Chinese New Year 2013: Year of the Snake

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Year of the Snake 2013

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Chinese New Year begins on February 10, and what better way to celebrate the Year of the Snake than by taking a closer look at Cobra Pose – one of our favourite postures in the entire Bikram Yoga series!

Sign of the Snake

Of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, the snake is the most intuitive, introspective and refined. Not easily flustered, snakes have an uncanny ability to remain calm, cool and collected in even the most stressful situations (hot rooms filled with sweaty yogis, for example). They’re also exceptionally graceful creatures, known to be extremely motivated, determined and resolute when it comes to achieving success. Try keeping these snakey qualities in mind next time you’re in class – especially during Cobra Pose!

Cobra Pose Bhujangasana

Named after the king cobra, said to have the strongest spine in the world, Cobra Pose is meant to resemble a snake as it raises the front third of its body to strike. The first posture in the spine-strengthening series, Cobra targets the lower spine with a backbend against gravity and offers many benefits … as long as it’s executed correctly.

Benefits of Cobra Pose:

  • Strengthens the lumbar spine, relieving pain and combating slipped or herniated discs, scoliosis and arthritis in that part of the body
  • Improves digestion and appetite
  • Relieves menstrual disorders
  • Raises low blood pressure
  • Improves the functioning of the liver and spleen

Cobra Pose - Bikram Yoga

How-to do Cobra Pose:

  1. Lie on your stomach, bring your chin forward, look forward toward the front mirror
  2. Bring your hands underneath your shoulders, all five fingers together, palms flat against the floor
  3. Align the tops of your fingers with the tops of your shoulders, baby fingers in line with your deltoids
  4. Press your toes, heels and knees together to form “one leg” like a cobra; don’t open it
  5. Squeeze your butt and push your hips into the floor
  6. Take a deep breath and, on the inhale, lift the front of your body up off the floor using your lower-back strength only
  7. Look up toward the ceiling – where your eyes go, your body will follow
  8. Remember, this is NOT a pushup: use as little arm strength as possible and make sure your elbows are bent at 90-degree angles on either side of your body
  9. Push your elbows in and down to bring your shoulders down; your trapezius muscles should be visible in the front mirror
  10. Use your hands if you need to come up a bit, so that only the belly button is touching the floor, the rest of the upper body is in the air
  11. Stay still, breathing normally in and out through the nose, using your lower-back strength to hold the pose until the teacher tells you to change

Tips for Cobra Pose:

  • The “secret” to achieving more depth (i.e., height) in Cobra without using your arms is to always keep squeezing your butt and pushing your hips down into the floor
  • It’s perfectly OK to use some hand/arm strength if you need to; the more you practice this posture, the more strength you’ll gain in your lower back
  • Use your eyes to initiate the movement; again, where your eyes go, your body will follow
  • Lock your knees (just as in Standing Head to Knee Pose) in order to get them to come up off the floor

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