Postures named after animals and nature remind us that we are all interconnected with each other. The world is an inspiring place and there is so much to learn. Cats, for example, are experts in relaxation. When they wake up from their sleep they stretch and arch their spine in the both directions before moving. So why don’t we?
Cat pose or marjariasana, as we call it in Sanskrit, is practiced as a back-opening exercise in many schools of yoga.
So how can you do the cat pose at home?
• Start on all fours, in a tabletop position, with your palms placed under your shoulders and knees under the pelvic bone. Relax your toes making sure they’re pointing backwards.
• Spread your fingers as wide as possible so that the weight comes on the tips of your fingers rather than your wrists.
• Look down so that the back of the neck is straight.
• Now, stretch your shoulders away from the ears. Show your neck! So now the tip of the head and the tailbone is in one straight line.
• Inhale and point your chin and tailbone up, pushing your shoulders further away from your ears. You should be feeling a contraction in the muscles of your spine and a stretch in the muscles of your abdomen.
• Now exhale and drop your head down, pointing your chin towards your chest and your tailbone towards the yoga mat—making the abdominal region as hollow as possible.
• Continue moving your spine in this manner synchronizing with your breath for at least 10 to 12 times.
• Finally sit in vajrasasna to come back from the exercise.
How can the cat pose benefit you?
1. Well, it massages your internal organs
Abdominal organs like adrenal glands and kidneys are massaged while doing this yoga pose. It stimulates the organs and strengthens them.
2. It strengthens and revitalizes back muscles
The cat pose activates the spine by increasing blood flow and releases the tension around your neck and upper back area.
3. It is a bonafide stress buster!
Anytime you’re stressed out, just roll out your yoga mat and do a few rounds of this. This exercise with its breathing patterns connects you to the present. This simple pose can power up your brain and improves focus, coordination, and mental stability.
4. It is a great morning ritual
This is one of the few exercises that you should do right after you wake up in the morning and especially if your back is stiff.
5. It’s a great warm up for your yoga practice
The cat is one of the best poses to start your yoga journey with. This pose improves the flexibility of your muscles and enables you to advance to more complex poses.
The best part? You can do the cat pose sitting on a chair
If you are reading this, looking at your laptop from your office desk—you can still do it! Keep sitting and place your feet in a way so that the heels are placed right under your knees. With an erect spine grab your knees gently and start with the flexion and extension of your spine. Keep your breath in mind.
The breath in this pose guides and accentuates the flexion and extension of the spine. Because of the opposing motions of the spine we start to find the middle ground where our neutral position should be. This establishes the alignment of the spine while doing some poses (asanas) where our postural habits may misdirect the body.