Today my Cobra practice reached a new level of focus and openness. I was able to hold onto my knees while putting my feet on my head. I have been practicing toward this variation for a few months now, but I have not had the combination of openness in my chest and upper back and strength in my back, legs and buttocks.
For 3 years I practiced only the regular Cobra, where the yogi builds back strength and spinal flexibility by lifting the shoulders and chest off the ground. This posture is one of the foundations of a yoga practice. I still practice it regularly.
When my strength and flexibility reached a good level about a year ago, I began to deepen the bend in my spine. This is the first of what I consider to be the Full Cobra backbends (I call this Full Cobra 1), where the yogi bends the spine as deeply as possible including the neck. It is different from the regular Cobra (above) in that significant arm strength is used here to bend backward deeply.
Full Cobra 2 achieves the opposite of Full Cobra 1 (above). While Full Cobra 1 uses arm strength to bend the back, Full Cobra 2 (sometimes we call it Flying Cobra) removes the arms and relies only on back strength. I still bend as deeply and completely as possible, but this posture creates incredible engagement in the whole spine and buttocks. It is intense and powerful and builds great strength.
To complete the body's energetic circuit and put the bottom of the feet to the top of the head, Full Cobra 3 (left) combines a bit of arm strength with bent knees. It stretches the entire front side of the body from the chin to the toes.
I will continue to practice all of these variations because each offers something different. As a group they strengthen the muscles of the back, improving posture. They compress the disks of the spine from behind, reducing the risk of herniated disks into the spinal column. They stretch the front side of the body, increasing emotional strength and courage. They stretch the abdomen, increasing intestinal movement and improving digestion and elimination. And they compress the adrenal glands, reducing stress.
If this is not the most valuable group of Postures, it is certainly one of them.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga