A cobra is something to be feared by most people, but to many yogis it is a friend. Shiva is adorned with cobras around his neck, signifying his familiarity with the fear of death, abhinivesha. Shiva’s son, Ganesh, wears a cobra around his waist to pay homage to his father, showing his commitment to mastering his own fears. By grabbing hold of the cobra, the gods and demigods not only relinquished fears, but were able to find a route to immortality. The cobra signifies our ability to relinquish fear as we move along the spiritual path.
Buddha was once meditating under a bodhi tree when a group of cobras approached, lured by his stillness and peace. He sensed their presence but had no fear. Witnesses gathered around Buddha, but did not come too close because of the snakes. It began to rain and the people were concerned for Buddha, but still did not go near for fear of the snakes surrounding him. The largest of the cobras came up behind Buddha and drew himself up as high as possible. Once raised, he opened his hood creating a canopy under which Buddha sat, quietly continuing his meditation. The observers were awed by the generosity of the cobra.
To take cobra pose, lie on the stomach with the forehead on the floor. The hands come to chest height with the fingers at shoulder level pointing toward the head. Tuck the elbows firmly to the side body and allow the shoulders to relax away from the ears. Press the tailbone down toward the heels so that the pelvis presses into the floor. The toes will push into the floor. Begin to lift the head and shoulders from the floor, concentrating on casting more length in the low back and curving more from the tips of the shoulder blades. Only lift as high as is comfortable for you. If there is any pain in the low back, try turning the heels out to the sides to relieve it. Breathe deeply and try to hold for 5 long breathes before relaxing back down to the floor.