Yoga Challenge – Sun Salutations Poses: Bhujangasana (Cobra)

Happy Day 21 of our 30 Day Yoga Challenge – Bhujangasana

Good morning Yogis! This post first appeared on International Yoga Day! Let’s all make sure we get on our mats and practice today! That is my plan, as we continue our detailed breakdown of each of the poses in the Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations Series.

Sun Salutations Poses: Bhujangasana (Cobra)

Today we are covering Bhujangasana or Cobra, and two variations: Sarpasana, and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.

Today’s Positive Practice suggestion

Today’s Daily Yogi Practice is to again perform the traditional Asana series – Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations Series. Today, we will do the full series three times on each side. We will progress from the arm strength portion of the series down to the mat, and breathe back up again. Since back bends can cause injury, our focus will be Santosha (Contentment) again, and honoring and being gentle with our bodies.

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

Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose

How to do Bhujangasana (Cobra) with proper alignment from bottom to top

  1. Place and align feet and legs

    Feet – Your feet and legs should still be about hip distance apart from Chaturanga or Ashtanga Namaskara. However, if your toes are still tucked or legs are bent, you should release and lay your legs and the tops of your feet down on the mat.

  2. Notice and set hips

    Hips – Keep your hips grounded and even on the mat to come into Bhujangasana (Cobra). Having grounded hips is the main difference between Bhujangasana and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, two very similar poses.

  3. Set arms and check shoulders

    Arms and Shoulders – 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. Keep your shoulders down away from your ears. Then on the INHALE you may press the hands and arms lightly into the ground as you raise your chest from the mat gently as far as is comfortable.

  4. Check your head and neck

    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.

Sun Salutations Flow Cobra Variations

Honest Cobra (lifted forearms)

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 away 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.

Bhujangasana – Cobra
Lifted Forearm Variation

Full Cobra (straight arms)

The second round, from the Phalakasana / Chaturanga 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. If you have a flexible back and feel comfortable, extend your arms fully until your elbows are straightened. Take a full exhale and inhale here before lowering on an exhale. Then, move on and complete the Sun Salutation series on each side.

Urdhva Muhka Svanasana – Upward Facing Dog

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog P0se)

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.

Sarpasana (Snake Pose)

If you have flexibility in your arms, shoulders, and back, try Snake Pose for an extra challenge Cobra variation! 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 Pose).

Sarpasana – Snake Pose

Find your Flow

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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More for Yoga Teachers

YOGA TEACHERS – see more on Tummee – Bhujangasana
YOGA TEACHERS – see more on Tummee – Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Share your Practice

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!

5 thoughts on “Yoga Challenge – Sun Salutations Poses: Bhujangasana (Cobra)

  1. I attempted all three expressions of this pose. I didn’t think I would be able to do the full expression because my back flexibility is not the greatest, but I surprised myself and actually ended up liking this one the best! The version with hands behind the back ended up being the most challenging for me.

  2. I attempted all three versions of the pose, I’m not sure if I did them 100% correctly but I enjoyed the final variation the best. In the full expression are you lifting your thighs off the mat and supported just by the tops of your feet or do the legs stay pressed to the mat? Thanks!

    1. Good question.. it depends on the person practicing! I usually have my legs partly on the mat, advanced yogis usually only touch the mat with palms and tops of their feet in upward dog.

    2. I tried all 3 variations of the poses as well. I have taken a few yoga classes and I have done handless cobra in my practice. I can already see improvement in my back mobility from the beginning of my yoga journey.

  3. I’ve never tried handless cobra, it was pretty hard. I’m a big Upward Facing Dog fan though it feels great on my back.

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