How to do a Pilates Cobra Stretch

Cobra stretch

What does Pilates Cobra exercise do?

This exercise aims to sequentially mobilise the lumbar spine into an extension position. Cobra exercise also aims to stabilise the spine in extension and into the scapulothoracic joint (shoulder blade region).

This exercise can be useful for athletes requiring full spinal mobility such as divers or gymnasts. It can also be used to help lower back pain and leg pain.


Lying on your tummy, with a small pillow or support under your forehead, arms bent into an ‘L’ shape position, feet a little wider than your hips.

Inhale to prepare.

Exhale, slide the shoulder blades downwards, and begin to sequentially extend the spine off the mat. First lift from the breastbone, then continue to peel the ribcage away, rib by rib, and then the lower abdominals off the mat. Ensure the back of the neck remains long throughout the movement.

Inhale to hold this position, keeping the collarbones wide and neck long.

Exhale and sequentially lower the spine back onto the mat. Beginning with the lower abdominals, then the ribs, one by one, then finally the upper body back onto the mat, keeping the neck long throughout.


– Reduce the range of movement

– Move hands forwards in the starting position to limit the amount of lumbar extension.

Cobra stretch video demonstration

Top Tips

  • Make sure your neck remains long throughout the movement and avoid your chin lifting up to the ceiling.
  • Avoid any locking through your elbow joints
  • Avoid hyperextending your lumber spine – keep control and stability throughout the movement.

Avoid Doing this exercise if:

  • You have spondylolisthesis of your spine.
  • If you have acute low back pain or sacroiliac pain

If you are unsure whether this exercise is suitable for you, you should always seek professional medical advice.

See more Pilates exercises

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