One of the most common poses in yoga class is bhujangasana, cobra pose. This heart opener promotes flexibility through the spine. When in full asana, the yoga practitioner embodies the magnificence of wide-hooded cobra. No matter if your cobra is a baby or fully-hooded, the serpentine movement required of bhujangasana will open you into the energy of the cobra. This serpent energy is perfect to embrace as we near the new year. During this time, we begin to shed layers, release past restraints, and set intentions for growth and abundance. The serpent is depicted in almost every culture. Although in some traditions the serpent represents a dark force, in the yogic tradition the serpent takes various auspicious forms. In Tantra, the snake is the “kundalini energy” coiled at the base of the spine ready to spring up and release latent power. In Hindu myth, the time between the last world ending and the next world beginning,Vishnu, the god of Preservation, sleeps on the mighty coils of the great snake Ananta, also referred to as Sesa, in the primordial waters. This great ancestral snake is the residue of everything on Earth being both flexible and strong enough to transmute, grow, and protect.
In Buddhist tradition, Buddha is said to have been protected by a great serpent as he meditated during a thunderous storm. In both Buddhist and Hindu traditions, serpents function as the “door guardians” at entrances to shrines and they are thought to inhabit the earth’s waters residing as maintainers of fertility and keepers of the life-energy stored within the streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans of Earth.
According to old religions which worshiped the goddess, the serpent represents the energy of birth and regeneration. The serpent, laying against Mother Earth is considered the embodiment of feminine energy that governs the cycle of birth, death, and regeneration.
Humans strong aversion, repulsion, and attraction to the snake is a testament of the powers of this earth-bound creature. A snake will usually shed 4-8 times a year and the process lasts from 1-2 weeks. During this time, the snake’s eyes go cloudy and their vision is impaired causing them to act aggressive. Humans follow a similar process. We too “shed our skin” a few times a year: most often at the New Year, change in the seasons, a time of loss or gain, birthdays, and, for some, the time of the full moon. During the time when we are removing subtle energetic layers, we too can become vision impaired: unable to see our future, we often get irritable, excited, and act in unexpected ways as we release old parts of ourselves to grow bigger and stronger.
During these times of change, many of us will try to resist or rush the transformation occurring afraid of the unknown and our partial blindness to what the future holds. When you embrace the serpent energy within, you embrace the powers of transformation without resistance. As you move towards 2014, tune into the renewing powers of the serpent. Just as bhujangasana warms and extends your spine, it also opens your heart and exposes your front body. This is a vulnerable yet powerful expression of strength and tenacity. With the flexibility and openness generated in cobra pose we find the our power to change our habits, shed old layers, and reinvent ourselves.