Also known as: Makarasana
Target: Chest, back and chest
Crocodile Pose (Makarasana) is a yoga pose for beginners that relaxes the entire body and helps relieve pain associated with other yoga poses or other activities. By lying on your stomach with your chest and shoulders rested, you relax your lower back and widen your chest and shoulders. This pose is a great way to release stress.
This yoga pose can be done as a closing pose to end your session or sequence.
After the body is stretched and warmed up from the other poses, do Crocodile Pose to return to a relaxed state. It can also be incorporated in yoga sequences to relieve shoulder and back pain.
All you need to get started is a yoga mat or soft surface to lie on. Even the more advanced versions of the Crocodile Pose don’t require any yoga straps or yoga blocks. Yoga towel is optional.
Crocodile Pose has many benefits involving different parts of the back. The deeper the stretch, the lower the posture in the back. Since we rely on our lower backs during many daily activities, even sitting upright at a desk, focusing on this part of the body can feel relaxing. People with back pain, especially lower back pain, may find relief.
This pose is also said to be beneficial for people with spine related health problems. Since many people suffer from stooping due to poor posture or spine problems, Crocodile Pose challenges the body by relaxing the spine and reducing the tension that builds up in that area.
Keeping your back in a straight line also aligns your upper body with your hips. This can widen the hip and may help relieve pain or discomfort in the hip.
When your chest is lifted off the ground, Crocodile Pose also opens your chest and shoulders. You may also feel a stretch in your arms and neck. This pose can be especially beneficial for people who don’t use or stretch their upper body much.
Step by step instructions
To do Crocodile Pose, you need a soft surface to lie on. Carpeted floors, yoga mats, or other comfortable surfaces will do. You also won’t need any equipment, but you can use a yoga towel at any time during the process.
1. Start by sitting on your knees, doing a form of Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana). Extend your arms in front of you so that your hands touch the yoga mat. Safely extend your legs back so that the balls of your feet are touching the yoga mat.
2. Lower to the ground. First, lower your foot to the ground so that the top of your foot is on the ground.
3. Then, lower your hips, stomach, chest and shoulders to the mat. You should face down, elbows in to the sides, palms down.
4. Bring your hands to the front of the mat. Slowly cross your arms in front of you, creating a fulcrum so that your forehead rests.
5. Optional: Bring your hands to the side and press your forehead to the ground. Place your toes on the mat to stretch your legs and straighten your spine.
6. To challenge yourself and stretch your lower back, raise your upper body similar to the upward direction of the dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). This move will help open up the chest and release tension in the shoulders and back. It will also improve flexibility in your lower back.
7. Release the pose by returning to the starting position. If lifting, lower your chest slowly. Rotate your arms safely to avoid shoulder discomfort.
While the Crocodile Pose is a beginner pose with a low risk of injury, it’s important to prioritize safety by maintaining proper form.
Don’t get tired
If you enter an elevated version of the position, you will want to look upwards. However, your gaze should be forward. If you enter the lower version of the position, your gaze should be downward. Avoid looking up as this can strain your neck. Tilting your head back can also strain your neck as well as put pressure on your lower back.
Do not enter a plank position
The plank exercise has many benefits, but this is not the same as the Crocodile Pose. The plank position has both the lower and upper body lifted and pushed off the ground. In Crocodile Pose, your lower body should press against the mat. Getting into a plank position also puts beginners at risk of losing their balance and falling to the ground. A board also puts pressure on the wrists and forearms, which is not the Crocodile Pose’s goal.
Rotate your arms and shoulders carefully
As you lower your body to the ground and find a comfortable position for your arms and hands, you may need to carefully rotate your shoulder blades. Do it slowly to avoid injuring your shoulder. Whether you choose to lower your head to the ground with your arm by your side or raise it above your arm, control the movement of your arm for seamless movement.
Rapid lifting can strain your back
Crocodile Pose is meant to relieve tension in your back. However, entering the pose too quickly can do the opposite and cause more stress in that area. If you choose to lift your upper body, do it slowly and with complete control. This will help increase flexibility in your lower back without putting you at risk for a back-related injury.
Modifications and Variations
Need a modification?
While Crocodile Pose is a beginner pose, it requires a lot of control and flexibility in your back. Beginners looking for a pose to end their sequence may prefer to start with Corpse Pose (Savasana), is also a relaxing pose.
If you cannot lift your palms, lie in a horizontal position. Try to raise your shoulders by placing your hands at shoulder height and raising them a few inches at a time. As you build up your flexibility, you can lift yourself higher to feel a deep stretch in your lower back.
Want to join a challenge?
Crocodile Pose can be made more difficult for those who are already more advanced or want to stretch the lower back deeper. Once you’ve mastered the upper body lift, which helps flex the lower back, try lifting your legs at the same time. Your abdomen, hips, and upper thighs will touch the mat, although your feet, chest, and head will be raised. This requires balance and flexibility in the rear. You will also use your core to support you.
When you’re ready to move on to the next challenging pose to relax and stretch your back, you’re probably ready for Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana). This is another beginner pose that is similar to Crocodile Pose, although it jumps straight into lifting the upper body to stretch the back without looking down.
Another challenging pose to try after this is Bow Pose (Dhanaruasana). Start by lying face down on a yoga mat. Bend your knees so your feet come closer to the center. Reach back and grab your ankles. Slowly lift your chest and legs off the yoga mat. You’ll feel this pose in your lower back, but it will also open up your chest and shoulders much like Crocodile Pose.
Safety and Precautions
Crocodile pose is considered a safe yoga pose for all beginners. This move will give you some pain relief, but if you have pain doing this pose, release the pose safely, slowly, and with control.
Pregnant women should not do this pose as it requires you to lie on your stomach. Advanced versions of Crocodile Pose also require balancing on your core.
If you have pre-existing pain or conditions involving your spine, back, neck, or shoulders, check with your doctor to see if it’s safe for you to do this pose. Similarly, if you’ve recently had surgery, consult a medical professional before returning to yoga.
Combine this yoga pose and others into one of these popular yoga sequences geared toward back stretching:
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