King Cobra pose is a challenging expression of the fairly accessible Cobra or Baby Cobra pose. The difference between the three postures is the degree of bend or curve in the spine.
If you’re currently comfortable in Baby Cobra, try working to Cobra with straight elbows. If you’re comfortable there, then maybe working towards King Cobra is next on your journey.
If you're ready to start, have a look below for the how to's and the what-not-to-do's for a safe, energizing and strengthening backbend.
Backbends like Cobra pose and all of its variations are a fantastic way to activate the heart chakra and safely (thanks to the prone position) work into the spine. They open the chest and shoulders that have been hunched over at a desk for the last 8 hours, or cramming for finals into the wee hours of the morning.
Cobra and its variations can send energy through your body and invigorate you for the day or task ahead. They can increase mobility of the spine while strengthening all of the muscles in the back.
It’s great for the spine to maintain its supple yet strong nature. King Cobra also strengthens and tones the muscles in the legs and stretches the quads and hip flexors.
Step by Step
- Start on your tummy, in what’s known as a prone position, rest your forehead on the mat.
- Take your palms to the mat beneath your shoulders and spread your fingers nice and wide.
- Take your shoulder blades down your back towards your hips while you squeeze or cuddle your elbows into your ribs.
- Press firmly into the mat with the tops of your feet, and the pubic bone.
- Inhale and push the top of the head forward and lift your chest of the mat into baby cobra.
- If that’s comfortable, engage the abdominals. Take the navel in towards your spine to protect your lower back. Start to press through the hands and using your back muscles lift further toward the sky. Straighten the arms.
- If you’d like to intensify the backbend even further into King Cobra, slowly lower to starting position. Spread the legs so the knees reach toward the edges of the mat. Using the same process as outlined above, press into the Earth and lift the torso off the mat.
- Reach your head high and then take the bend into your neck.
- Bend the knees and take the toes towards your head and the center of the mat.
- Stay for a few breaths and lower slowly, the same way you came into the pose.
Tips, tricks, and contraindications
Flexibility in the spine is a journey, not a destination. Take it slow and open up the spine only to the level that is nourishing for you, right now. This is super important when dealing with the spine.
If your spine isn’t ready to articulate into King Cobra today, experiment with Cobra and try to feel something new or use more of your back than you ever have before. Take it slow and your spine will reward you, I promise.
- Use your back muscles to power the bend. Whether or not you’re working into King Cobra, Cobra or Baby Cobra, power the bend with the muscles in your back, NOT your arms. Your abs are crucial to preventing injury - use them! Take the navel in and really engage your core to protect the lower back.
- Notice where most of your back bend is coming from. Is it your lower back? It’s easy to fall into generating the movement from here, but rather than strengthening and creating a supple spine, you’ll compress it and cause pain.
- Work toward an even backbend along the ENTIRE spine. This is much easier said than done as we’re often more flexible in our lower back.
- Make sure you warm up properly if you’re going for the full expression of King Cobra. Run through a few Sun Salutations, Standing Crescent Moon, Lunge with a minor backbend and Sphinx Pose.
Steer clear of this pose if you’re in your second or third trimester or if you have any chronic or recent back or neck injuries.
King cobra is not recommended for anyone with carpal tunnel syndrome as well.
After King Cobra, Child’s pose feels really good. Anything that neutralises the spine and lengthens it is great. You can even just rest flat on your tummy with your head turned to one side and your cheek flat to the mat.
You may experience a flush of emotions ranging from anger to sadness to gratitude or acceptance when you practice King Cobra. This is all normal as your heart chakra opens and expresses emotions that you’ve held deep inside, perhaps for a long time.
Take it slow and let us know what you think, or share a photo of yourself in whatever variation of the pose that is nourishing for you right now!