As a gentle backbend, cobra pose is great for strengthening and increasing flexibility in the spine, as well as opening up the chest and shoulders. This makes it effective for improving posture, plus the heart-opening aspect means it’s also great for the heart chakra. Through engaging the lower body, Cobra works the glutes, too, and can even help with sciatica.

It may hold some additional health benefits, too. In traditional yogic texts, cobra pose is said to help helps destroy disease in the body, and even awakens kundalini energy. Chiropractor and yoga instructor Emily Kiberd, D.C. notes that, in line with these ancient teachings, many people believe cobra is a good pose for the immune system—it’s thought to stimulate the thymus, an organ responsible for the growth of T-cells.

You’ll likely wind up doing cobra pose in yoga classes, particularly during sun salutations—but you can also do it anytime you feel the need to stretch your back and open your chest (like after sitting over your computer for hours). Whenever you do decide to do it, expect a nice energy boost and a more flexible spine.

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