by Jessica Young | Photography by Stacie Scott
Autumn is a great time to open your heart to the beauty and gratitude in your life. Cobra, the second pose in our series from Tula Yoga will strengthen your back, broaden your chest, and shine your heart out into the world.

Benefits: Cobra pose opens the heart and brings strength and flexibility to the spine. Backbends are both calming and energizing, helping to broaden across your chest and collarbones, allowing for a greater, deeper breath. Cobra stimulates your kidneys and adrenal glands, and massages your abdominal organs. Try this pose when youíre feeling blue, as heart-openers are a boon against depression. This pose looks easy, but it takes care and attention to alignment, so go slowly. Try Cobra pose after your body is warmed up, and donít be in a hurry to move into a deep expression; your body will tell you what it needs.

To Do: begin on your stomach. Place your hands on the floor, and line up your palms with your chest. Place your forehead on the floor.
Imagine a great zipper between your legs zips your legs together, so that, like a cobra you have one tail.
Lengthen your lower back by pressing your pubic bone into the floor. This important adjustment will lengthen your tailbone, keeping you from overstretching in your lower back, thereby avoiding injury. Press the tops of your feet, and all ten toes, into the floor.

From here, lengthen your spine so your neck is long and soft. Roll your shoulders down your back, and tuck your elbows in at your sides. With an inhale, press gently into your hands and use the strength of your back, with your arms assisting, to rise up any amount. Breathe deeply and fully through your nose. Keep your tailbone lengthening, and keep your legs engaged and your thighs in contact with your mat. Make sure to keep your elbows in close to your body. Keep your legs and feet strongly pressing into the earth, but relax your glutes. Cobra is intense; you may not come very far up, but you donít need to in order to benefit from the pose. Continue to breathe deeply and smoothly, and feel your breath stretching you from inside. You arenít trying to crank your spine backward; think of lengthening your spine up and back, creating space between each vertebra. After five breaths, use your abdominal strength to slowly release the pose and lower your upper body to the mat. As a counter-stretch, tuck your toes under, engage your core and press up into Downward Dog, allowing your spine to lengthen and your heels to come toward the floor.

Modifications: If a full expression of Cobra is too much for your back, try Baby Cobra. Instead of lifting all the way up, concentrate on lengthening your spine, tucking your tailbone, tracking your elbows back and down, and think about shining your heart forward and isometrically pulling your chest through your hands.
You wonít actually move, but youíll strengthen and lengthen your back in a way that will prepare you for a final expression of Cobra.


Safety Tips: Instructor Kristen Folkes says that lots of her students in class clench their butt in Cobra pose. Extra gripping can put strain on the lower back. Softening your glutes gives room for your tailbone to lengthen. Additionally, allow your neck to be a logical extension of your spine. Donít arch your head and neck back unnaturally in attempt to feel your spine curving back. Keep your gaze forward to protect your neck. Finally, donít let your shoulders creep up near your ears, and your elbows stay in at your sides. Letting the elbows splay out to the sides and the shoulder shrink up is a common mistake. Tuck your elbows back and your shoulders down, even if it means you donít come up as high in the pose.
Photography by Stacie Scott
Photography by Stacie Scott
Photography by Stacie Scott
Photography by Stacie Scott
Photography by Stacie Scott
Photography by Stacie Scott
2012-10-12