“Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace.” - Bhagavad Gita
Spine = Foundation
Have you ever heard anyone use the term "get a backbone?" Perhaps you’ve used it yourself. Or "that person is so spineless." Well, there is a scientific reason behind these old adages. It turns out the spine is linked to many things, courage and confidence included.
The spine is our foundation; it connects all four extremities and includes a connection to help control the shoulders and diaphragm. The spine is the channel through which the brain influences the body, controlling your movement and organ function. It is also connected to the hips, which allows us to walk the way we do, separating us from the rest of the bipedal kingdom animalia. We are unique in that we are among the minority in the animal kingdom with a spine, and we are the only ones who stand and walk upright.
You can tell a great deal about a person’s holistic health just by the way they are standing. If you are feeling ill, then your posture will naturally be more slumped. When you’re feeling fit and energetic, an upright position with shoulders back is the natural posture your body assumes.
Cat Cow Vinyasa (Marjaryasana / Bitilasana)
Vinyasa: Synchronization of breath and movement
The cat and cow vinyasa is a great flowing movement to work on your spine and really get a backbone. A key feature of this vinyasa is the breath and movement synchronization. When you synchronize your breath with your movement you develop greater focus and awareness, and you also build mastery and strength.
These poses are meant to help correct your posture and your inner resilience. The unlikely coupling of cats and cows shows us how much we can learn from each other. When we choose to work with each others’ strengths instead of on the weaknesses, we can accomplish great things and reap unbelievable rewards.
Let’s take a closer look at the individual poses.
Marjara - Cat
Asana - Pose
Cats have historically been attributed many traits—in fact in ancient Egypt, cats were so revered that the penalty for killing a cat was death. They have been assigned traits such as independence, unpredictability, cleverness, intelligence, healing, and the popular "nine lives theory."
Benefits of Cat Pose:
- Increases flexibility for forward bends and backbends
- Emphasizes the root movement of the spine
- Increases secondary spinal curves and decreases the primary spinal curves
- Purifies the blood and regulates the blood circulation
Bitilia - Cow
Asana - Pose
In ancient days cows were venerated in many religious groups. Today they are still associated with deity in the Hindu religion. In Hinduism, Krishna the cowherd is associated with devotion and selfless motherly love; other ancient peoples linked cows with fertility and abundance. The cow is seen as a source of food and a symbol of life.
Benefits of Cow Pose:
- Increases primary spinal curves and decreases the secondary spinal curves
- Stretches the front torso and neck
- Stretches the chest and neck
How To Do Cat-Cow Pose
- Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.
- Hands are shoulder width apart directly under your shoulders.
- Knees are hip width apart with knees directly below your hips.
- Fingers are fully spread with your middle finger pointing straight ahead.
- Center your head in a neutral position as you gaze on the floor.
- Your back is flat and horizontal.
- Inhale, and curl your toes under.
- Let your belly button drop to the floor.
- Lift your head to gaze at the ceiling, concentrate on the third eye, and lift your tailbone towards the sky.
- Concentrate on your spine, and as you move into cow pose, keep your shoulder blades spreading, moving your spine segmentally and not as a unit.
- This move will be more slow and deliberate initially until you are accustomed to moving your spine in segments.
- Exhale and release the tops of your feet flat on the floor.
- Tuck your tailbone under, focusing on moving from the lower vertebra; concentrate on moving the spine in segments (slow and deliberate movements initially).
- Work your way up.
- Draw your navel towards your spine.
- Drop your head, looking towards your navel.
- Exhale fully.
- Focus on your breath as you flow through the movement.
- Let your breath synchronize with the move.
- Repeat the cat-cow movement with each inhale and exhale.
- Continue for as long as you need to.
- As you flow through the asana, creating a dance between your breath and movement, imagine yourself flowing through life with the same ease and fluidity.
Do this move everyday for 1-3 minutes for at least 7 days. Note the difference it makes and any changes you feel mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Health Benefits of Cat-Cow Vinyasa
Here are some of the benefits you will get from regular practice of this vinyasa.
Body Benefits of Cat-Cow Pose
- Increased spine flexibility
- Released tension in the back, shoulders, and neck
- Toned abdomen
- Massaged digestive organs
- Stretched hips, back, abdomen, chest, and lung muscles
- Increased coordination
- Released lower back for expectant mothers (it guides the baby through the birth canal in a safe position during delivery)
Mind Benefits of Cat-Cow Pose
- Improved intentional focus
- Increased emotional balance
- Calm mind
- Relieved stress
- Cleansed emotional energy stored in your diaphragm region
Spirit Benefits of Cat-Cow Pose
- Stimulated Swadhisthana (sacral) chakra
- Balanced agni (digestive fire: agni is our ability to process all aspects of life, including food)
- Enhanced creativity
- A deeper connection with intuition
- Energy blocks up and down your main chakras removed
- Old emotional traumas, jealousy, pain, and anger dissolved
- Restored balance to your entire system
Precautions when doing Cat-Cow Pose
- Modify practice if you have wrist pains.
- Avoid if you have knee pain and injury.
- Avoid if you have back pain or recent back injury.
“Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace.” Bhagavad Gita