Cobra Yoga Pose vs Upward Dog

After more than ten years of teaching yoga classes, I realized that some practitioners who are at the beginning of their yoga practice can very easily interchange poses that are very similar to each other.  The two poses that are most often interchanged are the cobra pose and the upward facing dog pose.

Although seen from the side, these are almost identical poses. The main and basic difference is in lifting the legs off the floor. Specifically, the lower legs, knees, and thighs are lifted off the floor when you practice upward facing dog. On the other hand, in the cobra pose, the legs are firmly supported on the yoga mat.

Having in mind the fact that these are essentially completely different poses, each of the mentioned poses has completely different benefits for the practitioner.  When we are talking about cobra pose, we should remember that we have two types of cobra pose. We have lower and upper cobra. Therefore, the benefits are different, all depending on which pose is practiced.

In the lower cobra, the lower abdomen is on the yoga mat, the elbows are bent. In this pose, there is a bend only from the lower back, while the elbows remain close to the body. The pose of the lower cobra can also be practiced with S sound breathing. When lifting, inhale through the nose, while lowering, an S sound exhalation can only occur through the mouth.

The lower cobra can be practiced as a preparatory pose for entering a full cobra, the so-called upper cobra. In this pose, the lower part of the back, the so-called lumbar part, is most affected. It is a very pleasing pose for people who sit for eight or more hours a day. Also, when you include S sound breathing, it will calm and relax your nervous system.

Cobra Pose

When the upper cobra pose is practiced, the practitioner fully lengthens his arms, pushing the yoga mat with his palms. In this pose, there is a complete abdomen lifting from the yoga mat. The support is only on the pubic bone of the practitioner. Of course, the legs remain leaning on the yoga mat all the time. The neck lengthens, the gaze is forward, and at times toward the nose. In the upper cobra, there is a fine stretching of the entire spinal column, from the lower part all the way to the cervical vertebrae.

At the same time, in this pose, in addition to stretching the muscles of the back, arms, and neck, there is also stretching of the muscles of the abdomen, front part of the foot, and hip flexors.

In addition to the physical benefits to the practitioner, by practicing the cobra pose, the practitioner can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression. Since the “stretching” of the front side of the body is practiced in this pose, it has been scientifically proven that this is why the pose itself is very useful when dealing with depression.

The cobra pose is characterized as a pose that lifts the mood. It leads to increased levels of self-confidence. So, if you are facing a lack of self-confidence, the cobra pose, above all the upper cobra, is the pose for you. Therefore, the pose of the cobra is great for people who are constantly exposed to stress and anxiety disorders.

In addition to the fact that it is great for improving the posture of the practitioner, it also leads to improved sleep. When it comes to the cobra pose, the last but certainly not the least important benefit is the possibility of reducing the inflammation process itself.

The upper cobra pose can be practiced in yoga sequences aimed at opening the heart chakra. If you feel that your heart chakra is closed, feel free to practice the upper cobra in addition to other poses recommended for opening the heart chakra. Allow yourself to love your heart again, allow your heart chakra to be purified, to shine with its full splendor. To shine with pure green color.

The upward facing dog pose is far more challenging than the cobra pose. The fact that the practitioner lifts lower legs, knees, and thighs from yoga mat certainly makes this pose a more physically demanding pose than cobra.

Upward Dog Pose

In this pose, the practitioner also lengthens their arms completely, pushing the yoga mat harder with their palms than in the cobra pose. The greater thrust occurs because the practitioner lifts their legs from the yoga mat. The feet also serve as a push-up for the practitioner in case the practitioner does not have enough strength in hands to completely lift the body from the yoga mat. In this pose, the practitioner opens the chest to a greater extent than in the cobra pose. Therefore, the shoulder blades are closer to each other.  The practitioner throws their head back completely, directing his or her gaze to the third eye, more precisely to the position between the eyebrows, or to the nose.

For this pose to be done completely, that is, for the practitioner to take advantage of the pose itself, it is very important that the shoulders are away from the ears. With that in mind, the blocks can be used as support in this pose especially when the practitioner doesn’t have strong arms. In that case, the practitioner will place palms on the blocks, which will be positioned slightly in front of the shoulders. Essentially, the position of the blocks itself is an individual thing, which can be influenced by several factors: the length of the practitioner’s arms, arm extension, and arm strength. The goal of the blocks themselves is to enable the practitioner to fully stretch, both in the back, neck, arms, and legs. To lift legs, move shoulders away from ears, to gradually develop strength in arms.

This pose is great for strengthening the muscles of the hands, but it is also great for strengthening the wrists.  Since it is also a pose in which there is a backward bend, upward facing dog is also a good pose in terms of stress, depression, and anxiety disorders. It is also great for opening the heart chakra.

If you want to include in your daily routine one short yoga sequence concerning the poses that open the heart chakra, you can practice the following poses.

The first pose you would start with would be the sphinx position. It would be followed by the pose of the lower cobra. You can practice this pose as static or dynamic. If you practice a dynamic position, feel free to insert an S sound breath. The upper cobra is logically next.

In the end, upward facing dog is a pose that comes as the crown of the previous ones in this yoga sequence. You can stay in static poses for up to ten breaths. You can repeat dynamic poses up to ten times.

Keep in mind that both poses can be very challenging for practitioners who are at the beginning of their yoga practice. However, don’t let that discourage you.


About the author

Urosh Martinovic

Urosh Martinovic is a yoga and mindfulness teacher. He has experience in more than 7,000 guided classes. His work includes 1 on 1 online classes and workshops. Uros is a founder of holistic portal for Balkan Moja Solja Joge (My cup of yoga).