The traditional Asana in this series is Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (ORD-hvah MOOK-ha sva-NA-sa-NUH) / Upward Facing Dog Pose, but I typically prefer practicing with Bhujangasana (BOO-jawng-GA-sa-nuh) / Cobra. Today we will be performing our Sun Salutations series first with two versions of Bhujangasana, and then try with the full expression of the traditional Asana in the series. Jump to today’s variations!
Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
Feet – Your feet should still be about hip distance apart. However, if your toes are still tucked, you should release and lay the tops of your feet down on the mat.
Legs – Keep your legs straight and laying flat on the mat if coming into Bhujangasana / Cobra. We will talk about legs for Urdhva Mukha Svanasana/Upward Facing Dog a bit later.
Hips – Keep your hips grounded and even on the mat to come into Bhujangasana / Cobra. That is the main difference between Bhujangasana and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, two very similar poses.
Arms – Keep your hands spread and right under your shoulders as you lower from the Plank portion of the series to come into Bhujangasana. Keep your elbows back and tucked close to your body, and forearms on the floor. On the INHALE you may press the hands and arms lightly into the ground as you raise your chest from the mat into a gentle back bend.
Head and Neck – Keep your head and neck neutral, and either close your eyes or gaze gently ahead. If you are comfortable with back bends and want an extra stretch along your front, you may gently lift your chin a bit at the peak of the pose.
The first round, from Chaturanga Dandasana or knees-chest-chin we lower down to the mat, making sure our hips and legs are flat on the mat and our hands are under our shoulders with forearms laying flat on the mat. Now, lift your forearms from the mat, and lift your torso up off the mat as you INHALE into Bhujangasana / Cobra. This is a great way to see where is safe to work from if you are a new Yogi to avoid injury. Take a full exhale and inhale here before pressing into your hands into the mat on an exhale and moving on to Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Facing Dog and complete the Sun Salutation series on each side.
The second round, from the Phalakasana / Plank portion of the series we will lower down to the mat for Bhujangasana, with hips and legs flat on the mat. Now INHALE and lightly press your hands into the mat as you raise your torso while keeping your hip bones grounded into the mat, perhaps a little bit further than last time without your arms. Take a full exhale and inhale here before moving on an exhale to complete the Sun Salutation series on each side.
The last round, we will try a full expression of Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. Come down to the floor, but this time move your hands further down, close to your ribs rather than under your shoulders. Press up and lift your torso and your hips off the ground, until you are supported on the tops of your feet. If you are not able to come into the full expression of this pose, be gentle and just come into a deep Bhujangasana. Or, to get a deep chest stretch without a deep back bend, grasp your hands together behind your back, thumbs to bum, and INHALE up into Sarpasana / Snake.
For your own practice, I would recommend evaluating where you are with both honesty and compassion. Do not push yourself in these back bends! Work your flexibility slowly, and you will be surprised in the changes that come over time.
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Please comment to share your experience or any questions with this exercise! Have you tried this “no hands” Bhujangasana / Cobra before? Did you try Urdhva Mukha Svanasana / Upward Facing Dog or Sarpasana / Snake? Which was your favorite gentle backbend? Always remember, be kind!