Snake Pose (Sarpasana), not to be confused with Cobra (or Bhujangasana), is an accessible pose for most bodies. It’s a popular and beneficial pose that you’ll find in most styles of yoga classes as a variation or prep pose for Cobra and other big backbends.
You’ll also find it in many different levels of classes — from basics to advanced, and from kids yoga to yoga for seniors.
Why is Sarpasana so pervasive in the different types of yoga? Because of its accessibility and its health benefits.
It opens the chest and shoulders to stimulate the heart and lungs. It improves your ability to breathe deeply and fully, while relieving compression in the diaphragm. It eliminates constipation, massages and stimulates the internal organs, and boosts the immune system by stimulating the thymus gland. It tones the bum and legs, and strengthens the muscles in the back.
- Lay down on your belly (in what’s called prone position) with your forehead flat to the mat.
- Clasp your hands together behind you, just above your tailbone.
- Point your toes and press the feet and heels together. Subtly take the inner thighs towards the sky. Lift your kneecaps to engage your quad muscles. Create one long, tight "tail" behind you.
- Press the tops of the feet down into the mat.
- Take a deep inhale and lift your head, chest, shoulders, and abdomen off the mat.
- Contract the back muscles and energetically send your clasped knuckles towards your feet.
- Simultaneously, push the energy through your sternum (or breastbone) forward to fully open the chest.
- Release your shoulders down your back, away from your ears.
- Hold for 8 breaths, or as long as feels comfortable.
- Slowly lower vertebra by vertebra.
Tips, Tricks, and Contraindications
- Steer clear of this pose if you have an ulcer, are pregnant, recent back injuries, a hernia, or had any type of recent wrist, rib, or elbow injury.
- If you’ve recently given birth and have abdominal separation, this pose will aggravate it, so make sure you give yourself ample time to heal and the abdominals to reconnect before attempting this pose. Get the all clear from your doctor or midwife!
- Those that suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome also are at risk of further injury in this pose.
- Make sure to warm up a bit before this pose with a few Sun Salutations, and some rounds of Cat and Cow or Downward Facing Dog.
- Child’s Pose is a good one to follow up with to relax the neck and stretch the back completely. Snake Pose is often followed by Cobra, Locust, and Bow Poses to work deeper into the back and open the chest completely. Any of those are great options to follow it up with.
Snake Pose is a wonderful and accessible chest opener, so give it a go and let us know what you think!