Bhujangasana I (Cobra 1 Pose)

Iyengar's difficulty rating: 1* out of 60*

Iyengar's Technique:

  1. Lie down prone (facedown). Stretch your legs back. Keep your feet together, kneecaps tight, and toes pointed.
  2. Place your palms beside beside your torso (Iyengar says to place your hands beside your pelvis, but that's not what he's doing in the photograph).
  3. On an inhale, push down into the floor with your palms and lift your torso up and forward. Take two breaths here.
  4. On an inhale, lift your chest up further and contract the muscles along your spine. Lift your head and take it back. Keep your pubis in contact with the floor. Keep your weight in your legs and palms.
  5. "Contract the anus and the buttocks, tighten the thighs."
  6. Maintain this shape for about 20 seconds, breathing normally.
  7. On an exhale, bend your elbows and rest on the floor. Repeat this pose two or three times and then relax.

Comparing Forms:

  • Iyengar is simply deeper in the backbend than I am. Part of this has to do with the length of his spine compared to the length of his legs; my spine is comparatively much longer.
  • Iyengar's palms are further in front of his pubis. This may be providing him with greater power and leverage as he engages his arm muscles and pushes into the floor.
  • At the time of this shoot, I had been trained to keep my glutes and hamstrings relaxed in deep backbends, so that is what I am doing in my picture. Iyengar is clearly engaging his posterior chain completely. Today, I very much prefer Iyengar's technique, though it is challenging to do without externally rotating my legs.