Sphinx Pose / Salamba Bhujangasana
Step by step
- Lie on your stomach, toes pointing straight back, hands underneath the shoulders, elbows close to the body. Legs engaged, internally rotate inner thighs, but keep the heels pointing up. Pull your belly in and up, and place the forehead on the floor.
- On an inhalation, lift from the back of your heart to bring your chest up. Broaden through the collarbones up and bring the shoulder blades together, and then a little down along the spine.
- Then lift your head, open your heart, with no weight in the hands. Extend out through the toes.
- Come down again on an out-breath. You can repeat that twice.
- The third time when you come up, press into the hands to come up higher. Lift your chest first (from the back of your heart), and then the head follows. Firm the tailbone in towards the pubis and draw the lower belly in and up. Come up all the way up to a point where it feels good for you, still maintaining a connection from the pelvis to the legs.
- Bring the side ribs forward, draw the upper arm bones back, lengthen the neck.
- Feel the backbend through the entire spine.
- In the final pose you can look up, but only if you maintain length in the back of the neck - your chest needs to be very open, and you need to be able to lift through the sternum. To keep your neck safe, maintain length in the back of the neck at all times.
- Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
- To come out, lower the body down on an exhalation, give your body a minute rest, or you push yourself into Child's Pose and rest there for a minute or so.
You can also practise Sphinx pose Yin yoga style holding it for up to five minutes.
The difference is that you relax as much as you can in the pose, the belly softens and legs are relaxed. This is compared to a Yang style of using your muscles to actively lift your chest and engage your legs.
You can support the weight of your head with your hands or props.
- Take your time in this backbend. Only go as far as feels comfortable. Keep your belly pulled in and up, and the lower back long. Maintain the connection between your hips and the floor.
- Keep an eye on your shoulders - keep them away from your ears and the base of the neck relaxed.
- Point your elbows backwards rather than out to the sides.
- Strengthens legs, upper back, arms and shoulders
- Stretches the front of the body
- Relieves mild depression
Watch out for
This pose should be avoided or performed under supervision if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or headaches or you are pregnant.
If you are very flexible in this pose, you can get a stronger backbend by walking your hands slightly closer to your torso, straightening and lengthening the arms.
- Complementary poses
Try it in class
Teacher: Esther Ekhart
Level: All levels
Duration: 30 mins