Seated Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Flexion and extension of the spinal column will help to keep the discs lubricated, nourished and in full range of motion. Begin in a seated position, with a tall spine and arms extended. Rest the hands on the knees. Upon the inhale, begin to bring the torso forward, lifting the heart center and drawing the shoulder blades together and down. The elbows will bend here to bring them close to the ribs allowing the back to arch in the attempt to increase air coming in. Be sure to bring a full, deep breath in that reaches the bottom of the lungs. A good “cue” is to imagine the sternum and belly reaching away from each other.
As the exhale naturally follows, begin to straighten the arms and draw the heart center back as the shoulder blades spread out across the upper back. The chin is slightly tucked as we gaze down and “hollow out” the belly. Round out the back as the sternum and belly draw towards each other. Complete the exhale to the count of four and, if possible, exhale further to a count of perhaps 6. Note that the longer the exhale, the more “stale”air can be expressed from the bottom of the lungs. Be sure to keep it within a range of effort that is not an over exertion. Keep in mind the lengthened exhale, with a fair amount of control, holds the potential to elicit a deeper relaxation response in the body.
Note: The Cat/Cow name derives from the “table top” position, which is on the hands and knees. The Cow pose is the belly dropped, back arched and heart center lifted forward on the inhale. The Cat pose refers to the rounding up like a Halloween cat and drawing the belly to the spine pressing the hands and tops of the feat into the floor to assist a long, fully complete exhale. This is also an excellent variation and way to explore spinal flexion and extension. Repeat 5-8 times (Figures 9‑10).