Begin by lying flat on your mat with the forehead on the floor. Breathe here and soften through the neck. Have the legs strongly pressing together with toes pointed. Place your hands flat on the floor so that they are directly underneath your shoulders. Keep the arms bent with elbows tucked into the side of the body. Roll the shoulder blades back down towards the spine, feeling a lovely opening in the chest.
Inhale and gently scoop the head up leading with the nose. Continue to scoop through the front torso by rolling the shoulder blades back and lifting through the heart to sky, bringing equal and balanced wait onto the hands. Splay the fingers. Exhale and bring your attention to the lower back and buttocks , keeping a very gentle activation here. Be conscious of keeping the weight of the body in the arms and have the shoulders relaxing back into their sockets.
The gaze can be straight ahead or for the full spinal arc, Inhale and gently extend the head up with the chin leading. You can imagine a golden thread lifting you up from your heart centre towards the sky, to lengthen through the front of the body and to increase the arch in the back. The breath is slow and steady. Hold for five or so breaths and find a sense of surrender within each exhalation, this will really help you to relax into the posture.
Release from the posture by rolling the spine vertebrae by vertebrae back down to the mat with the head following lastly. Rest with the forehead on the mat. Breathe naturally and allow the gentle, energetic shift to take place.
Tips: It can be quite hard on the arms when this posture is held. Try different positions with the arms, allowing a slight bend, straighten or do a combination of both.
Beginners can hold the posture for shorter amounts of time and practice smoothly moving in and out of the posture before holding. Work with caution and awareness and practice gentle build up poses such as Sphinx Pose. Also keep the gaze forward until confidence is built within the posture. A Block can be placed under the chest and into the ribs to help support and raise the upper body.
Advanced Yogis can turn the head to look over the right shoulder, gazing towards the left heel. Hold this for about 10 seconds, return the head to center and repeat whilst looking over the other shoulder. Once the lower back feels totally comfortable in The Cobra one can lift the hands off the ground and then roll the body up using only the muscles in the back. With practice you may be able to attempt the King cobra variation in which the toes reach the head. Activating Ujjayi breathing will also enable one to bend further into the posture.
Benefits: Bhujangasana has many Anatomical and Emotional benefits. 'I rise joyfully to meet each new opportunity', Is a lovely affirmation that one can use to fully connect with all aspects and benefits whilst in this posture.
The Sympathetic Nervous System is stimulated, building heat and stimulating metabolism. Cerebral-Spinal fluids are pumped which will then result in a clearer feeling mind, and an entirely energized system which in turn benefits all the Nadis. The brain becomes refreshed. The muscles in the back compress and contract in this Backward bend, which serves to strengthen them. The entire abdominal area receives a stretch, as does the deep hip flexors. It exerts a gentle but very beneficial pressure on the visceral organs. The chest, shoulders and throat in the upper body also receive a lovely stretch and serve to open up this area. The back and the front of the lung area is also opened and receives a deep and soothing massage. Bhujangasana also stretches the ankles, hips, thighs and groins. It Limbers the spine, whilst deeply relaxing it and when done mildly the cobra pose can help relieve and even heal bulging discs in the lower back, however raising too high will aggravate the issue therefore practice gently and with awareness. Holding Cobra can be a good way to open the smaller muscles in the spine before starting a sequence of Sun Salutations. It actually adjusts displacements in the spinal column and therefore tones the sympathetic nerves. The Cobra, with regular practice, is beneficial for back ache due to overwork or long hours of standing.
The heart, thyroid and parathyroid experience an increase in circulation and the adrenal glands are squeezed and then massaged when we release from the Cobra creating a flooding of freshly oxygenated blood which serves to improve their functioning and further enhancing their cleansing action. The pancreas, kidneys and parts of the small and large intestines also receive a similar effect. The ovaries become toned, as does the uterus and liver. Bhujangasana is known to aid in relief and elimination of menstrual irregularities and also to relieve constipation. It also stimulates The Lymphatic system, pumping lymphatic fluids, by opening the chest, armpits and groin where lymph nodes and glands are located.
Psychologically, the Cobra Pose increases one's strength to overcome obstacles. Spiritually, it increases awareness of, and hence control over, the subtle energy in the spine. It is a Male posture - Yang, and relates to the element of Fire. The golden yellow Chakra in the area of the Solar plexus (area around the stomach) - Manipura, is activated which relates to power, will and action. The blue colored Throat Chakra - Vishuddhi, relates to communication, self expression and truth and the green colored Heart Chakra -Anahata is about love, self healing and joy. These three Chakras are all emotionally, energetically and anatomically activated in this posture because of the openness required within these areas of the body and of course the will one must summon to be in the posture.