We’ve been working with the special Dru Yoga version of Bhujangasana, the Four Stage Cobra. This a stretching and strengthening pose for the back. Done in four stage, it allows you to warm up gracefully into the full lift or to stop at the level that feels right for your back.
It also set me thinking about the hard time that we give snakes. It no doubt come from the venomous bite many of them have - even though they’ll only attack when feeling threatened - as well as that business with the apple in The Bible!
What’s more, ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes) is the third most common phobia, after heights and spiders. But, this is one snake that you don’t need to be afraid of. There’s little to fear and a lot to gain from practising Bhujangasana.
Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. Moving, as they did, between underground and above ground they represented the link between the past (the ‘underworld’ of the dead) the present (the world of the living). This connection was only enhanced by snakes’ ability to shed their skin through sloughing, turning them into symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. The ouroboros is the ancient symbol of a snake (or dragon) eating its own tail, representing eternity and continual renewal of life.
In other words, a great lineage of positive characteristic with which the yoga snake posture, Bhujangasana, is associated.
On a physical level, the snake pose gives a great stretch to the muscles in the shoulders, chest and abdominals. It helps increase flexibility of the whole spine and reduces stiffness of the lower back. And, it strengthens the arms and shoulders.
This posture can also help you shed the issues that are troubling you and lift your mood, letting go of tension and blockages.
Here’s how to flow, slowing into Bhujangasana (the snake).
Lie on your front, with your legs together and your hands underneath your shoulders.
Relax, and bring your awareness to the sensations of the breath as it flows in and out of your body. Notice the subtle movements of the spine with the natural expanding and contracting of the abdomen.
Now, on an in-breath, imagine a golden river of energy flowing upwards along your spine from the base as you start to rise-up.
As your awareness reaches the point between your shoulders, imagine rolling a marble along the floor with your nose as you raise your chin, upper chest and lower chest off the floor
Contract the deep muscles of the back but keep the buttocks relaxed as you lift higher. Finally, push up a little bit more using your arms but keep your elbows at least slightly flexed, and keep your naval in contact with the floor.
Look ahead, then move the eyes to look up with a relaxed gaze (but without moving the head back to avoid putting strain on the neck).
To come out, on an out-breath extend the chin forward slightly, lengthening the back of the neck, and with awareness slowly lower yourself down.
Be mindful, to keep the whole of the back open and stretched. Focus on extending the spine forward as well as lifting-up, creating a beautifully graceful curve in your back.