How to Do a Cobra Exercise

Two Parts:Getting in the Starting PositionPerforming the Exercise

Used in yoga, the Cobra Exercise is a simple maneuver that can help to strengthen your abdominal and lower back muscles. It doesn’t require anything in the way of equipment, just a space where you can comfortably lie face down on the ground. It is an easy exercise for beginners to help strengthen muscles and develop greater flexibility.

Part 1
Getting in the Starting Position

  1. Image titled Do a Cobra Exercise Step 1
    Make sure you have the space for the exercise. You’ll be lying straight out, so make sure you have the room to stretch the full length of your body on the ground. You don’t want to twist your body any way, or else the exercise won’t work properly.
    • The ground needs to be level as well. An incline will impact the way your muscles work, and either not give you the full benefits of the exercise, or could lead to injury.[1]
    • If you have a yoga mat, laying it out should show if you have enough space.
  2. Image titled Do a Cobra Exercise Step 2
    Lie down on your stomach. Stretch your body out with your head facing forward. Your torso, thighs, and feet should be firmly planted on the floor with the tops of your feet facing downward.
    • Your back should be straight up and down, but your shoulders should be hunched slightly forward, putting your spine in a “C” position.[2]
    • Make sure your toes are pointed straight out. They should stay this way for the whole exercise, which will help strengthen your spine.[3]
    • The cobra exercise is a stretch, so you won’t need to do any stretching beforehand. Just get to the ground and start.
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    Tuck your hands and elbows against your body. You will be using your arms for support when you push upward, so they need to be ready to expand and help keep your balance.[4]
    • Bend your elbows to pull your arms up against your body.
    • Put your hands under your shoulders.
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    Breath slowly. Once you are in the proper position, focus yourself by slowly inhaling. Close your eyes while you do this. This will help you focus your mind and body before the exercise.[5]
    • As you breath, feel the stability in your body as it rests on the ground. Think about your pelvis, thighs, and the tops of your feet, imagining them rooted to the ground. This can help you keep them there as you raise your upper body.
    • Exhale gradually and slowly open your eyes.

Part 2
Performing the Exercise

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    Push your torso upward. This is the key movement in the exercise. Raise your head and shoulders upward as far as you can go, looking like a cobra ready to strike.
    • Inhale as you raise your body upward.[6]
    • You can use your arms to help push you upward. Extend your elbows as you move your head and shoulders. Your arms are there to support you, not carry the weight. Make sure you don’t lock them, or do anything to put extra pressure on them.[7]
    • Make sure your hips stay on the floor, or at least elevate only a little. You don’t want them doing any of the work. This exercise is for your back and abs.[8]
    • Position the rest of your body properly. Make sure your glutes are firm, but not hardened. Puff your side ribs forward by firming your shoulder blades against your back.[9]
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    Hold the position. Stay up for 15 to 30 seconds, not letting yourself sag or fall back down. Keep yourself elevated and facing forward to keep the muscles contracted and working.[10]
    • Make sure your shoulder blades are pulled back, which will make your chest stick out.[11]
    • Breath slowly while holding yourself up. 5 to 10 slow deep breaths, depending on you how feel, should get you in a good range of time for staying up.[12]
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    Slowly lower yourself back down. Return your upper body to the floor, bending your elbows and returning to your original position. Move slowly, as you don’t want to strain yourself by flopping back to the floor. A controlled motion is part of the stretch.
    • Exhale as you lower yourself back to the floor.[13]
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    Do around 10 reps. Like any exercise, push yourself a little more each time you do it. You don’t need to do this every day, but it is one you can do several times a week.[14]
    • A really good time to do this exercise is after you’ve been sitting for a while. Sitting hurts the natural “S” curve in your back, and the Cobra forces you into this position.
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    Try alternate forms of the exercise. While the Cobra exercise is very simple, there are other ways to approach it. These can either help if you have certain restrictions to your movement, or give you the opportunity to deepen the stretch.[15]
    • If you are stiff, and can’t do the exercise on the floor, use a chair to help. Brace a metal folding chair against a wall, place your hands on the front edge of the seat, and put the balls of your feet on the floor.
    • To deepen the stretch, especially if you already have some flexibility, walk your hands forward and straighten your elbows. Keep your sternum pointed toward the ceiling, which will force more effort onto stretching your back.


  • Some people like to hiss when they do this, to keep the Cobra in their mind. As long as you are breathing regularly, go ahead and try it.[16]


  • You are at risk for abdominal and shoulder muscle strains are injuries that may occur if you do the exercise incorrectly. Make sure to keep your abs, shoulders, and back straight when you do this.
  • The Cobra position focuses on the back muscles, so if you have back problems, this is not a good exercise to start with.

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Categories: Personal Fitness | Yoga