Improving Athletic Performance with Yoga: Modified Cobra Pose

yoga for athletic performanceBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Summer is often the time of year when many of us pursue a variety of outdoor athletic activities. The balmy weather entices many Yogis and Yoginis to engage in a diversity of outdoor recreational sports including bicycling, rock climbing, swimming, and running. The abundance of available outdoor athletic activities is almost endless during the warmer months of the year. However, so is the potential for sports-related injuries, such as torn Achilles tendons, shoulder sprains and lower back injuries.


This is particularly true if you are engaging in a new athletic activity or in a favorite athletic activity at a much higher intensity level than usual. For example, you may jog a few miles several times a week over the course of the year, but in the summertime you decide to embark on a training program that will enable you to compete in your first ten kilometer race. If you increase both the frequency and duration of your running time quickly, you may also experience tight hamstrings, quadriceps and Achilles tendons. In turn, this muscular tension can lead to strained and torn muscles.

By practicing a balanced assortment of Yoga asanas as a complement to your other athletic activities, you will lessen the chance of injury as you develop more muscular strength, balance and flexibility. During aerobic activities such as running and bicycling, you may find that your shoulders become hunched over and your neck muscles tighten. When this happens, you may also experience a tight lower back, which can put pressure on the large muscles of the buttocks, the hamstrings and the other muscles in the mid and upper back regions.


Including a regular Yoga practice into your weekly training routine will help you to ameliorate the risk of developing a sport-related injury. Incorporating back bending poses into your Yoga practice will help to elongate your spine, increase your overall energy and release tension in the throat, neck and shoulders. There are an assortment of back bending asanas that are accessible to most Yoga practitioners. Modified Cobra Pose is a very effective beginning Yoga pose that releases tension throughout the upper back, neck and shoulders.

* Modified Cobra Pose

Cobra Pose is usually practiced in the context of a series of flowing Sun Salutations. If you are not familiar with the postures that comprise the Sun Salutations, please refer to a reputable Yoga teacher training website or seek out the personalized instruction of a professional teacher at a Yoga studio in your neighborhood. Modified Cobra Pose can be practiced as an alternative to Cobra or Sphinx Pose during your practice of the Sun Salutations, or just after you have completed a series of standing Yoga asanas and are ready to transition to the floor for additional back bending postures, inversions and forward folding poses. It is important to make sure that your body is warmed up before engaging in back bending Yoga asanas. This will help to ensure that your practice of these energizing asanas is safe and enjoyable.

When you are ready to practice Modified Cobra Pose, come to a prone position on your Yoga mat. With an inhale, place your hands palm down 8-12 inches away from your shoulders. Keep your hands in a cupped position and your fingers pointing toward the front of your mat. Your gaze should be resting softly at a point approximately a foot in front of you on the mat or floor. Exhale, and with your next inhale push your torso up with your hands.

Keep your gaze steady. Remember that it is not uncommon to only be able to raise your torso 6-12 inches off the floor. This is fine. Do not force the pose. The effectiveness of the posture is in maintaining the correct alignment with your hands in a direct line with your shoulders. When you have raised your torso up as high as you can while maintaining the integrity of the pose, pause and hold Modified Cobra Pose for three to five complete breaths, then release the posture and rest with your check on the Yoga mat.

Repeat this pose two more times, alternating the resting cheek. By alternating the check that you rest on, you will in turn alternate releasing muscular tension on both sides of your neck. When you have completed your practice of Modified Cobra Pose, you may wish to move gently into Child’s Pose to release any tension that may have accumulated in your lower back before continuing on with the rest of your Yoga practice.

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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3 thoughts on “Improving Athletic Performance with Yoga: Modified Cobra Pose”

  1. Modified Cobra Pose is a very effective beginning Yoga pose that releases tension throughout the upper back, neck and shoulders. Its very educative article. Thanks for good article!

  2. Incorporating back bending poses can help to elongate spine, increase overall energy and release tension in the throat, neck and shoulders but it is important to make sure that your body is warmed up before engaging in back bending Yoga asanas. Thanks for this informative article.

  3. I love this kind of pose because you can feel that your whole body is stretching from neck to your feet. You can feel the flow of you breath smoothly. Nice.

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