Cobra to Upward-Facing Dog/Bhujangasana to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Develops strength and flexibility in your spine and back with an emphasis on lower back. Acts as a counter balance as we have a tendency to bend forward more in daily life.
Lie flat on the floor with the legs no wider than hip width apart. Your forehead and top of your feet should be resting on the floor.
Place your palms on the floor under your shoulders. Spreading the fingers wide with the middle finger pointing straight ahead. Elbows should be in and close to the body,
Exhale as you gently press your pelvis toward the floor making sure to keep it pressed throughout the pose BUT DO NOT squeeze the buttocks.
Inhale as you begin to curl your spine up. One vertebra at a time.
Slowly lifting the forehead, nose and chin off the floor and raise the head to look forward.
Continue curling your spine up to bring your chest off the floor making sure you maintain length through your neck and drawing the bottom tips of your shoulder blades into your back and lifting the chest from behind the heart.
Press your knuckles down and drag back with the hands against the resistance of the floor. Slowly straighten your arms to help lift your upper body further off the floor, making sure that you do not use the strength of your arms to lift your upper body or lock the arms.
Pointing the crown of the head toward the ceiling and gaze straight ahead. Visualize the long and even curve of the spine. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Can lift the knees/thighs for for Upward-Facing Dog.
Your lower back is vulnerable to compression because it is the easiest part of the spine to bend. To avoid compression make sure you lengthen through the entire spine as you curl your spine up.
Although your arms support your upper body in this pose , you should only lift your upper body using your spine, not your arms and continue to strengthen your arms only while you feel your spine lengthening and you can keep your shoulders and elbows relaxed.
Very modified Cobra: Keep looking down and only coming very slightly off the floor with the chest/shoulders, lifting the hands barely an inch and holding. Release and repeat.
Flow to/Counter Pose: Forward Bend such as Childs Pose to release back. Lying on Belly. Down-dog.
Physical Benefits: Increases the lung capacity and stimulates the nervous system to invigorate the body, helps the spine stay /become strong and supple. Stimulates the circulatory, digestive and lymphatic systems. Open the chest, shoulders, and throat. Lengthens the spine and increases spinal flexibility. Strengthens the low back, shoulders and legs. Reduces fatigue.
Mental Benefits: Energizes the mind, relieves mild depression and anxiety, reduces stress.
Adaptations/Variations: Sphinx used with extreme stiffness.
Placing the palms on the floor in front of the shoulders instead of under the shoulders, this modification lengthens the spine which helps ensure you do not strain your back.
Can be modified used the breath to move the upper body up and down. Inhaling as you slowly lift the chest off the floor and then exhaling lowering. Helping to further elongate the spine before holding the pose.
Contraindications: Severe spinal or neck injury , pregnancy, high blood pressure.