How to Practice Sphinx Pose (Bhujangasana)
Have you been looking for an alternative to Upward Facing Dog? Try practicing Sphinx Pose. It is a mild backbend yoga posture that you can practice instead of Upward Facing Dog during the Sun Salutation. Let’s learn more about this yoga asana so you can integrate it into your yoga practice.
What is Sphinx Pose
Sphinx Pose acquires its name because it resembles the ancient sphinx monuments. In Sanskrit it is called Bhujangasana (booh-jahn-gah-sah-nah).
It is a backbend that is designed for all levels of yogis, but is particularly approachable for the yoga beginner. For the experienced yogi, it can be a preparatory pose for Cobra Pose or Upward Facing Dog. It also acts as an alternative to practicing Upward Facing Dog.
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For the beginner, it is a mild backbend posture that helps lengthen and strengthen the muscles along the back. It also targets the shoulders and opens the pectoral muscles of the chest.
How to Practice Sphinx Pose
- Start this posture by lying on your yoga mat on your stomach.
- Extend your legs behind you with your toes pointing toward the back of the room.
- Rise up onto your forearms.
- Align your elbows directly under your shoulders with your forearms parallel to each other on the mat. Ensure that your hands are flat and fingers spread out wide to create a good grounding sensation.
- With effort, press your forearms and hands into the mat to gently lift the torso.
- Roll your shoulders down and back along your shoulder blades. By gripping the mat with your fingertips and palms, feel as if you are dragging yourself forward.
- Meanwhile, point your toes and reach them toward the back of the room. This will create a sensation of moving the body in opposite directions. This creates space in the lower back region so as not to pinch or bind this area.
- Hold the posture for 5-10 breaths then lower yourself down to release the engagement.
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Variations & Modifications for Sphinx Pose
If it feels strenuous on your back to lift yourself up on your forearms, try these variations of the Sphinx Yoga Pose.
One alternative method is to lie completely on your chest and belly. Rest your forehead on the yoga mat and extend your arms out in front of you. This creates a good lengthening throughout the body, particularly in the lower back.
Another option is to rest your hands underneath your head for this position. This is also called Crocodile Pose. It acts both as a variation of Sphinx Pose as well as a lead-up preparatory posture to Sphinx Pose.
Because you are lying on your stomach for this yoga posture, consider using two yoga mats or placing a soft blanket underneath your body. This will provide more comfort in the front body as you practice this yoga asana.
If, however, you are pregnant or have significant digestive or stomach issues, you may want to refrain from practicing this posture. Find safer poses that will help strengthen your back and open your chest.
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Preparation & Finishing Postures
As mentioned, Crocodile Pose is an appropriate preparatory yoga posture for Sphinx Pose. Another position you can practice is Supported Bridge Pose. Essentially, this is moving into Bridge Pose but sitting on a stack of yoga blocks. This allows your muscles to relax while you open your front body and introduce your back to a backbend pose.
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When you are complete with your backbend practice, consider moving into a counter-position. Child’s Pose is a good selection. It creates a restful bodily posture to lengthen your back muscles and creates a natural curvature in the spine for back relief.
Try practicing Sphinx Pose the next time you step onto your yoga mat. It delivers an effective introduction to backbends while creating strength and length in your back and opening your chest.