Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Sphinx Pose

Sphinx Pose is the infant of backbends. It can be practiced with either an active or passive approach.


Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.

Sphinx pose is the gentlest of backbends. In this pose, you are supported on your elbows and forearms, which enables you to explore the mobility of your spine and the muscles of your back. This pose also requires an open chest; you can feel a front-body stretch from your pelvic bones to your chin.

Sphinx Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions

Video loading...
  1. Lie on your belly, legs side by side. Firm your tailbone toward your pubis and lengthen it toward your heels. Then, rotate your thighs inwardly by rolling your outer thighs toward the floor. This helps broaden and lengthen your lower back and sacrum (the downward-facing triangular bone at the back of your pelvis) to protect it in a backbend.
  2. Reach actively through your toes to the wall behind you. As you move into the pose, be sure to continue lengthening your tail toward your heels to protect your lower back. Your buttocks should be firm but not clenched. While your legs are active, your tongue, eyes, and brain should be quiet.
  3. Now set your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms on the floor parallel to each other. Inhale and lift your upper torso and head away from the floor into a mild backbend.
  4. The final step to building a solid foundation in Sphinx Pose is to bring awareness to your lower belly, the area just above the pubic bone and below the navel. Lightly draw it away from the floor to create a dome that rounds up toward your lower back. This is very subtle—no sucking in, hardening, or rigidity required. This belly lift supports and distributes the curvature of your backbend more evenly along the length of the spine, soothing your lower back and awakening your upper back.
  5. Stay for five to 10 breaths, then exhale and slowly release your belly and lower your torso and head to the floor. Turn your head to one side. Lie quietly for a while, broadening your back with each inhale, and releasing any tension with each exhale. Repeat once or twice more if you like.

Sanskrit

Salamba Bhujangasana
Suh-LUM-buh. BOO-zhan-gah-suh-nuh

salamba = supported
bhujanga = snake, cobra
asana = pose

Sphinx Pose basics

Benefits

  • Strengthens the spine
  • Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
  • Firms the buttocks
  • Stimulates abdominal organs
  • Helps relieve stress

Traditional texts say that Bhujangasana increases body heat, destroys disease, and awakens Kundalini.

 

Beginner’s Tip

Roll up a towel and arrange it in a U-shape on the floor. Lie with the bottom of the U just above your pubic bone and the legs of the U under the sides of your belly to help support the belly lift.

 

Teacher tips

Offer alternatives for students who are experiencing headaches or who have back injuries.

Variations

Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia

Sphinx Pose

Place a folded blanket under your hips for extra cushion at your hip points.

Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia

Sphinx Pose against a wall

Stand with your toes an inch or two from the wall. Place your hands and forearms on the wall with your elbows at shoulder height. Press your hips toward the wall and arch your back, looking up slightly. Keep your shoulders back and down away from your ears.

Why we love this pose

This pose is such a gentle backbend that it’s almost restful, but it allows you to keep your back mobile and flexible.

Preparatory and counter poses

Preparatory Poses

Follow-up Poses