Cobra Pose: How to, Modification, Considerations

Dean PohlmanThe Pose Guide, Blogs, From Dean, Sports & Fitness, Featured7 Comments

Man Flow Yoga Pose Guide - Cobra - Photo credit 2018 Dennis Burnett Photography

Cobra is one of the best spine and core strengthening poses and is essential in any yoga practice. It’s a backbend that helps address the underlying causes of back pain and poor posture. It’s great for deepening your backbend, and it also builds endurance in your hips and thigh, core, and back muscles. Check out this step by step video guide on how to do cobra pose.

This is one pose that everyone (unless you have a back injury or are still recovering from a back injury) should do on a regular basis to maintain a strong, healthy spine. It’s especially important for those that spend time on their phones, at a desk, or otherwise sitting, because it helps to counter the negative effects sitting has on our bodies.

Considerations: Who Should Be Careful?

Man Flow Yoga Pose Guide - Cobra - Should You Do This Pose- Photo credit 2018 Dennis Burnett Photography

 

People currently experiencing back pain from injury or surgery

  • Although this helps the underlying causes of back pain, it might be uncomfortable or painful if you are currently experiencing back pain.
  • However, if you are inactive or avoiding exercise and experiencing dull or achy back pain, you SHOULD be doing cobra. That pain is a good sign of muscle weakness, which can cause discomfort or pain.
  • Focus on the proper muscle engagement and avoid arching too high off the ground at first. Make sure it’s comfortable before increasing the depth of the pose.

People with a sore lower-back from exercise

There’s no reason for you not to do cobra, but you should avoid pushing yourself in cobra if your lower-back muscles are already sore from other exercise. It’s good to engage these muscles because that helps with the recovery process, but you don’t want to do too much to prevent the already-broken down muscle cells from regenerating.

Step By Step Technique Walkthrough

Man Flow Yoga Pose Guide - Cobra - Technique - Photo credit 2018 Dennis Burnett Photography

 

  1. Lie on your stomach, and place your hands under your shoulders with your elbows pointing straight back, close to your sides. Spread your fingers wide and relax palms under your shoulders.
  2. Engage and rotate thighs inward so kneecaps point straight down and all toes are touching the floor. Squeeze your big toes, ankles, knees, and inner thighs toward each other.
  3. Press your pelvis (pubic bone) and tops of feet into the floor. Inhale as you use your core (not arms) to lengthen spine forward and slightly lift your chest away from the floor. Press the crown of your head away from your shoulders to look forward.
  4. Pull shoulder blades down and toward each other, squeeze elbows to sides, and use your hands to pull (not push) your body forward and up.
  5. Hold the posture, inhaling as you lift slightly higher, and exhaling as you increase engagement and maintain height.

Note: Avoid straightening your arms and using that to push yourself upwards, rather use active muscles to PULL your body forward and up.

How to Make Cobra Easier (Modifications)

Man Flow Yoga Pose Guide - Cobra - Modifications - Photo credit 2018 Dennis Burnett Photography

 

Can’t get your chest off the ground? Try “Baby” Cobra.

If you have trouble lifting your torso away from the ground, don’t worry about lifting off. Instead, focus on involving the necessary muscle groups. Make sure you feel your core, hips, and back muscles engaging first, instead of just trying to lift as high away from the ground as you can.

Belly in the way? Try bridge instead.

If you have a belly, this may be uncomfortable for you. If you have significant issues resting flat on the ground in a prone position on your chest, then I would recommend doing a bridge pose instead.

Alternate Poses

Bridge PoseBridge (Easier)

Full Locust PoseFull Locust (More Difficult)

Upward Facing Dog PoseUpdog (Most Difficult)

What You Should & Shouldn’t Be Feeling in Cobra Pose

Man Flow Yoga Pose Guide - Cobra - What you should (and shouldn't) be feeling - Photo credit 2018 Dennis Burnett Photography

 

What should you be feeling?

