Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.
Cobra pose is a mini-backbend where you articulate more arch in the upper part of the spine, while lengthening out the lower back. I often cue students to “press into the hands and feet to help pull the chest forward.” Arching the chest forward can be a difficult move to feel. “I can feel my shoulders drawing back, but I can’t tell if I’m pulling my chest forward and breathing into my upper back”, one my students related.
One trick that helped my over-archy, banana-like lower back stay long was placing a block between my ankles in cobra. Place a (preferably soft) block the long way, skinny side down in between the ankles and squeeze the block with your inner ankles. Keep the squeeze and bring the hands forward in front of the shoulders. Inhale, press into the hands, and pull the ribs forward while continuing to squeeze the block with your ankles. Direct your breath up into the collarbones and upper spine.
Squeezing the block helps you draw the sitbones (bones at the bottom of the butt) down. It makes it pretty hard to arch from the low back, so it helps re-pattern your body to pull the ribs away from the waist and arch from the upper spine. You can keep a block by your mat and practice this cobra variation anytime.