Yoga Posture Guide - The Cobra Pose (Naga-asana)

The Cobra Pose (Naga-asana)

Translation: The Sanskrit word naga means snake or serpent. The nagaasana is also known as the bhujanga-asana. The Sanskrit word bhujanga, which also means snake, is derived from the root bhuj which means to bend or curve.

Pronunciation: na-gah-sa-na

Difficulty: (4)

The Cobra Yoga Pose (Naga-asana)

"Let the body, from navel to toes, touch the ground, the palms placed upon the ground, and raise gently the upper part of the body (from navel to head) like a snake. This posture increases the gastric fire; it destroys all diseases and by constant practice leads to the awakening of Kundalini." The Gheranda-samhita II.42-43.

If you find it uncomfortable holding the breath while the posture is held, breath gently through the nostrils. Some may find that they are able to arch the spine back even more than in the initial arch in step 3. In this case, try "walking" the hands toward the pelvic region and stretching the head further back.

In addition to the obvious benefits to the spine and lower back, the standard variation of the cobra pose naga-asana strengthens the wrists and stretches the muscles in the chest. By maintaining a constant exertion to create a greater arch in the spine, the stomach and pelvic muscles are strengthened. Greater strength in these areas can be cultivated by performing the variation where the arms remain on the ground. B.K.S. Iyengar, a renowned expert in yoga-asanas, claims that displaced spinal discs can be placed back in their original position by practicing the naga-asana.

Other Health Benefits of The Cobra Yoga Pose (Naga-asana)

  • Opens up the shoulders and neck.
  • Tones the abdomen.
  • Strengthens the entire back and shoulders.
  • Improves flexibility of the upper and middle back.
  • Expands the chest.
  • Improves blood circulation.
  • Reduces fatigue and stress.
  • Useful for people with respiratory disorders such as asthma. (Do not practice this yoga pose during the attack though).
  • Aids in relief and elimination of menstrual irregularities.
  • People suffering from gas after meals will find this pose very useful.
  • Affects the adrenal glands, sending them a richer supply of blood.
  • Tones ovaries, uterus and liver.
  • Muscles of the back, abdomen and entire upper body are strengthened by the practice of the Cobra Pose.
  • Relieves constipation.
  • Limbers spine.
  • Excellent for slipped discs. It adjusts displacements in the spinal column and tones the sympathetic nerves.
  • Beneficial for a backache due to overwork or long hours of standing.

The Cobra Yoga Pose (Naga-asana) Steps-by-Steps Instructions

  1. Lie on the stomach with the head turned to one side and the arms alongside the body with palms facing upward. 
  2. Turn the head and place the chin on the floor. Inhale then exhale slowly through the nostrils and swing the arms around until the hands are placed just below the chin with the palms down and the fingertips of each hand almost touching and the elbows on the floor. 
  3. Inhale slowly through the nostrils, press down on the hands and lift the torso from the waist up off the floor, arching the spine backward and straightening the arms. Keep the hips on the floor. 
  4. Tilt the head as far back as possible and hold the posture for the duration of the inhaled breath.
  5. Exhale and reverse the process to return to position.
Duration/Repetitions: Hold the posture for either the duration of a held inhaled breath or from one-half to three minutes. Repeat the naga-asana two to five times.

Contraindications of The Cobra Yoga Pose (Naga-asana)

  • Avoid practicing the cobra yoga pose (Naga-asana) if you are pregnant, have fractured ribs or wrists, or recently underwent abdominal surgeries, such as for a hernia.
  • Also, avoid doing the cobra yoga pose (Naga-asana) if you suffer from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.
  • Practice the cobra yoga pose (Naga-asana) under teacher's guidance if you have suffered from chronic diseases or spinal disorders in the past.

The Cobra Yoga Pose (Naga-asana): WARNINNG

  • Not recommended if you are suffering from peptic ulcer, hernia or hyperthyroid.
  • When bending the body backward, be sure not to make any violent jerks, as this may injure rigid muscles
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