by Anika Devore | September 8, 2015 4:03 am
It is very common to begin a yoga practice, after the initial establishment of breath, by moving through cat and cow pose. With a nice stable base in table top, this flow offers grounding as we begin to gently open up the back body and activate the core. It’s most vital purpose, however, is the opportunity it allows to connect the breath with movement. Let’s take a look at both poses individually to break down alignment and expression of breath.
Cow ( Bitilasana )
Although we refer to the flow as cat/cow, it is common to start with cow first.
Anatomy of the Inhale
We use the inhales during the practice to find a lifting quality. As we inhale, our lungs expand like a balloon filling up with air, so it’s natural that we should find buoyancy in this breath. In cow, the inhale lifts the sternum, pulling the heart forward and carrying our gaze to the sky. The inhale is our expression, our outward reach, pairing nicely with heart openers and extensions of the spine like cow.
Cat ( Marjyasana )
Anatomy of the Exhale
The exhale has a deep effect to the workings of the core and is therefore used when the abdominals are most engaged. In order to reach the end of an exhale, a deep contraction must occur in the very pit of the abdomen, forcing all air out. In poses of flexion such as cat, the exhale allows us to reach maximum front body compression. As the inhale is expansive, it would be difficult to round in on this breath. The exhale is protective and brings the attention inwards for introspection.
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 a neutral position should be. This establishes the alignment of the spine in poses such as tadasana(mountain), where our postural habits may misdirect the body. Take five to seven rounds of cat/cow, moving slowly and breathing deeply.
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