How to Do Cobra Pose  (Bhujangasana) Ultimate Guide + Anatomy Break Down

Beginner YogaYogaYoga Pose
December 6, 2022

Pop! Pop! Pop!

Sometimes backbends feel like you grew 3 inches taller. Other times it feels like you snapped your back in half. And sometimes you just want to stretch your back at the supermarket. (Am i right!? 🙌)

Cobra pose (aka Bhujangasana) is a gentle backbend accessible to almost everyone. After a few cobra rolls, you stand straighter, taller, and more confident.

If you’re pregnant, have been told you shouldn’t do backbends, or any back bend feels uncomfortable, check out the variations and modifications of cobra pose below or in this video. There’s a variation available to almost everyone. Give them a try and see which one helps you look taller.

And how to do cobra pose at the supermarket? Read the contraindicated conditions here first, then skip ahead to this modification. If you’re not already and want to be the first to know new ways to do yoga inconspicuously while grocery shopping, sign up for my newsletter with exclusive tips 😉.

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Cobra Pose 101 (Bhujangasana): How to Set It Up

Bhujangasana is one of those poses where how you do it & how it looks depends on what school of yoga your teacher came from. Like with plank pose, I’ll break down some key points that can be found across all variations.

 All variations:

The Safest Variation

On to a more detailed breakdown. These notes are for the safest (non-modified) variation of cobra pose. Bhujangasana does have some contraindications. Take a look below before you try this pose.

The Legs

The Torso

The Upper Body

Important Notes

Who shouldn’t do Cobra pose? Or can you modify?

Cobra pose is for almost everyone. If you have any of the conditions below, speak with your doctor before doing any modifications.

If you are pregnant, any modified version of cobra pose to accommodate your belly is fine as long as you don’t have any of the other conditions above.

Let’s Get Into It: Moving In and Out of Cobra Pose

The safest way to move into cobra pose is from the prone position (face down on the mat). 

Moving In

  1. Start lying on your belly
  2. Legs stretch out straight behind you hip distance apart with tops of the feet on the mat
  3. Hands underneath your shoulders
  4. Lengthen the tailbone towards the toes
  5. Inhale engage the muscles of the back to lift the chest, shoulders, and head
  6. Head stays in line with the curve of the spine
  7. Gaze is a few feet in front of the hands or at the top of the mat
  8. Breathe

Moving Out

  1. Exhale
  2. Lower the upper body down

Cobra Variations: Normal, Musculoskeletal Conditions, & Pregnancy

Cobra is often used as a warm-up at the beginning of class before you move into deeper backbends. If you feel like a dinosaur hunched over your desk all day, cobra pose is a great way to get rid of those t-rex typing arms and stand 10 ft tall after an eon of work. 

But, what if you have one of the contraindications above

Here are a few variations to ensure everyone can get a safe little heart opening in every class.

At the Wall

Reason: You’re pregnant or you don’t/can’t/won’t lay down on the floor (like at the grocery store).

How to do it: 

Important notes

For Spondylolisthesis, Osteoporosis, or Osteopenia

Reason: You have spondylolisthesis, osteoporosis, osteopenia, or backbends are contraindicated for you.

How to do it: 

Important notes

Cobra with Arms

Reason: You have no contraindications, and you want a deeper back bend/heart opening

How to do it: 

Important notes

Extended Cobra

Reason: You want a deep back bend and hip flexor (psoas) stretch and have no contraindications

How to do it: 

Important notes


Reason: You need/want to pad any surface connected to the mat for any reason (bursitis, allodynia, fibromyalgia)

How to do it: 

Am I doing this Right? What you should feel in Cobra Pose

There are a variety of cobra poses listed above 👆 and as different as they all may appear to be, here are the few things you should feel in all of the variations:

Lower Body:

Trunk of the Body:

Upper Body:


Let’s Nerd Out: The Anatomical breakdown of Cobra Pose

Bhujangasana is one of those pose where you can go all-in and engage half of your body, or you can try-easy and only work what MUST be worked. Below I’ve broken it down into what is mandatory to engage, what you should engage but not required to move the body into cobra pose, and what is optional.

Muscles Worked




Muscles Stretched

Cobra is not your typical “stretchy” pose, but it is a gentle back bend.

What variation of bhujangasana did you like the most? Afterward, did you grow taller and get all the “ahhhhh” feels?

Every yoga pose is not designed for every body. But when you sign up for my newsletter you’ll get exclusive tips and tricks on how to adapt yoga practices to YOUR body and how to integrate yoga practices into your everyday life. As a bonus, you’ll also get my 1 min checklist to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain + guided audio.

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Sign up for my newsletter and get my 1 min checklist to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain + guided audio.

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