The sphinx is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and a human head. In traditional Indian lore, it is said to take away the sins of the devotees when they enter a temple, and to ward off evil in general. We can think of the mythical sphinx as a gatekeeper, or guardian, as it is found across ancient cultures guarding the entrances of temples.
Similarly, in yoga the sphinx posture, or Ardha Bhujangasana (half cobra posture), can be thought of as warding off the evils of neck and shoulder pain and tension. Nowadays so many of us spend long hours sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer. This weakens the shoulder girdle, and when the shoulder girdle is weak, stress causes the shoulders to start creeping up towards your ears, and neck and shoulder tension ensues.
Sphinx posture helps to alleviate neck and shoulder tension by stabilizing the shoulder girdle. It also creates an overall lengthening of the spine to decompress vertebrae (although those with low back pain should use caution and/or seek the advice of a qualified yoga teacher).
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