The Improved Cobra

The traditional back bending stretch, or the cobra borrowed from yoga, is far from perfect. First, many comrades, especially ladies, have a hard time supporting their weight in that position and therefore cannot concentrate on the stretch. Second, the length of your arms restricts the amount of stretch. Both problems are easily fixed if, instead of supporting your weight in the pushup position, you place your hands atop an object whose height matches your flexibility—be it a chair, the kitchen counter, or a training partner.

It is normal to experience cramps in your back. If you experience discomfort in your spine you are doing something wrong or have gone too far. If you have back problems make sure to get your doctor's permission to do various back bends.

Keep your arms and legs straight, point your toes, and open your chest. Elongate your spine, striving for the sensation you have experienced in the decompression hang. Go beyond stretching your spine; lengthen your whole body starting from your toes and finishing with your fingers. This maneuver opens up the spaces between the vertebrae and gives your discs and facet joints more room to play.

Inhale and flex your butt and abs. Flexing the abs means bracing them for a punch, not sucking them in or sticking them out. If you have a hard time getting it, a punch can be arranged.

'Wrap' your spine around an imaginary ball. Don't just bend back; you will jam your spine and have injuries rather than flexibility to show for your efforts!

Release your breath and tension. Your hips will sag.

The improved cobra is a two-step stretch. The next step is to inhale and 'wrap' your spine around an imaginary ball. Do not just bend back; you will jam your spine and have injuries rather than flexibility to show for your efforts! Unlike thoughtless back bending, 'elongating/wrapping around'does not limit the movement to a couple of lower back hinges but articulates the entire length of your spine. The result: greater flexibility, lower back stress.

Relax for a few seconds and repeat both steps: tension/release, followed by elongation/wrapping around.

It is normal to experience cramps in your back. If you experience discomfort in your spine or sacrum you are doing something wrong or have gone too far. Some comrades with back problems are not supposed to hyperextend their spines at all.

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