Cat/Cow – Cakravakasana
Improves the flexibility of the spine and circulation in the torso. While stretching the shoulders, back and hips. Can be used as a warm-up pose or after more strenuous poses to help release tension in the body.
Begin in table pose with wrist directly under the shoulders and knees below the hips. Arms are straight but elbows are not locked. Spread the fingers out with the middle fingers pointing straight ahead. Lengthen the spine an keep the head, neck and spine in a straight line. Supporting the weight of the body evenly exhale and begin to tuck the tailbone under you and round and lift your upper back toward the ceiling tucking the chin toward the chest, visualize yourself as a cat stretching after waking up from a nap.
Inhale as you curl your tailbone up toward he ceiling so your stomach moves toward the floor and your lower back gently arches then bringing the head forward pointing the crown of you head toward the ceiling and gaze straight ahead. Beginning each movement with the tail bone and ending with the crown of the head.
With the pose one can practice coordination the breath with movement. Exhale as you round and lift the upper back and inhale as you gently arch your lower back. Be aware of using the entire spine to perform this stretch, making sure that back of the neck and your lower back are not compressed when you curl your spine. Feel the spine lengthen in each direction as your tailbone moves away from the crown of your head. As you round and lift your upper back, keep the shoulders relaxed down.
Flow to: Extended Balancing Pose/Ruddy Goose reaching in opposite directions with opposite leg and arm keeping body/hips level, holding and stilling the body.
Physical Benefits: can help relieve constipation and aids digestion. Can help relieve lower back muscular spasms and aching. Increases spinal flexibility. Opens the lower back and abdominal cavity. Increases circulation. Stimulates thyroid and parathyroid function. Therapeutic for mild carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sciatica and lower back injury.
Mental Benefits: Energizes the mind, relieves mild depression and anxiety and reduces stress.
Counter Pose: they are their own counter poses
Adaptations/Variations: If one has wrist problem you can do this on your fist placing the knuckles, instead of the palms, on the floor. Or place a folded town underneath the wrists and heel of the palm of the hand with the fingers on the mat. If the knees are an issue once can place a towel under the knees. Also can be done sitting on the mat with the legs crossed and hands on the knees. This can also be done sitting in a chair or leaning against the wall.
Contraindications: Use caution if one has back, wrist or knee problems. Best done on an empty stomach. Avoid if having stomach pain or cramps and during menstruation. Avoid if having severe carpal tunnel syndrome.