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Bhujangasana is the name of a body position, or pose, from the hatha yoga system, and is known as the cobra pose. It involves lying on one's stomach, then lifting up the chest and abdomen while the pelvis, legs and feet remain firmly pressed into the floor, and the arched upper body is supported by keeping the palms flat on the floor with arms bent, for beginners, or straight for more advanced practitioners. Bhujangasana involves many different muscle groups and parts of the body, and can help strengthen the back muscles, increase the flexibility of the spine and stretch the abdomen and shoulders. The word bhujangasana is Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language, and bhujanga translates as serpent or snake, while asana translates as posture or seat.
Poses, or positions, in yoga are often called asanas. Yoga originated in India and refers to many different practices and disciplines that involve various kinds of meditation and exercise to improve mental and physical well-being, as well as attaining spiritual insight. There are many types of yoga, including karma yoga and bhakti yoga, but hatha yoga is the type of yoga that is best known in the Western world. Hatha yoga was originally developed in the 15th century as a system of physical and mental training that would help hindu practitioners, so-called yogis, mediate for extended time periods.
In hatha yoga, bhujangasana is a pose said to have many beneficial effects on the mind and body. For example, it is said to strengthen the kidneys, destroy disease, increase body heat, relieve fatigue, and improve blood circulation in the spine. This yoga pose can also help relieve back pain, by stretching various muscles in the back and increasing muscle strength. Bhujangasana also works out the muscles in the buttocks, abdomen, and chest. It is important when doing the bhujangasana that one does not arch the neck and lower back excessively, and this pose should not be attempted if one is pregnant or suffering from problems with one's neck, back, or wrists.
Bhujangasana is often part of the so-called sun salutation, Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit, a well-known sequence of hatha yoga poses. The sun salutation can be done as a purely physical exercise, but can also incorporate various types of meditation. In this sequence, Bhujangasana is often preceded by Ashtanga Namaskara, salute with the eight limbs pose, and followed by Salabhasana, locust pose, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward facing dog pose.