Upward Facing Dog and Baby Cobra are often used interchangeably throughout a yoga class. What’s the difference?
Baby Cobra is a great pose to start with, so if you are new, I would stick with this one for a while. Baby Cobra is a baby backbend. Baby Cobra also puts less pressure on the low back, so if you are feeling pressure in Upward Facing Dog, that would be another reason to stay with this one. Upward Facing Dog gives a bigger stretch to the front side of the body and helps to open up the chest, heart and lungs.
As you learn both poses, feel free to use which one feels right to you as you flow. Personally, I like to start out my practice with Baby Cobra the first time or two through any series with these poses and then decide if which one I want to use, to give my body time to feel the baby stretch first and ease into the practice.
I’ll describe both poses coming from plank, as is done in the half series as this is where we often find these poses.
Baby Cobra: From plank (or kneeling plank) gently shift forward as you hug your elbows in towards your ribcage on the way down through Chaturunga. Allow your body to come down slowly, never rushing. Come all the way down to the ground and keep your hands where they are (typically under your shoulders) as you find a very gentle backbend. Your hands stay down, but if you want to practice and notice the correct height to come up to, lift your hands off the ground for a moment—you should be able to stay right where you are in your gentle backbend.
Upward Facing Dog: From plank, gently shift forward as you hug your elbows in towards your ribcage on the way down through Chaturunga. Here’s where the difference starts: hover when your elbows are in line with your body. Start to flip your feet so the tops of your feet come down onto the mat and press into your hands as you lift the front side of the body. The only body parts touching the floor should be your hands and the tops of your feet. Open up through the front side of the body. Keep your thighs firm and slightly turned inward. Relax your shoulders (so they are not hunched towards your ears) as you gaze forward or slightly up, being careful not to compress the back of the neck.
From either pose, you can press back to Downward Facing Dog or from Baby Cobra, feel free to sink back into Child’s Pose.