August 2, 2012

Yoga Cat-Cow Pose

Cat-Cow pose includes the Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) and Cow pose (Bitilasana) combined together in a gentle flow. Cat-Cow pose is a great pose for the back. Movement begins from the hips and the rest of the body follows.

Begin in Table pose; on hands and knees with the hips over the knees and hip distance apart, hands under the shoulders and arms perpendicular to the floor. Head is in a neutral position and an extension of the spine. The back is straight with the spine in a neutral position.

Starting with Cat pose; on your exhalation, contract the belly taking it to the spine, round the spine up to the ceiling, tucking your tailbone, and draw your pubic bone forward. Simultaneously let the head drop toward the floor without forcing the chin to your chest. Then follow with Cow pose; Inhale, coming back to Table with a neutral spine. Continue the inhalation let the belly drop toward the floor and the head coming up gazing forward. Simultaneously lift your sit bones up and press your chest forward. Continue Cat-Cow at your breath rhythm, moving the body with the breath, repeating the combo 10 to 20 times.

Benefits of Cat-Cow pose: Can help posture and balance, stretches the spine and neck as well as strengthening, stretches the hips, massages the spine and internal organs, works the core, opens the chest to allow more breath to come in, and a good warm-up for the back. The movement with the breath in Cat-Cow relieves stress and calms the mind (long slow breath).

Warning: If you have a neck injury or pain let the head remain as an extension of the spine, not letting it drop and lift. Practice only the Cow pose if pregnant or with back injuries, coming back to a neutral spine each time.

Modifications: Use blanket, towel or folded mat under the knees if you need cushion to be more comfortable on the knees. If wrist problems fold a blanket or towel and place the parts of the palms closest to the wrist on the prop to take out the 90 degree angle in the wrist. Another way to protect the wrist is to use a stack of blankets or towels to place under your forearms.

Try a few gentle slow rounds of Cat-Cow when you wake in the morning, or after sitting for a long time. This may help your posture.

Next week I'll post the seated version of Cat-Cow pose for those that have trouble getting to the floor or if seated for any length of time to massage the spine if you are unable to get to the floor.

Healthy & Happy,
Yoga Chuck

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