When I started my yoga journey, I’m happy to admit that I was clueless! I had very little knowledge of any yoga poses and had even less intuition about my own body’s needs. I was keen to ‘get good quick’ and often found a lot of the warm-up poses ‘boring’. I’d rush my body through these poses only focussing on what would come next, some more interesting strength poses or ‘cool looking’ inversions. Thankfully, through my journey to instructor, I have developed a deep love and respect for the poses I once rushed and snored over.
It’s very easy to gloss over our preparatory poses and forget the immense benefits these poses have in their own right. One such pose I’ll touch on today is a flow between cat (Marjariasana) pose and cow (Bitilasana) pose. It involves moving the spine from a rounded position (flexion) to an arched one (extension). Each movement is done in conjunction with either an inhalation or exhalation of the breath, making this a simple vinyasa (linking breath to movement).
There are many obvious physical benefits of Cat/Cow Pose, including increasing flexibility of the neck, shoulders, spine and stretching the muscles of the hips, back, abdomen, chest, and lungs. Less obvious benefits however include; massaging the gastrointestinal tract and female reproductive system. The flow between the poses helps relieve stress from menstrual cramps, lower back pain, and sciatica. Lengthening the spine improves circulation to the cartilaginous discs between the vertebrae, which in turn relieves stress from the back also helping to calm the mind. Have I convinced you to practice this pose yet?
While this stretch may look “easy,” it has powerful benefits for the mind. Settling in to the practice and linking our breath with our movement is so important to increase our coordination and to focus our intent for our further practice. This movement is also linked with balancing our minds and relieving stress. The movement of the spine in this flow helps to unblock the Chakras and awaken our energy. Cat/Cow Pose activates the Swadhisthana Chakra, the second chakra. When not fostered, a blocked second chakra is associated with deep emotional turmoil and depression. When nurtured, the movement enhances creativity and the ability to focus and learn. The flow itself is attributed to connection with your inner source of inspiration and the ability to experience joy
Cat Stretch held at its peak releases tension in the upper back and neck. Activation of the tailbone in cow pose emphasises the root movement of the spine, which increases flexibility for forward and backbends. i.e. if you’re working towards Camel (Ustrasana) pose – do lots of Cat/Cow!
There are many poses in our yogic tool box that we classify as ‘warm-up’ or ‘beginner’s’ poses that have a tendency to get overlooked. Hopefully I’ve convinced you to focus more on your Cat/Cow flow. What other poses do you tend to gloss over in your practice? I’d love you to comment below, especially if there’s a particular pose you’d like some more information on.
Our calves Mooey and Booey (what happens when you let a 3yr old name them). Booey is demonstrating the perfect cow posture (shoulders and tailbone raised, belly towards the ground).