What is the Sphinx Pose?
The Sphinx Pose is a beginner-friendly backbending yoga posture. It opens up the chest, lungs, lower back and is very relaxing for the spine. It is also a useful variation for those who have wrist injuries or carpal tunnel syndrome and are unable to do the Cobra Pose as it is performed on the forearms. The Sphinx Pose is called Salamba Bhujangasana - Salamba means ‘with support’ and Bhujanga means cobra. In English it is called the Sphinx Pose as it resembles the mythological Egyptian statues. It is also known as Easy Cobra Pose.
Position type: Backbend
Posture type: Prone
Ideal for: Strength
Targets: Back, torso and arms
Pose level: Beginner
How to prepare for the Sphinx Pose
The Sphinx Pose itself is a relaxing and beneficial prep pose for stronger backbends. It provides a gentle stretch to the spine, slowly getting you ready for deeper asanas. However, it always helps to practice core strengthening asanas and improve back flexibility.
Practicing the Warrior series, Triangle Pose, Chair Pose, Boat Pose, Camel Pose, etc are all yoga postures that build strength and stamina. You will not only build strength but also be able to hold asanas for longer. Practicing Surya Namaskars is also a great way to build strength.
Practice simple backbends initially, such as the Locust Pose and the Camel Pose. As you improve back flexibility, you will be able to bend effortlessly, allowing you to go deeper into more backbends.
How to do the Sphinx Pose
Getting into the posture
- Start by lying down in the prone position on your stomach.
- Keep the forearms on the mat and gently lift the chest. The shoulder should be over the elbows.
- Bring the shoulders back, away from the neck. Allow the shoulder blades to slide down your back so you feel a subtle lift in the chest area.
- Take deep breaths into your abdomen. Stay here for a few minutes.
Getting out of the posture
- To come out of the pose, lower your chest and bring your body down.
- Rest in Makarasana, the crocodile posture for a few minutes.
Key alignments in the Sphinx Pose
- Roll the shoulders back towards the spine. Do not let the shoulders raise towards the ears.
- Keep the elbows closer towards each other and pointing backwards. Do not let the elbows fall outwards (towards the sides).
- Maintain the alignment between the hips and the floor.
What are the benefits of Sphinx Pose?
The Sphinx pose, Salamba Bhujangasana, is a gentle backbend which stretches the front of the body. The abdomen, hip flexors and chest region get lengthened and stretched. The posture helps improve spinal mobility, flexibility and strength. Moreover, it is very relaxing and calming, helping soothe the entire system. It invigorates the body, soothes the nervous system, and helps relieve fatigue.
What are the contraindications of Sphinx Pose?
Women should avoid the Sphinx pose during pregnancy. There might be a slight compression felt in the lower back, but if there is sharp pain, a twinge or pinching sensation, then release the posture and relax. The posture should be avoided in case of a recent or chronic injury to the back, arms, or shoulders.
Counter poses for the Sphinx Pose
Practice the crocodile pose, Makarasana or Child’s pose, Balasana, for a few minutes after doing the Sphinx Pose.
Variations of Sphinx Pose
- In case of stiff shoulders or if you are pregnant (under the guidance of an experienced teacher), you can try the standing version. Stand facing a wall and place your forearms and palms against it. Keep the forearms shoulder-width apart with the elbows in-line with the shoulders, creating a 90-degree angle between your upper and lower arms. The chest and torso should be away from the wall, not pressed against it. Press your forearms against the wall and draw your shoulder blades into your upper back to achieve the gentle backbend.
- Strengthen the backbend by taking the hands closer towards you. This will also strengthen the arms. This is also called the Seal Pose variation.
- You can also try the Yin Yoga version of the Seal Pose where you hold the posture for 3-10 minutes.
Advice for beginners
Keep the neck relaxed and shoulder rolled away from the ears. Remember to be slow and gentle, do not push your body to try achieving a deeper backbend. Keep the legs engaged and pressed down. This will help lift the chest higher in the pose.
- Never force yourself into the pose. Only go as much as you can.
- The intensity of the backbend doesn’t matter. Practice with ease and awareness.
- Practice under the guidance of an experienced teacher to ensure safety and no injuries.