These two poses when connected in a flow offer tremendous benefits to the body. They are beginning poses, a warm up of gentle flexion and extension of the spine as it releases tension in both the front and back body. They stretch the neck, gently massage the organs and increase circulation within and around the spinal column. They teach proper pelvic movement for greater ease in all our other motions. The tension that builds in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine and surrounding tissue can lead to imbalance and ultimately “disease” in the body. Another wonderful benefit is the fact that these poses strengthen and tone the arms, shoulder girdle and abdominal muscles! WHEW!….Ready to try them yet??
It must be noted as we attempt any pose that full awareness to the breath is key as we move in and out of this flow. It is essential to tap into the sound and fluidity of the breath while observing the sensations of various parts of the body we may become aware of while practicing. In fact, that is exactly the point. We are trying to form a dialogue with the body — our very own body — that we are not often even aware of. This way we can tend to it and heal it. For example, while reading this, draw your attention to your shoulders. Where are they? Relaxed down? They sure would appreciate that. How about your mid/low back? Are the muscles of your core (front torso and back torso) even or do you feel stress in the back body because you are leaning forward, as we all do chronically? Let’s breathe some awareness into the amazing bodies of ours and begin the healing!
Start on all fours, making sure your knees are comfortably resting. You may need a towel folded underneath them. Your knees are hip distance apart as you incline the torso forward and place the hands (big open palms) flat on the floor directly under your shoulders. Pressing into the floor with all fingers and palms flat, on your exhale tuck the chin and round the spine towards the ceiling as you tuck your tailbone under. Shoulder blades are spreading to the ceiling while you imagine the belly button pulling up into the spine. This “cat” is done on the EXHALE. It is a big, slow and purposeful out breath for the count of four. Avoid sagging into the shoulders, and free any tension in your neck by trying “easy” not trying “hard.” Don’t over extend; just feel the breath and exhale here.
Now, we inhale (slow, big, to the count of four). Let the abdominal muscles relax down as you reverse the tilt to the hips. You are sticking your rear up and away here. The shoulder blades are sliding down towards the hips, and the collar bones are lifted forward. Lift the head, and gaze as the chest opens and moves away from the waist. Cow pose.
Flow in and out of these two poses following the breath for as many as 15-20 rounds. Resting your hips back on the heels, open the knees and bring the torso to the floor placing the forehead face down on it or on folded forearms resting for a few breaths in Child’s pose. That’s another pose we can explore!
Dianne Saywell works full time as a dental hygienist at a local dental office educating and helping patients maintain their oral health. She also spends her time introducing people to and sharing the healing power of YOGA and the health it brings to the body, mind and spirit. She offers group classes and private sessions at all levels, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.