How Cobra Lifted Me Up: Sivananda Yoga Posture Stories
By Stacie Saraswati Dooreck
Over time, our experience of yoga asanas evolves beyond the physical — the postures become our teachers and companions, showing us our relationship with ourselves and the world. Enjoy this collection of stories submitted by Sivananda Yoga practitioners from around the world, sharing their in-depth connections with each asana of the Sivananda sequence.
I was blessed to be born into a family that was already introduced to yoga as it came to the West. They raised me vegetarian after learning its health and nonviolence benefits from the gurus. I watched my father do Hatha Yoga in his meditation room as I grew up. As for me, I didn’t start yoga myself until my late teens. Despite being raised in a yoga family, I didn’t begin my own practice until it called to me personally.
The first call that brought me to yoga was my neck. At age 17, it called me in pain from too much waitressing and working out in the gym. In the privacy of my room, I tried a VHS tape of a yoga sequence. As if by magic, my neck pain was gone.
The second call to yoga was also a physical one. This was the one that acquainted me with bhujangasana, also known as the cobra. Prior to starting yoga in my teens, I remember getting painful menstrual cramps. I wanted them to go away, and after practicing the cobra pose for several months, my menstrual cramps disappeared. To this day, still a diligent yoga practitioner at age 42, I still enjoy life without menstrual cramps.
This major difference in my life opened my eyes to the other many benefits of the cobra. As a flexible teenager, I loved the advanced cobra pose, where I put my feet towards my head. It strengthened my lower back, increased my upper back flexibility, and gave me a fun challenge. I naturally and gradually started regulating my yoga practice through the rest of high school and into college.
When I entered college I started meditating and I learned the rest of the Sivananda Hatha Yoga sequence from the Sivananda Companion to Yoga book. The sun salutations, I learned, also included the cobra in every round. After completing the full Sivananda sequence, I felt a level of peace and relaxation I had never known before. Each day I was becoming more flexible, balanced, and able to handle the stresses of school, work, and my relationships.
By age 20 I enrolled in the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course in 1995. When I graduated the course and returned to my college dorm, I started to teach my friends all the postures — including my beloved cobra pose.
My late 20’s posed a new challenge for me, as I was no longer able to access the flexibility I had for my cobra practice … or any other yoga pose for that matter. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Feeling fatigue, stiffness, and other painful symptoms I was no longer able to practice yoga like I had before.
That’s when I discovered chair yoga. I learned I could perform cobra pose while seated in a chair. Chair yoga allowed me to still keep my practice, even with vertigo, fatigue, and pain. Practicing cobra in the chair not only helped me reduce the stiffness in my back, but it lifted my mood. I still feel this effect when I practice cobra in a chair, on the floor, or even in an airplane seat.
This opened my eyes to the rest of chair yoga. I was able to keep my balance, ease my pain, and maintain flexibility, even while recovering from disease. Now that I’m healed, I still practice yoga. I still practice the cobra. Sometimes in a chair, sometimes not. The beauty is it doesn’t matter how we practice — it matters only that we keep practicing.
Every week from January 1 – March 26, 2018, we will be sharing a new story — [mylink id="53600"]You can access all of the current ones here.[/mylink]