Sphinx pose seems simple enough as one of the more moderate back bends, but as any Yin yoga practitioner will tell you, if done properly, Sphinx pose can quickly become a deep and beautiful posture filled with strength.
To take this pose one step further, try correcting these common misalignments and hold the posture for three minutes at a time with your eyes closed.
Sphinx pose requires relaxed shoulders, allowing the neck to be tall by drawing the shoulder blades down your back, and pressing the heart open by squeezing the shoulder blades together behind you.
Often as we press deeper into a long-held Sphinx, our arms turn into a letter Z by bending awkwardly at the wrist then spinning out through the hand. Your arms are your base in Sphinx, so keeping the forearms parallel on the ground is important.
This includes maintaining the straight line from your elbow through your wrist to your fingertips. Try squeezing your elbows in (great prep for later inversions like Dolphin or Forearm Stand), and flat palming the ground with your hands down and fingers splayed wide.
That "Crunchy" Feeling
This has to do with flexibility in your spine and back muscles, but also the flexibility in your frontal plane. Flexibility comes with time and patience, so if you are feeling that crunch, create space in another way.
Try taking your elbows forward and away from your body to create more space. Traditionally, the elbows line up under your shoulders in Sphinx, but it is important to remember that we are not all built the same and if something is crunchy and uncomfortable then a modification might help you take it deeper.
Tight and Clenched Butt
Often the gluteal muscles (your butt) take on too much work during this posture, and this retracts from the benefits of the spinal bend and frontal opener.
It is natural for your glutes to be on guard and tense up the minute you begin a back bend, however that doesn’t mean it is always helpful. In Sphinx, the back bend has a large foundation, your legs are on the ground as are your hips and forearms.
With that in mind, it becomes safe to relax your lower body as much as possible. Try taking your legs as wide as your mat and rock your hips side to side to encourage that looseness.
Now try to hold for three minutes, breathing smoothly and closing your eyes. Let the pose open your heart and your hips safely and thoroughly.