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What’s the difference between Cobra Pose and Upward Facing Dog?

July 22, 2014

Ouch, Kate Hudson, what’s wrong with this yoga pose?


Poor Kate Hudson is stuck between a photographer, a stylist and a fashion designer in attempts to produce a compelling advertisement for her new clothing line. She may be doing a good job of it. What she’s not doing a good job of however is modeling a yoga pose. She’s also not unlike many yogis who are confused and stuck between cobra and upward facing dog.

Check out below where I tear apart unassuming and open-to-criticism Kate Hudson’s pose (celebrity status…stinks sometimes. I have a feeling she even knows she’s offending yoga teachers everywhere with this).

But first, let’s answer a few questions.

1. What IS the difference between cobra pose and upward facing dog?

They’re both backbends (poses which put the spine into extension) but put very simply, the difference is straight arms v. bent arms and thighs up v. thighs down. This info-graphic from does a fantastic job of explaining it. Note the starred items which illustrate the differences. Also notice how many similarities there are – not just in terms of alignment, but action (press your feet down, reach through the crown, lift the lower abdomen, etc.)


 2. Which pose should I do in my vinyasa flow yoga practice?

Here are a few guidelines about which may be best for you:

1. New to yoga? Stick to cobra for a while. There’s even a pose called Baby Cobra which is a gentle version of the pose that helps you learn how to align your body, cultivate the strength it requires and builds you up slowly over time into Full Cobra Pose.

2. Back hurting? You might be experiencing compression in the lumbar spine (super common!) so ask your teacher to help you make adjustments and stick with cobra until you feel free of that pressure when you strike the pose.

3. When in doubt, stick to cobra. It’s a really powerful pose and to be honest, you can hang there and get really strong through the arms, chest, upper and lower back without ever lifting off the ground. At the moment, I think upward-facing dog is a bit over rated. Sorry updog. Also there are so many wonderful variations of cobra pose that you’ll never be bored. Stay tuned for a video on this…straight from the Beyond The Mat living room studio!

Whichever pose allows you to open the chest with the strength of the rest of your body without causing compression on any joints, then that’s the pose for you. Typically beginners learn cobra for a while until upward dog becomes accessible. It requires all those qualities listed in the graphic above: lengthening of the legs, pressing of the feet and hands, activating the arms and upper back and toning of the stomach muscles. Until you have cultivated those qualities in your practice and have learned how to put them all together to open up fully in cobra, then you should probably avoid Upward Facing Dog.

Too many people practice upward facing dog incorrectly and repeatedly because the pose is done many times in a vinyasa flow, power yoga or Asthanga vinyasa yoga class. This leads to cranky backs, wrists, shoulders and repetitive strain injuries. Yoga injuries are the WORST to heal. They take forever. So it’s your best bet to ease up and avoid them.

So what exactly is wrong with Kate Hudson’s yoga pose?
a. Her hands aren’t actively pressing the ground.
b. The heads of her shoulders are pointing forward.
c. She’s not engaged through the legs.
d. She’s not lifting from the abdomen.

Basically, she’s doing boudoir yoga, not healthy, mindful yoga. No, Boudoir Yoga is not a thing. Yet. (Although this does tempt me to search the web for more yoga celebrity bloopers.)

Any more questions? Leave ’em here.




One Comment leave one →
  1. February 25, 2017 10:50 pm

    Thank you 🌸

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