King Cobra at the wall

King Cobra at the wall

King Cobra (Raja Bhujanghasana) is one of those poses that seems like a pipe dream.  You see it in the pages of yoga journal or in super fancy “advanced” yoga classes, but it’s not a pose that is featured much in most classes you take –  you might hear it suggested as a challenging modification to an already challenging full cobra.  So when I learned this version at the wall at a weekend intensive with Tias, I almost jumped for joy.  I love finding ways to make these seemingly impossible poses possible.

Also – it’s fun.  Sometimes, amidst all the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of the yoga practice, I feel like teachers can forget that one of the reasons that we stuck with a consistent practice in the first place is that it’s fun!  Yoga is a very serious business in many ways, but I have to say that one of my favorite moments of teaching is when a student came up to me after class and said, “That was fun!?”  Her shocked smile was worth 1000 samadhis to me.

It’s no secret on this blog that I love backbends.  I particularly like this one because the wall and floor help you engage your legs strongly enough to keep the backbend out of the lumbar spine.  And it looks really pretty.  Because you must engage your legs so strongly, it’s a great quad strengthener.  Your shoulders, arms and back work a lot as well.

Start by lying down on your tummy with your knees bent and your shins against the wall.  You want to be able to push strongly into the floor with your thigh bones and into the wall with your shins so make sure you’ve got as close to a right angle as possible (baseboards nonwithstanding).

Bring your hands next to the body near your low ribs.  Your elbows should be hugged into the body like they would be in chaturanga or baby cobra.  Your shoulder blades begin to move into the spine towards one another.

Push down into the floor with your thigh bones, into the wall with your shins and tuck your tailbone to protect the lower back.  Press down through the hands to begin to lift the chest.  If you’ve tucked your tailbone, your pelvis should tilt up and your abs should be off the floor.

Once you’ve got this shape, you can work on finding the backbend.  Lift your upper back/chest up and bring your shoulders back and down.  Keeping pressing strongly through your legs – you shouldn’t be feeling much in your lower back – if it’s crunching you need to come back down and try again.  The backbend should happen in the middle part of the spine.

Finally, you can play with bring the head back toward the feet for the full expression of the pose.  Make sure your shoulders stay relaxed down and away from your ears.  Try holding this for 5 breaths.

To come out of the pose, bring your head back to neutral and bend your elbows straight back as you lower all the way down to the mat and rest.

I want to hear from you! Is fun an important component of your yoga practice?  What poses do you turn to when you want a playful, light sequence?

9 Comments

  1. Great idea! Thanks!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome – hope you have fun with it!

      Reply
  2. You have a long way to go! You would probably also benefit from losing weight. It would help with your yoga practice and flexibility as there won’t be fat in the way blocking your full mobility, not to mention overall health.

    Reply
    • This is the first comment on the blog that I really considered deleting. Not because it’s critical to me, that’s definitely allowed, but because it might be triggering to many of my readers who struggle daily with body image. However, you’ve brought up an issue that I think is worth addressing at least once. You say I have a long way to go, but I say that my practice is beautiful today. It was beautiful yesterday. It will be beautiful tomorrow. So what if my cobra pose doesn’t look like your cobra pose? I’ve practiced for a long time, through many body changes, and each iteration of my practice has been amazing in its own way. My fat isn’t “in the way”, it’s a part of me. My body isn’t blocking me, it is me. Our bodies support us regardless of what we look like, and it’s so important to honor that. I don’t know if you are a yoga teacher, but if you are, or if you hope to become one, I really hope you consider how much harm you can do to someone with an offhand comment like the one above. The very first yama, of the very first limb of the eight limbs of yoga teaches us to practice ahimsa or non-harming. Ahimsa means accepting my body as it is now, not how someone else would like it to be. Ahimsa means treating others the way I would like to be treated. Ahimsa means honoring the practice of all yogis, even if it doesn’t look like my practice.

      Reply
      • hi annie, i came across you via yd and was intrigued by your wall cobra (i, too, love backbends and walls). i was flabbergasted by jane’s comment above and i just wanted to say you made me smile with your humble, honest reply. i’m in the uk where of course body image issues exist, as does the rampant commodification of yoga, but yoga as a business is a way behind the states. in this country i don’t often come across such hurtful attitudes (not to mention misguided as it’s not even true), at least not so freely expressed.

        i’ve been teaching for 14 years and i think most of us have issues around what our body size/shape “stands for” in our culture. i include myself in that although in us sizes i believe i’d be a 2/4 – which i mention just to underline your point about ahimsa – we can never know what a throwaway comment might trigger, even if someone is lithe and bendy. plenty of yogis who fit that picture (which is of course largely though perhaps not exclusively genertically determined) carry deep and enduring wounds.

        kudos to you for not deleting this but for responding with patience (and ahimsa). many blessings x

        Reply
        • Thank you for your kind words! Best regards – Annie

          Reply
      • A beautiful response…thank you for this.

        Reply
      • a wonderfully measured, warm, and very kind response to a comment which was at best ignorant and at worst willingly harmful. thank you for what you do, annie, and for your wisdom in addressing comments such as this.

        Reply
    • Your comment is very uneducated and a sad comment. Annie is perfect and doing wonderful things by sharing with others.

      Reply

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