Posture Clinic: Cobra Pose

Cobra is a challenging pose for even the bendiest of yogis, OMB breaks-down cobra benefits and gives you tips on how to improve your pose.

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Named after the King Cobra, the pose is meant to resemble the snake as it raises to strike.

What makes cobra pose so challenging and beneficial is that you must both overcome the resistance of the connective tissue and muscles in the front side of the body while backbending against gravity.

Cynthia Wheir demonstrates Cobra Pose

Cynthia Wehr demonstrates Cobra Pose


Contraction of Latissimus Dorsi and Erector Spinea

Compression of spinous process, kidneys and renal system

Stimulates and massages abdominal and reproductive organs


  • Relieves back pain
  • Increases spinal strength and flexibility
  • Improves the function of the large and small intestines, liver, kidney and spleen
  • Opens and stretches the heart and lungs
  • Improves pigeon chest by opening the rib cage
  • Permits maximum expansion of the lungs increasing oxygen intake, therapeutic for asthma
  • Improves digestion and elimination
  • Improves function of reproductive organs
  • Helps relieve lumbago, rheumatism and arthritis of the spine
  • Reduces symptoms of gout, herniated disc, sciatica, tennis elbow
  • Helps relieve menstrual problems
  • Strengthens the immune system and revitalizes the thyroid
  • Improves flexibility of hip and shoulder joints
  • Soothes sciatica
  • Strengthens and firms abdomen, hips, legs, buttocks and arms
  • Looking up tones the optic nerve, improving vision
  • Helps to regulate blood pressure through compression of the kidneys and renal system

Energetic Benefits

The back relates to the shadow side of ourselves and things we do not want to deal with. Rising from the floor helps us rise against self imposed expectations and manifest abundance.

  • Opens heart chackra promoting tenderness
  • Balances naval and sex chackras
  • works the psychic channels that run through the spine, improving intuition
  • traditional texts say it awakens kundalini energy
  • Opens the throat chackra helping communication


“The aim of yoga is to strengthen the muscles of the spine and change the position and shape of the vertebra. When this shift occurs, there will be pain. Such is the truth of all alternative therapies.” Rajishree Choudhury

Alignment is everything, here are the most important lines from the dialogue

  • Top of the fingers in line with the top of the shoulders, baby fingers in line with the deltoid
  • You have one leg like a cobra, don’t open it
  • From the side, your elbows should be ” L”, 90 degree angle, like a rectangle

Remember that the goal of cobra is compression and strengthening of the spine. It is important to use your 100% back strength, but also to create the proper alignment to facilitate the benefits of the pose. To do this, most students will need to use the hand strength. Bikram says you CAN use the strength of your hands and arms up to 15%, it is NOT a part of the pose to avoid the use of your hands and arms.

Tips from Craig

  • Your eyes should initiate the movement
  • Lengthen through your legs
  • When your knees are locked properly, the knees will come up off the floor
  • Use the arm strength to augment the back strength
  • Your elbows should always be in, only the trapezius muscles


Filed under About Bikram Yoga, Benefits, Bikram, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips, Tips and Tricks

9 responses to “Posture Clinic: Cobra Pose

  1. Brilliant! Thanks so much B! Great info!

  2. Andrew Moniz

    So good, got some nay great things for my classes at Red Tree tonight! Thanks for the re-fresh number 3! xo

  3. Paul Askew

    Some more tips, from Esak Garcia and these are a great compliment to what Craig mentioned, so I will repeat a little here: When you get into the posture, push a little into the floor to get your arms at a “90 degree” angle. Keep the elbows touching the body and literally pull them down to your hips. Once there, drop the shoulders down. Your trapezium will really stick out towards the mirror. Now focus on your legs, lock them out. Like Craig mentions, knees come off the floor. Now make sure your heals are together and toes are together. Push them into the floor. The more you push them down and more you lock the knees, combined with the elbows will totally focus the compression into that sweet spot in the lower spine. Just don’t forget to look uptowards the ceiling and as far back as possible.

  4. Cobra might be my favorite in the whole series. 🙂

    Yessssss, use the pressure in the hands. Thank you!!

    I had a mini-revelation when I was studying the dialogue and saw that “elbows touching the body” comes explicitly BEFORE you lift your chest up. Of COURSE! Who started this trend of saying “elbows sticking up” during the set-up?!

    One single burning question – can anyone please explain to me WHERE the trapezius muscle is and HOW you can see it in the mirror?! Every time I look for a diagram of the trapezius muscle, it just shows me a muscle on your BACK. Which part of it is going to be visible?

    • Good Question!!

      I think as a student, this instruction is very mysterious.

      But as a teacher, or as one looking at the pose it becomes clear quickly.

      Remember that the pose is named after the cobra, rising to strike with its hood opened. So the trapezius are meant to mimic the hood of the cobra.

      As you do the pose, the shoulders actually come forward, making the very top of the trapezius visible. If, conversely, you were to make the trapezius invisible, you would actually be bringing your shoulders back, inhibiting the back bend and almost scrunching the back.

      I hope that makes it a little more clear….

      • Marty

        My take on the trapezius (trap) is different. It isn’t the shoulders forward or back, it is “down” Every time the diaolgue mentions shoulders it is in the context of where the elbows are. “Elbows touching the body, drop your shoulders down” in this case, to get your elbows touching the body, shoulders drop down toward the hips, not down toward the floor. Later it says Stretch your elbows down toward your hips…to bring your shoulders down, trapezius muscles visible in the front mirror. Again it is in relation to the elbows torward the hips While it is true that if you roll your shoulders forward, you can see the traps, it is also true if you drop your shoulders down toward the hips the trapezius becomes more taught and visible. The trap actually wraps to the front of the body and attaches to the clavical or collar bone so technicaly it is always visible in the front mirror. My take is that by dropping shoulders away from your ears, you lengthen that aspect of the trap, thus making it more visible. Either way, I wouldn’t use the “trapezius visible” instruction to negate the rest of the diaologue. Bringing the shoulders forward is definaltely contradictory to elbows down toward the hips.

  5. Oh okay, so it’s the TOP of the shoulders. That actually makes perfect sense. I just can’t see it when I do it cause I’m looking UP… and I wasn’t sure where the top of the trapezius muscle was. So the instruction means that you do NOT roll your shoulders down and back, like some people do when they are trying to get more height. (That is for FULL cobra, not regular cobra.) Shoulders relaxed, elbows in, trapezius muscles visible in the front mirror. Got it. Thanks!!

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