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Ornish Lifestyle Medicine recommends the Cobra Pose as part of a daily practice to support a healthy heart. This pose strengthens the upper back, expands the chest and improves the flow of blood and energy to the heart. It promotes the physical health of the heart as well as the emotional health.

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Part One: Awareness and Humility

When we begin the practice, we lie face down on the floor, turning the head to one side. As we do this, the arms rest down along side the body. This allows the shoulder wings to relax and separate while the back of the heart becomes more exposed. Here we bring awareness to those emotions that we have a tendency to hide from others and even ourselves. This allows us to hold our feelings compassionately in our awareness as we observe them arising and then dissipating. We simply bear witness to whatever bubbles up in our awareness. We gain the ability to sit with our difficult emotions without judging.

The Cobra Pose teaches us about humility

The Cobra Pose also teaches us about humility. When we lie on the floor facing down, it is a reminder that we have the same connection to the earth as those creatures that live beneath our feet. When we get down on the floor like a snake we resonate with our earthly existence. It is a humble gesture that allows us to accept our limitations without the struggle of wanting our lives and ourselves to be different than we are. This kind of acceptance is key to a peaceful life.

Part Two: Buoyancy and Love

In the second part of Cobra, we begin to lift and lengthen. We bring the front of the heart towards the light of the sun. We allow the sun to ignite the light in our hearts and fill it with warmth, compassion, and love. Love is the true healer of our hearts.

We allow ourselves to be lifted with as little effort as possible. The hands are planted on the floor, but we resist the urge to push ourselves. In this way we train ourselves to be softer, lighter, and trust the buoyancy of our own being.

Begin with Imagery

A wonderful way to practice cobra is to start by imagining yourself moving through the steps of the pose.

  • See yourself in your mind’s eye lying on the floor on your stomach.
  • Feel the space in the back of the heart and breathe as if the heart is breathing in and breathing out.
  • Notice any feelings that arise.
  • Begin to imagine sliding the legs together.
  • Planting the palms on the floor in line with the armpits, bend your elbows close to the body, and rest your forehead on the floor.
  • Continue to imagine brushing the forehead, nose and chin against the floor as you raise your head and follow the lift into the heart.
  • For a moment imagine that you are holding the pose effortlessly as you breath. As you read this you are actually imagining yourself practicing.
  • When you feel ready, imagine lowering slowly on an out breath, gently brushing the chin, the nose and then placing the forehead on the floor.
  • Turn your head to the other side to rest. Finally imagine that you are completely relaxed.
  • Now after imagining yourself practicing, take your body through the same steps you imagined.

Contraindications

Because there is pressure on the abdomen in this pose, it can stimulate digestion, but don’t practice this pose if you have an abdominal aortic aneurism or if you have had recent open heart surgery. If either of these conditions exist, you can practice while sitting in a chair. (Chair practice audio).

When we do this pose every day we find new ways to connect to it and new things it can teach us about ourselves. In time we find the shoulders freer, the back stronger, the heart lighter and our awareness more embodied.

What do you notice when you practice Cobra Pose?

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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