When actors are asked to play an older character the first thing they do is they start walking unsteadily, with their back hunched. In most people's mind old age and a hunched back go hand in hand.
Even in their 70s and 80s yoga practitioners don't fit this picture. If they look younger than their age, and they often do, it's also because their backs remain straight and supple. A good posture does indeed make you look younger.
Women who have started yoga when they entered the menopause often struggle with back bends, especially those who spent years sitting at their desk and paid little attention to correct posture.
Being over ambitious with your backbends can backfire and lead to lower back pain due to the compression of vertebrae.
That's why it's so important for a teacher to observe a student's posture and only select poses that are beneficial to her. Even a Cobra pose, which is regarded as a pose suitable for beginners, can pose certain risks.
A Low Cobra variation brings all the benefits of a backbend, without the risks.
The therapeutic benefits of backbends are well known: they are energizing, can help alleviate depression and over time they can even straighten out an unflattering slouch.
To reap the benefits of backbends, one doesn’t have to create the deepest arch. A smooth, even arc of the spine is preferable to a deep arc in the lower back. Rather than searching for intensity, here we have to search for evenness.
When Low Cobra is done correctly, the navel should touch the floor, your legs provide the power and support for your spine to gracefully extend, and your pelvis and belly act together to decompress and support your lower back, thus avoiding the tendency to overarch.
Your shoulders should be drawn away from your ears, your neck should feel long, so jutting your chin forward must definitely be avoided.