[Pose Of the Week] Give Your Spine a Gentle Stretch With Cat Pose (Beginner)
Wake up your body and mind and release stiffness and tension with Cat Pose…
You are likely most familiar with Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) as part of a flow in conjunction with Cow Pose (Bitilasana). However, Cat Pose can also be done on its own, or in a sequence with other poses as well.
This beginner pose provides a gentle massage for your spine, back, and internal organs, and also helps strengthen and tone the abdominal area. Cat pose makes a great stretch to wake up your body in the morning, and it is also helpful – especially when combined with Cow pose – for those with back pain or stiffness from sitting. This pose also helps to relieve tension and stiffness in the back and shoulders, improves blood circulation, builds arm strength, and improves balance. It is also thought to improve focus, coordination, and memory, boost oxygen levels, and increase your energy. (This is why this pose is best done in the morning, rather than right before bed.)
Just about anyone can benefit from Cat Pose, but if you have severe or recent head or neck injuries or low blood pressure, you may consider skipping this one. You also should not do this pose on an empty stomach.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to do Cat Pose, according to GotYoga.com:
The cat pose is usually recommended for morning routines. Before you start the preparations for the pose, make sure you have a towel and a mat near you.
Start the Yoga practice by thinking about an intention or a goal you may have that can be accomplished with the help of asanas and concentration, and place yourself on the mat.
Balance on your hands and knees on the mat.
This starting position is called “tabletop.” It helps you relieve the stress and gently stretch your muscles in the morning.
Make sure your wrists are right under your shoulders and your knees are right under your hips. Always synchronize your wrists your shoulders and your knees with your hips.
A few recommendations:
- Keep your back straight but do not engage your back muscles
- Lower your gaze and extend your neck forward to draw a straight line from your head to your tailbone
Start by taking away the pressure on your joints. Spread the fingers and keep your middle finger facing forward.
To maintain your balance, press all of your fingertips on the mat. You can use a soft towel under your hands to protect them too.
If you suffered injuries in the past, protect your wrist by coming down on your elbows. Place your elbows under your shoulders and bring your forearms down on the mat too.
Connect your body movements with your breathing.
Breathing techniques play a big part in the practice of yoga, start by focusing on controlled breaths while you are on your hands and knees.
Start by inhaling deeply the vital force in your lungs. Pause and exhale slowly…
As you exhale, slowly round your spine towards the ceiling while keeping your tailbone low. Think of a cat that is stretching. This is what your pose should look like.
Roll your shoulders back and tuck your chin. Keep your eyes facing the floor.
Make sure you do not force your shoulders or your chin. Keep the moves smooth and relaxed.
Stretch your neck forward and relax. Do not try to stretch it too hard, as your chin does not have to touch your chest.
Take a deep breath and gently contract your abdominal muscles towards your spine as you take the air in and release the pressure on your core.
Repeat the same movement along with the breathing up to 10 times.
You can either return to the “tabletop” stance when completing the exercise, or move on into Cow Pose or another pose as suggested here.
(Image Credit: GotYoga.com)