Health & Beauty

Yoga Break 8: Conquering the Cobra

Cobra Pose
Cobra Pose

In honor of love, we’re doing Cobra.

What the cup does Cobra have to do with love?

Everything, in fact. Known as Bhujangasana, Cobra is a chest opener—and when you open your chest, the heart goes with it. By putting your lower lumbar securely into extension, your ribcage now has all that space to expand and breathe. This ultimately allows for greater oxygen intake, increasing the lovely cardiovascular capacity of your body. It’s called a “heart-center” for a reason, folks: this is where all the biological action happens to make you stronger, calmer, and readier for the day ahead.

When Cobra is paired with tea, your upgraded breathing system is going to increase your circulation, allowing those adorable antioxidants to do their job faster and even more effectively. Hence, we’re pairing this guy with a vibrant, sassy green to get the blood pumping: Dragonwell. Crack open the bag and you’re waking the dragon. This one has grass-green vibes and a chestnut-y aftertaste—specifically, water chestnuts. We’re talking about a Chinese green that likes its water not boiling, thankyouverymuch, and it demands respect as such.

It’s a low-caff beverage, but if caffeine isn’t your game at all, then go for Dewy Cherry. It contains its own set of circulation-boosting, anti-inflammatory capabilities, only in a fruity-sweet package.

Ready, set, strike!

Step 1: It’s all in the preparation. Get together your teaspoon of leaves, heat up the water, and choose whatever drinking apparatus floats your boat today. (Speaking of boats, now is a great time to practice the Boat Pose we learned in January. See how long you can hold it before the water boils!)

Step 2: When the water is ready, pour it into the cup or steeper. Dragonwell doesn’t need too long to steep, so you have just a few minutes to get into Cobra. This will serve you well—a common misconception of yoga is that you have to hang out forever in each pose to get the benefits, when the truth is that you only need to linger for a few breaths. Any longer and you’re turning it into an endurance session, which leads to long, stringy muscles and a lowered metabolism, which might not be on your list of fitness goals.

Step 3: Begin in Plank, and slowly lower yourself to the ground. We want control here, think deliberate movements as you ensure that the pelvis, knees, and tops of the feet feel locked to the mat like magnets.

Now press into the ground under your shoulders, elbows tucked back against your ribs, and lift your upper body off the ground. Just start off halfway. Don’t try going all the way up at once unless you can generate security along the entire length of your lumbar spine, otherwise you risk disengaging through the abdomen and squinching those lower back muscles.

If you’re uncomfortable in this position, good. Address it. Find how much you need to lower your shoulders to bring them into stability, how much your neck needs to reach out to release the strain that many people bring to Cobra. (Myself included! We’re all human, never fear.)

Step 4: Breathe. Allow yourself no more than 30 seconds in this pose. Your Dragonwell will appreciate it.

Step 5: When your steep is up, lower yourself back to the ground. Reach your hips back into Downward Dog, hop your feet between your hands, and bring yourself back to standing.

Now go get your tea, snake charmer.

Dedicated to the study of health and wellness, Natasha Nesic is a Certified International Tea Masters Association Tea Sommelier and Certified Personal Trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She trains, writes, and consults throughout New York and has a passion for pairing tea with the unexpected: movement, music, and coffee. For more of her work, check out her website and Medium.