When I first started learning the Sun Salutation series, the teacher would asked us to do knees, chest and chin followed by the Cobra pose. I always find the Cobra pose not very comfortable as it puts pressure on my lower back. I started doing the Upward Dog pose when I attended the flow classes. During the vinyasas, I would do chaturanga followed by the Upward Dog pose. I prefer the Upward Dog pose which is more suitable for me as it helps to loosen my spine and shoulders.
I find the difference between the two poses is in how much I use my arms. In Upward Dog, the arms are straightened and the knees lifted off the floor. I can rely on my arms to get higher and the pose gives me more extension and more spine stretch. For the Cobra pose, the arms do not straighten and they are simply there as a support and it is the back and abs muscles doing all the work.
The Upward Dog Pose
Lie flat on your stomach with your legs extended. Place the palms of your hands directly under the shoulders, fingertips pointing forward. Slowly straighten your arms, pushing your chest and torso away from the floor beneath you. Relax your abdominals and pull the shoulders away from the ears. Look slightly upward towards the ceiling. Breathe deeply and hold for 10-30 seconds.
The Cobra Pose
Lie face down with your feet together and your toes pointing behind you. Place your hands flat on the floor close to your body and beside your rib cage. As you inhale, gently push off your hands, lifting your head and chest off the ground and tilting your head back.
The key to the Cobra is keeping your spine fully elongated throughout the entire pose. If you are in the basic Cobra and you are feeling pressure in your lower back, try stretching your body up, away from your hips, as if your tummy is stretching.
The Upward Dog pose helps to improve posture, strengthens the arms and wrists while the Cobra pose opens up the mid back (the thorasic spine) and strengthen the core muscles.
Both poses are great openers for the front of the body and for strengthening the spine and are also vital for maintaining a healthy back. Back bending postures like these counteract the damage done to our body through the course of our everyday routines.
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