I'm a huge fan of Cobra Pose. I find it challenging and strengthening for my back and such a great stretch and opener for my front. When practiced mindfully, Cobra can be so good for the back muscles and spine and a great antidote for all our screen time.
If you do or don't love it, here are some reasons to practice it, ways to make it work better for you and why Cobra is the confidence builder.
The self-care in any Yoga posture (and life) is always to listen to the cues your body gives you about how to take care of yourself plus taking time out to be fully in your body. Opening the lines of communication is one way to build confidence between you and your body. Other ways that Cobra offers you confidence include: an antidote for depression (could be related to screen time as our body in a hunched position encourages depressed breathing and feelings), can help relieve us of doubts and fears, opens the second to fifth Chakras (energy centers along the spine); primarily the fourth/heart Chakra which helps us give and receive Love, encourages presence, holds the possibility of letting go of addictions, compulsive behaviours, control issues and protective defences around the heart. In essence, Cobra helps open up to healthy ways of expressing oneself.
On a physical level, Cobra can benefit us by lengthening and strengthening the spine, opening and expanding the chest and shoulders, massaging and stretching the abdominals and abdominal area, stimulating the kidneys and adrenal glands and encouraging us to connect lower and upper body by finding the power in the lower body to support the upper in the expression of the pose.
To practice Cobra Pose, warm up with at least a few moments of arching and rounding the spine from a tabletop or hands and knees on the floor position (aka Cat/Cow). Be sure to breathe fully while warming up and the whole time you are in Cobra Pose. You can also do a few half sun salutations or dance! ;)
Safety note: I was very warmed up and have been practicing for over 10 years, so please do not expect to get as high off the floor as the photo above, right away. Nor do you need to. Not about how it looks. All about how it feels and how you treat yourself.
Stretch out on your belly on a mat and rest on your forehead, so your neck is long and relaxed. Place your hands beside your ribcage and under your elbows (farther back than under shoulders, so that you're less likely to push backwards into your back). Extend back through your legs and toes and press every toenail down on the floor until your knees lift up (see photo). Before you lift your chest and head, roll your shoulders up away from the floor and down into your back, so you can feel your upper back muscles engage and your shoulder blades move down your back. Start to make like you are going to drag your body forward on the floor and press your pubic bone down and forward on the floor. Also, make like you are going to drag your hands back towards your hips and press mostly with your hips to find the lift of your chest and head. I find the action of dragging hips forward and hands back to really help with lengthening the low back and drawing the shoulders back to open the chest. The more you can root down with your pubic bone, the longer your low back will be as well and the more lifting power you will have. Like a rebound effect... push down to go up. Notice that my chin is not lifted more than it would be if I was sitting or standing naturally. Keep your chin in neutral position as much as you can to keep the back of the neck long, which also helps the low back stay long and keep us out of the tendency to lead with the chin (another thing that screen time gives us... check where yours is while you read this to see what I mean). This also means your face could still be looking down towards the floor if that is the direction that your chest stays facing.
Stay in the posture for as long as you can breathe comfortably and continue to activate the lower body to support the back. Or lift and lower on your breath a few times for more warm up or to feel more connection to breath. If you feel any pain, come out slowly. If you feel strengthening sensations, breathe there. Notice how your whole body participates in the posture and what kind of sensations you feel throughout. Attempt not to judge any sensations and notice if you get warmer, if your heart beats harder or faster, how your breath feels and where you can breathe to massage the muscles that are working and give them the oxygen they need plus release any buildup of tension or toxins.
Be gentle with yourself as you ease out of the pose and rest on the floor to let your back muscles relax. You can also rock your hips side to side and lay your arms on the floor if that feels good while resting. Also, notice how you feel after the posture and any thoughts or emotions that show up. Stay present and rest as long as you like.
After your back has relaxed, place your hands by your ribs again and press up onto your hands and knees. Move a little more side to side before you gently round your back and sit back on your heels into Child's Pose with your forehead back on the floor or on your arms. Breathe there for as long as feels good.
I hope you find the confidence in yourself and in Cobra Pose. Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback.
Hope to see you on the mat soon,