5 Keys to Healthy Neck Alignment in Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

By: 
Tracy Weber, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT

When practiced appropriately, Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) and all of its fantastic yoga pose variations can be an important yogic exercise for creating and maintaining back and neck health. If you practice it incorrectly, however, you can create the very neck issues you’re trying to prevent. Below are five ways you can practice Cobra Pose while protecting your neck.

1. Lead with your collarbones, not with your chin. The origin of motion (the place where the movement starts) should be your low back, not your neck. The photos below show a Yogi leading with her chin, and another practicing correctly. Most students find the right motion if I tell them to imagine they’re leading with their collarbones.

 

(Correct form above photo) 

 

(Student above incorrectly leading with her chin) 

 

2. Extend out through the crown of your head as you lift. Extending through the spine (called axial extension) increases the space between your vertebrae and prevents that pinching sensation at the base of your neck. It also engages and strengthens neck muscles in a more effective way.

3. Turn your head as you lower, not as you lift. As you lift up into Cobra Pose, your eyes should point toward your mat, not toward the ceiling, and certainly not to either side of the room. Turn your head only after you have started lowering back to the floor. The photo below shows a person practicing with her head in the incorrect position.

 

 

4. Don’t lift your chin, or if you do, lift it at the very end of your inhale, after you have fully extended your spine. Most yogis would be best served if they kept their neck in a neutral position. Experienced yogis can lift the chin a little to stretch the throat, but only at the very end of the movement into Cobra Pose.

5. On the other hand, don’t overly tuck your chin, either. Students often interpret “don’t lift your chin” as “squash your chin to the pit of your throat.” Keeping the chin in a tucked position places extra strain on the very muscles you’re trying to protect. You should be able to hold an object about the size of a Granny Smith apple between your chin and your throat. The student below is holding her chin in an inappropriate position.

 

 

Aligning your head and neck in healthy, neutral position in Cobra Pose not only prevents neck pain; it also helps us bridge the mind-body connection. Here’s a post that explains the importance of head position awareness in yoga and how to know if your head is in a neutral position.

More on Cobra Pose from YogaUOnline and Kate Heffernan - Teaching Yoga to Beginner's: Skillful Action in Cobra Pose and Upward-Facing Dog.

Study Neck Health with YogaUOnline and Doug Keller - The Wisdom of Jalandhara Bandhi: Neck Health and Why it Matters.

This article originally appeared on wholelifeyoga.com  Reprinted with permission.

 

Tracy WeberTracy Weber, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT is the owner of Whole Life Yoga in Seattle as well as the creator and director of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. A practicing yoga therapist, she is also the author of the Downward Dog Mystery series, which won the Maxwell award for fiction. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any way possible.

Tracy and her husband Marc live in Seattle with their crazy new German shepherd pup, Ana. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 

For more information on Tracy and the Downward Dog Mysteries, visit her author website: http://TracyWeberAuthor.com/.