Just thinking about snakes may make your skin crawl, but Sunday's Lunar New Year also begins the year of the snake, making it an opportune time to practice Cobra Pose (Sanskrit: Bhujangasana). When you hop on your mat this weekend, celebrate the Chinese New Year with Cobra, and receive all of these health benefits at the same time.
Stress reduction: Heart-opening poses like Cobra take an emotional weight off the mind, elevating your mood and helping to reduce anxiety and stress.
Build upper-body strength: Having to hold the torso up during Cobra will help strengthen and tone the biceps, triceps, and deltoids. Just keep in mind that this is a relaxing pose, so to prevent working too hard, keep a slight bend in the elbows.
Reduce neck and back pain: This posture stretches the muscles in the shoulders, chest, and neck, which can help relieve tightness in the upper body and back. Cobra is especially beneficial for those who sit hunched over a desk all day.
Prevent injury: Runners, skiers, and cyclists all rely on their legs, which results in oh-so-tight hip flexors. Stretching this area with Cobra Pose can keep hips flexible, reducing the risk of injury. Cobra also allows the front of the body a chance to stretch and open up, which can reduce the risk of shoulder injury.
Stretches the abs: Just as you do hamstring stretches after a run, it's important to stretch your belly after doing core-focused exercises; Cobra is the perfect pose to stretch your abs.
Relieves sciatica: Tight muscles in the lower back, hips, and legs can cause the pinching pain of sciatica, and doing Cobra Pose will help increase flexibility in this area.