose has a very forward-moving energy about it. And as you may well know, in Yoga snakes are often used to represent the rising kundalini (“coiled energy”) at the base of the spine. When we tap into the strength of this pose, it’s as if we’re taking a physical embodiment of that inner energy uncoiling, and experiencing our potential rising to the surface.
And as with most situations where we are tapping into our potential, we are usually exposing our vulnerabilities too as we explore new edges. This pose is no different. In order to experience the freedom of Cobra Pose, you also need to be willing to open the heart. When learning how to do this, it helps to know common alignment traps to look out for so you don’t block your energy from flowing freely through the central channel of the body. Let’s take a closer look.
Moving from the Core
Snakes move in one fluid movement, and they slither on the ground. They must propel themselves forward by the contraction of strong internal muscles at their core, particularly because they have no limbs. Similarly, when we rise into this posture, it’s helpful to imagine sliding the upper body forward first between the arms and then lifting up.
That seems logical enough, but many practitioners by-pass the sliding forward and simply prop themselves up on their arms in order to avoid using the core muscles. In other words, instead of properly engaging the core, one dumps into the bones to hold the pose.
The problem is this can jam the lower back and put undue pressure on the wrists. Often, this misalignment looks like this in the hands:
Notice the puckering up of the inside edge of the hand. Without the core engaged, the weight falls heavy into the wrists, and particularly if you have weaker arm muscles, you’ll struggle at keeping the hands fully grounded.
Hugging the Midline
To correct this misalignment and engage the core, you need to hug the midline of the body. When hugging the midline, it feels as if all limbs are contracting towards center. Your elbows press up against the sides of the body; the inside edges of the legs zipper together; and the hands become fully grounded on the mat. The proper hand position would look like this:
Once this is done, a person’s core is properly activated, and the energy can travel up the central channel of the body, propelling them forward and up into the posture. The result – an open heart supported by a strong muscular base, and the wrists and low back are no longer compromised.
With SmartMat, it will be easier to know when you are short-circuiting your energy and dumping into the outer wrists in order to prop yourself up into the pose. With its precision feedback, SmartMat won’t let you get away with those less than ideal alignments anymore. This will allow you to experience your pose in a much more powerful way.
Don’t get me wrong. You’ll still have to put in the effort and do the muscle engagement, but at least with SmartMat you’ll know your efforts are being directed in a useful way that supports maximum energetic flow.
So, though we may not be able to fully mimic that graceful, awe-inspiring sleek movement of snakes, we can certainly begin to feel that inner energy uncoil as we rise to the occasion in Cobra pose.