Cobra and Upward Facing Dog are two energizing poses. These are both backbends that can open the chest and strengthen the lower spine. Cobra is the beginner’s version; Upward Facing Dog is more challenging.
To enter into Cobra, you begin by lying on your belly. Bring your hands alongside the chest with the palms flat on the floor and the elbow lifted. The fingertips should align with the tops of the shoulders. Then, lift your head and chest up off of the floor, leaving everything below the belly button pressing into the floor. To help you strengthen your lower back, press the toenails into the floor. Make sure that your feet are pointing straight behind you, rather than tilting to one side or the other. The feet should be about hips’ distance apart. You will feel the benefits of this pose by pressing the chest forward and drawing the head back.
If you want to move into Upward Facing Dog, you straighten your arms and then lift the lower body up off of the floor. The only parts of the body that are touching the floor are the palms and the tops of the feet. Instead of caving in the chest and pushing the shoulders forward, you should pull the shoulders back and press the chest forward. In Upward Facing Dog, you should feel a powerful stretch along the front of the body.
This pose can be done on its own or it can be done in a Sun Salutation sequence. When this pose is actively done, the benefits become quickly evident. One of the most enjoyable versions of this pose is the “fingertip” version. Instead of using palms, you use your fingertips with elbows bent outward, away from the body. The fingertips should press into the floor as you lift your arms, chest, and head. The chest presses forward and the shoulders squeeze together. It is a glorious pose for people who have especially tight shoulders.