(cobra) & (Up-Dog) carry most of the same benefits; they are both heart openers, create a sense of expansion throughout the front body, stretching the chest and expanding lung capacity. They open, lengthen and stretch the abdomen aiding in digestion. They stimulate the heart & throat chakras along with the thyroid. They strengthen the wrists, arms, shoulders and back. Back bends are known for helping with depression, anxiety and stimulating the nervous system helping to alleviate fatigue.
Both Cobra and/or Up Dog are the next pose(s) in the sun salutation series, which is the basis for the home practice we’ve been talking about. From Chaturanga we lift the chest up drawing the heart center forward between the arms, bringing the shoulders on to the upper back. The main difference between Up Dog and Cobra is that in cobra the pelvis, thighs, knees & the tops of the feet remain connected to the mat, while in Up Dog the only thing touching the floor are the hands and feet.
The most important thing to remember in either pose is to avoid compressing and crunching the low back. To do this, lengthen the spine, reaching the tail bone towards your heels, then bring the ribs and chest forward. Try not to ‘tuck’ the tail bone (I know, I know, I keep saying ‘”tucking is a whole post all to its self” and someday I will remember to write it).
Lets look at the details of Cobra; press into the hands to create the lift in the chest, lengthen your rib cage towards the front of your mat, lift the ‘girls up‘ (unless your a guy then keep lifting that chest!) as you draw the tail bone towards the feet, draw the shoulder blades in towards each other, this is a low cobra. To deepen the pose, press a bit more into the hands and begin to use more of the musculature in the upper and middle back to avoid crunching the low back. There is no need to straighten the arms, especially if is causes you to ‘scrunch‘ your shoulders up into your ears. Emphasize the length in your neck by drawing up through the crown of your head. Internally rotate the thighs to broaden the sacrum, and press them firmly into the mat.
Many of the details in Up Dog are the same; create space in your front body, by lengthening out through your tailbone and up through the crown of your head. Let your heart float forward; keep the shoulders away from your ears. The differences are that in Up Dog you ‘do’ want to straighten the arms. Just don’t lock the elbows and don’t press the inside of the elbow forward, that creates hyper-extension. Avoid hanging your body on the shoulders, like a shirt on a clothes hanger. Lift the belly, engaging the Bandhas, wrap the shoulders around and on to the back. Utilize the strength of the back, belly and bandhas to carry the weight of the body. Hug the inner thighs in, engage the hamstrings and press down through the tops of the feet.
If you feel any tension or anxiety building, or if your breath gets shallow back out of the pose a bit. Backbending poses can ‘stir things up’ emotionally, so, as with any pose or sequence, practice Ahimsa along with your asanas.
From your Cobra or Up Dog you can roll to the balls of your feet, deeply engage your belly and begin to lift through the navel, coming to plank (full or modified) then allow the hips to float up to full Down Dog.
From Down Dog slowly lower knees to your mat and sit back in Childs Pose. There you have it! A simple, basic home practice that almost anyone can do. Take your time, start with 1 or 2 poses and work up to the full sequence. Remember to allow your breath to take center stage in your asana practice. Let the breath lead. Imagine your breath as your dance partner, let it lead you through the ‘dance’ that is your practise.
I guess it’s time to put it all together, thats the sound of me setting up the video camera….I wonder who I can get to be my victim…I mean Yoga model. Oh wait I know, Oh Cherie ….