Many yoga poses are named after animals and other things in the natural world that they…
Sphinx Yoga Pose is an asana that resembles the Great Sphinx at Giza as you use your bent arms to support your body. Although it’s an easy pose that most beginners can practice, looks can be deceiving. It’s important to remember that even the simplest of asanas can provide a wealth of benefits to all levels of yoga practitioners.
As a passive backbend, Sphinx Pose is an ideal way to either warm up for a backbend intensive yoga practice or decompress your spine afterwards.
When using a more active approach, this pose will help you gently prepare for deeper backbends by developing and toning the muscles of the front- and backside of your body.
Sphinx Pose in Sanskrit
Although this pose is more often referred to by its English name, it’s original Sanskrit name is Salambha Bhujangasana. Salambha translates as “supported” and Bhujangasana means “Cobra Pose.”
As the Sanskrit name of this pose indicates, Sphinx Pose is a supported version of Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), in which you use your bent arms to hold yourself up as you allow your lower back to relax into the backbend.
It’s an ideal “leveled down” version of Cobra Pose that can be practiced if you’re having lower back issues and need to avoid more active back bending postures.
The Benefits of Sphinx Pose
Both active and passive approaches to Salambha Bhujangasana will help open up your chest and release your shoulders. It may also help correct spinal defects by realigning the vertebras, especially under the supervision of a trained therapist.
This pose massages your internal organs while at the same time improving your blood circulation and calming your nervous system.
It will also help you relieve tension and fatigue because it stretches your lower back, hips, and psoas muscles, thus helping you to release any stress and anxiety that might be stored in your body.
Traditionally speaking, it’s believed that Bhujangasana and Salambha Bhujangasana increase the temperature of the body and awaken Kundalini energy, which then ascends the central channel and activates the seven major chakras on the subtle body.
Contraindications – Who Should Avoid This Pose
You should avoid Sphinx Pose if you’ve injured your back or have any issues with your neck, chest, or ribs.
If you’ve recently had surgery on any of these areas or the thorax, you should wait before practicing this asana.
This yoga pose isn’t recommended for pregnant women, as it puts pressure on the front belly.
Anyone with spinal injuries or vertebrae alignment issues should first consult a doctor and ideally only practice yoga under the supervision of a teacher or therapist who has been trained in physical therapy.
Sphinx Pose Step-by-Step
- Start in Advasana (Reverse Corpse Pose) by lying down on your belly, facing the mat. Keep your arms relaxed and by your sides and your forehead on the floor. Your feet may be touching or slightly apart.
- On an inhale, move your hands inwards and bend your elbows to prop yourself up on your forearms. Your elbows may be directly under your shoulders or slightly in front of them. Spread your fingers wide to create a solid foundation on the ground.
- Take long, deep breaths in and with every exhale, allow your shoulders to relax a bit more and roll back to expand your chest.
- Gaze a few feet in front of you or towards the sky. If you lift up your chin, make sure that you’re not compressing your cervical spine.
- To make this pose more passive, allow the rest of your body to maintain just enough muscle engagement in order to keep this shape.
- If you want to practice a more active version of this pose, roll your shoulders back and down, push your chest forward, and elongate your spine by rotating your thighs inwards in order to activate your glutes without clenching your buttocks.
- If your feet were apart, bring them feet together and press your legs together to form a Cobra tail with your legs stretched out behind you.
- Regardless of whether you’ve decided to stay active or passive in Sphinx Pose, bring your awareness to your lower belly. Without sucking your belly in or hardening your core, slightly lift yourself up to create a dome towards your lower back.
Variations with Props
To help with the belly lift, you may roll up a towel and bend it into a “U” shape. When you lay on your belly, let the bottom of the U rest underneath your lower belly and the sides of the U hug both sides of your tummy.
To come out of Sphynx Pose, simply release your arms and lower your body back down onto your mat into Advasana.
Stay in Reverse Corpse Pose for a few breaths even if you remained in a passive version of Sphinx Pose for several minutes. This will allow you to bring your awareness to all of the sensations that your system is experiencing and will help you understand your body better.
As you breathe in this recovery pose, you may feel most of the sensations in the base of your spine, lower back, and neck.
While the Sphinx Yoga Pose is an easy beginner pose, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. As a backbend, it delivers many benefits to your body. It can be a suitable therapeutic posture for those with spinal misalignments and lower back tension, as well as for those who suffer from stress and anxiety.
Regardless of whether you add this pose to the beginning or end of your yoga practice and whether you approach it in a more passive or active way, make sure to give your body enough time to truly sink into the pose and release any existing tension.