Cobra is a safe, basic pose that nonetheless can provide a deep and satisfying backbend. It can be substituted as a more stable and grounded alternative to Upward Dog.
Lay down on the floor facing down with the tops of the feet resting on the mat and the legs together. Place you hands under the shoulders with the fingers spread evenly and the entire hand pressing into the mat. The elbows should stay squeezed in to the body and the shoulder blades should be drawn down the back. As you extend the spine here, you want to engage the deeper muscles of the back while preventing the lats and other more surface muscles from hardening and inhibiting the movement and opening of the spine and ribs. Lightly firm the legs as you press the hips, thighs, and feet into the floor.
On an inhale, press into the hands as you begin to straighten the arms and lift the torso up off the floor. Keep the elbows in and shoulders back and only go as far as you can without lifting the pelvis off the mat. Narrow the hip bones here by rolling the upper thighs lightly inward. The glutes will be engaged but try not to clench them. Keeping the shoulders back, move the sternum forward and up, and try to find the bend equally in lower, middle, and upper back. You can assist this action by pulling the hands lightly back toward the waist. You want to feel a lengthening of the spine and not compression of the low back. As you move the sternum forward, keep the lower ribs from sticking out too far in front. Without tightening the upper back and neck, let the head extend back (the pose is said to resemble a cobra about to strike – hence the name).
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you or see you at one of my classes!