  • Engagement in the core
  • Engagement in mid- and upper-back, between shoulder blades
  • Engagement in thighs and hips
  • Tops of feet pressing into the ground
  • Glutes should be relaxed

What you shouldn’t feel.

  • Spine (including neck) pain
  • Knees relaxed on the ground (Make sure thighs are engaged so knees are lifted)
  • Shouldn’t feel your chest or arms working to press you up. This is a lift.

Cobra Pose: Common Errors & How to Avoid

Man Flow Yoga Pose Guide - Cobra - Common Errors - Photo credit 2018 Dennis Burnett Photography

 

  • Not using your core.
    Use your core. Lengthen your tailbone and press your toes firmly into the ground.
  • Not squeezing your legs together.
    Squeeze your legs together; toes, ankles, knees, thighs, and hips.
  • Not lifting your knees off the ground.
    Make sure your thighs are tensed and your knees up!
  • Improper foot placement.
    Press the tops of your toes into the ground and squeeze your big toes together.
  • Using your upper body to push up instead of lifting with your core.
    Not maintaining length in your spine.

Frequently Asked Questions.

Man Flow Yoga Pose Guide - Cobra - Frequently Asked Questions - Photo credit 2018 Dennis Burnett Photography

 

What if I feel pinching in my lower back when I do cobra?

Pinching in your lower-back is a good sign that you’re either lifting too high too quickly or not using your core enough. Make sure you’re pressing the tops of your feet into the ground and using your abs.

What if I get cramps in my feet or hamstrings when I do cobra?

This is normal if you’re not used to doing yoga, or if you’re dehydrated. Your body should adjust after a few weeks, but you can also take a Magnesium supplement to help. Click here for the one I use.

I feel like my neck is cramped or pinching during cobra. Is this normal?

You should feel the muscles in the back of your head (your upper traps) engaging, but you shouldn’t feel pinching or pain. Make sure your neck is nice and long by pressing the top of your head away from your shoulders and then slowly increasing the arch in your neck.

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Workouts Using This Pose

Want to see more info like this? These photos and sections are taken from Yoga Fitness for Men, published in May 2018 by DK Publishers, and written by Dean Pohlman (that’s me), the founder of Man Flow Yoga.

About the author, Dean Pohlman, Founder & CEO of Man Flow Yoga, Author of Yoga Fitness for Men, Expert on Yoga Fitness for Men.

Dean Pohlman is an E-RYT 200 certified yoga instructor and the founder of Man Flow Yoga. Dean is widely considered to be an authority on Yoga for Men. He has worked with physical therapists to create yoga programs for back health and spinal recovery. His workouts and programs have been used by professional and collegiate athletes, athletic trainers, and personal trainers; and have been recommended by physical therapists, doctors, chiropractors, and other medical professionals.

Dean is a successfully published author through DK Publishing (Yoga Fitness for Men), selling 35,000 copies worldwide in English, French, and German; in addition to being a co-producer of the Body by Yoga DVD Series, which has sold over 40,000 copies on Amazon since its release in 2016.

Man Flow Yoga has been featured in Muscle & Fitness Magazine, Mens’ Health, The Chicago Sun, New York Magazine, and many more major news media outlets.

Dean And Dog

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Man Flow Yoga Pose Guide - Cobra - Photo credit 2018 Dennis Burnett Photography

7 Comments on “Cobra Pose: How to, Modification, Considerations”

    1. Glad it helps, Brendan! If you’re doing yoga at home, you also might want to check out my book – Yoga Fitness for Men. Here’s the link: manflowyoga.com/yffm

  1. Very through and we’ll broken down guide. I learned of a few mistakes that I need to work on already (not pushing tops of feet into the ground).

    1. Thanks! Glad it was helpful, Firas. Hope it helps with the workouts you’re doing in the Members’ Area.

  2. Brilliant explanation of cobra, everythjng covered, learned so much thk u Deane please come to Ireland and do a workshop with Yoga teachers here ?

  3. Thanks Dean! Now I finally understand why the only muscle activation I ever got doing Cobra was in my triceps. I did the bridge pose today, and I got activation in my back muscles.

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