Cobra Pose: Easy Asana For Flexibility And Chest Expanding

Unlock the power of yoga with a cobra pose! Find out why this asana is ideal for beginners looking to gain flexibility, spine strength, & much more.


Cobra pose is best known for its ability to increase the strength and flexibility of the spine, while opening the chest. Let’s dive in and explore how to do it correctly.

yoga practice: cobra pose

Cobra Pose, or Bhujangasana (boo-Jahn-GAHS-uh-nuh), is an energizing, prone (lying on belly) backbend, and an essential element of sun salutations. It gets its name from the Sanskrit words, Bhujang, meaning ‘serpent,’ and Asana, meaning ‘pose.’

Cobra pose is best known for its ability to help with back pain, while strengthening the spine and back muscles, and opening the chest. According to traditional yogic texts, this pose heals the body of disease, and awakens Kundalini, the divine cosmic energy that fosters self-realization.

Level of difficulty: Beginner

How to practice cobra pose

cobra pose

  • Lie on your abdomen with the tops of your feet and forehead resting on the yoga mat. Keep your legs close together with your feet and heels lightly touching. If that is difficult, you may keep your legs and feet hip-width apart.

  • Place your palms down underneath or by the sides of your shoulders, with your fingers pointing forward. Keep your elbows hugged in toward your body.

  • Breathing in, gently lift your upper body including head, chest, and upper abdomen, while keeping your navel, lower abdomen, pelvis, and pubic bone pressed down into the floor. Move into this pose slowly to avoid straining your back.

  • Draw your shoulders back and down away from your ears, opening your chest forward. Your gaze can be forward or to the sky, depending on your neck’s flexibility. Keep your shoulders relaxed.

  • Straightening your arms, slowly lift your head, neck, and chest higher off the floor, while pressing down into the mat with your pubic bone and thighs. Relax your gluteal muscles. Don't overextend your neck backward. It should be in a natural extension of the upper spine without any pain. Keep the back of your neck long, and focus on lifting your sternum instead of lifting your chin.

  • Avoid putting too much weight on your palms, and slightly bend each elbow, keeping both elbows close to your body. To check your weight distribution in low cobra pose, lift your hands off the floor to allow your upper body to hover, while engaging your upper and lower back muscles and abdomen.

  • Only straighten your arms and deepen the backbend to a point where you feel steady, comfortable, and natural.  This will help avoid pain in the lower back. Hold the posture, and breathe evenly for up to 30 seconds.

  • Breathing out to release, slowly lower your abdomen, chest, and head back down to the floor.

Benefits of cobra pose

  • Opens the shoulder blades and neck, while expanding the chest and broadening the collar bones

  • Stimulates and tones the abdominal muscles and abdominal organs

  • Massages the digestive organs including the kidneys, liver, pancreas, intestines, colon, and stomach, as well as adrenal glands and reproductive organs

  • Regulates the secretion of the thyroid and adrenal glands

  • Improves digestion and alleviates constipation, acidity, and indigestion

  • Strengthens the back and shoulders, improving posture

  • Improves spinal alignment

  • Improves flexibility of the upper, middle, and lower back muscles

  • Improves flexibility the spine

  • Improves blood circulation, back pain, spondylitis, and slipped disc conditions

  • Reduces fatigue and stress

  • Helps alleviate back pain

  • Opens the lungs, which has a therapeutic effect on those suffering from asthma and other respiratory disorders

  • Improves sleep quality in menopausal women

  • Can improve mild to moderate symptoms of depression 

Precautions and contraindications

Avoid practicing cobra pose if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, hernias, abdominal pain or injury to abdominal muscles, severe neck pain, or have a recent back, wrist, or rib injury. Pregnant women should also avoid practicing cobra pose. If you have mild neck pain, keep your neck neutral while practicing. If you have any medical concerns, seek professional medical advice.

Modifications and variations of cobra pose

Modify with a wall:

If you have less flexibility in the spine and shoulders, or if you’re pregnant, practice this modified version of cobra pose standing up with palms against a wall and elbows hugging your sides. As you press yourself against the wall, gently draw your shoulder blades up and back to broaden your collar bones and open your chest.

Sphinx pose or baby cobra pose:

Sphinx pose is gentler on your back, so if you’re a beginner, this pose is a good starting point.  

sphinx pose

For more of a challenge

Twisted cobra:

As you breathe in, come into cobra pose, and as you breathe out, turn your head to the right and make a gentle effort to look at your left heel. Breathing in, come back to the center, then repeat on the other side.

Unsupported cobra pose:

If you have good strength in the spine and shoulders, gently lift your palms off the floor while continuing to lift your chest in cobra pose. This variation will keep the back muscles engaged.

Cobra flow: 

You can flow through cobra pose by practicing a sequence of plank position, cobra pose, then upward-facing dog.  Repeat this sequence four to five times.

Preparatory and follow-up postures

Learn more

Browse our entire yoga pose library, and learn more about each yoga pose in detail.

While a regular yoga practice can result in improved health, it is not a substitute for medical treatment. If you have a serious medical condition, consult your doctor before beginning the practice of yoga. Yoga is best learned and practiced with a trained and certified yoga instructor. Check out the Art of Living Yoga Studio to get started.

Take your yoga practice to the next level

When you follow-up your asana practice with powerful breathwork and meditation, you’ll bring a new depth to your practice. Join a free online session with a live instructor, and experience the joy of guided breathwork and meditation. You’ll learn about SKY Breath Meditation, which has helped millions of people worldwide to reap the deeper benefits of yoga.  Are you ready to take your practice to the next level?   

breathing and meditation

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