Definition - What does Bhujangasana mean?
Bhujangasana is the Sanskrit name for a popular yoga asana, otherwise known as Cobra Pose. It is a gentle backbend, most commonly performed as part of a Sun Salutation, in which it can be used as a less strenuous alternative to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog). The term is derived from two Sanskrit roots; bhujanga, meaning "serpent" or "snake" and asana meaning "seat" or "posture".
To enter the pose:
- First lie prone on the floor with the legs outstretched and feet hip-width distance apart.
- Place the palms down directly below the shoulders, with elbows bent and hugged in towards the torso.
- Pressing the tops of the feet and the pubic bone firmly into the floor, inhale to lift the chest and begin to straighten the arms.
- Keep the shoulders away from the ears, and draw the shoulder blades towards one another to maintain an open chest.
- Only lift as far as possible whilst still keeping the pubic bone connected to the mat, and hold this position for as long as the breath can remain smooth and steady.
- The gaze should be fixed at one point on the floor, in order to maintain a neutral neck position.
- To come out of the pose, exhale to slowly lower back down towards the floor.
If this pose causes any strain in the lower back, the elbows can remain bent in a modification known as Baby Cobra. Alternatively, the forearms may remain on the mat with palms facing down for salamba bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose), a gentler version which may be used to work towards bhujangasana. In order to find a deeper expression of the pose, the hands can be walked closer towards the torso with the arms straight, providing a stronger backbend.
Bhujangasana should not be practiced by those with carpal tunnel syndrome or any injury to the back, arms, or shoulders. Additionally, it should be avoided in the case of recent abdominal surgery or pregnancy.
Yogapedia explains Bhujangasana
Bhujangasana is a renowned yoga posture, first described in the Gheranda Samhita, one of three classical Hatha yoga texts from the 17th Century. The second chapter of this text outlines thirty-two asana for strengthening the body, of which bhujangasana is the penultimate pose. Symbolic of its namesake, bhujangasana is said to arouse Kundalini (serpent) energy, which usually lies dormant at the base of the spine. The Gheranda Samhita states that in doing so, the heat of the body increases, thereby eliminating all disease.
Bhujangasana is practiced from a prone position, in which the legs are outstretched and the torso is lifted with support of the hands. As such, the body in this posture resembles a cobra with its hood raised. Bhujangasana increases the mobility of the spine and strengthens spinal support muscles, thereby helping to relieve back pain. Additionally, this posture opens the chest and the front of the body.
Bhujangasana can be used therapeutically as a means of strengthening and supporting the lower back, in order to provide relief from back pain and herniated or bulging discs. Additionally, this pose has several overall health benefits such as:
Opening the chest, shoulders and front of the body
Improving spinal mobility and flexibility
Toning and strengthening abdominal muscles
Stimulating blood circulation
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