Yoga Poses

Sphinx Pose II Salamba Bhujangasana

Steps

Sphinx pose is a gentle backbend that is beneficial for beginners and students with injuries that prevent them from doing other backbends. It is also an effective and gentle backbend for experienced students.

To enter the pose, lie on the stomach with the feet hip width apart and arms bent at the elbows alongside the body. The palms are flat on the mat. Press the palms into the mat and gently lift the torso off of the mat. Shift the elbows so they are on the mat and directly under the shoulders. The arms make a 90 degree angle and the fingers are spread wide on the mat. The shoulders are back and away from the ears, and the head is lifted while the eyes gaze straight ahead. Gently press the pubic bone into the floor, relax the gluteal muscles of the buttocks and feel the stretch in the lower back.

To exit Sphinx pose, gently lift the body to Table Top pose by pushing back from the hands and bending at the knees.

Teacher Queues

Visualization Comments

Imagine and take the shape of a sphinx from Egypt as this pose is held with strength and poise.

Technical Comments

It is difficult for some students to feel the backbend of this pose if the lower back and the gluteal muscles are engaged. Once released, students should feel a backbend. Breath can help to relax the muscles. Inhale deeply while in the pose and consciously relax the muscles while exhaling.

Arm and shoulder positions are also key for proper execution of this pose. Elbows should be under the shoulders and shoulders should be back and away from the ears. The neck is lifted but not overextended.

Benefit Comments

  • Counters effects from long periods of sitting
  • Stimulates digestive organs
  • Opens chest
  • Stretches entire spine

Watch Out For:

  • Strain in the lower back
  • Shoulders tense and rising toward the ears
  • Tensing of lower back and gluteal muscles

Contraindications

  • Injury to spine, arms or shoulders
  • Pregnancy (see variation)

Modifications

  • If the backbend is too intense, extend the forearms forward, creating a wider angle in the arm.
  • Feet can be placed together instead of hip-width apart.
  • Perform half neck rolls (gently looking over each shoulder) to counter tension in the neck.

Variations

  • Sphinx on the wall: Facing the wall while standing, place the forearms against it and maintain a 90 degree angle in the arms. The abdomen does not touch the wall. Bring the shoulder blades together to experience the backbend benefits of the original pose. This variation is appropriate for pregnant students.
  • Include a gentle twist while in the pose. Inhale and look over the right shoulder to view the toes of the right foot. Exhale and move back to center. Repeat on the left side and continue with the rhythm of breath.

Yoga Counter Poses

  • Extended Child’s
  • Table Top
  • Alternating Cat and Cow

Written By: Kristen Porter

Kristen Porter is a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher, studio owner (www.ovcyoga.com), corporate attorney, wife and mom. Her passion is helping people realize their true strength and inner light by sharing wisdom learned through yoga, meditation and incorporating positive changes in her own life.

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