Friday, July 13, 2012

Center Yourself with Cat-Cow Yoga Vinyasa Poses

Vinyasa means synchronizing your movements to your breath. Inhale- move to one asana or pose, exhale- move to another. It's calming to your mind and relaxing to your body. When I'm going through a routine, breathing in and out, I just close my eyes and lose myself in my body. It has never failed to rejuvenate me.

The Cat-Cow sequence is a stress-relieving and emotionally balancing vinyasa routine. I do this whenever I have a free moment and want to stretch out my spine and center myself. Other benefits include: strengthening your spine and neck, stretching your lower torso (e.g. hips, belly, and back,) stimulating organs in your abdomen, and improving your overall balance and posture.

You begin in Tabletop pose. Stand on your hands and knees with your wrists and elbows directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Stretch and space out your fingers so you feel very grounded through your hands. Point your toes back throughout the sequence. Keep your spine flat in a "neutral" position and relax and elongate your neck, looking at down at the floor. (image credit)

As you inhale, move into the Cow pose. Arch your back, lowering your belly towards the floor, and lifting your tailbone upwards while pressing your chest forward and up. Face towards the ceiling. Relax your shoulders from your ears. Try to do most of the movement in your upper back, allowing the rest of your body to follow suit. As always, keep your shoulders and jaw relaxed so you avoid tension and continue breathing. (image credit)

Then, when you exhale, move into the Cat pose seen below. Round your back upwards, allowing your chin to drop towards your chest- but do not force it. Let your head drop to the floor. Tuck in your tailbone and gaze towards your bellybutton. Keep your shoulders relaxed and in place as well as your hips. (image credit)

Continue to slowly and gently move into the Cow pose with each inhale, then the Cat pose with each exhale. Breathe deep into your lower lungs and belly. Try to extend your belly out as you breathe in, imagining it filling up with air, then pull your belly in as you exhale, as if you're deflating all the air out of it. Continue for 5 - 20 breaths depending on how long you want to do it then return to the neutral Tabletop pose to finish.

Don't worry if you're not getting the pose exactly right or if you're not following the deep belly breathing technique I described above. As long as you synchronize the inhales and exhales to the Cow and Cat poses and you feel a change in your body, you're doing yoga. Do not push yourself into poses, just breathe yourself into it and let your body relax and take over.

If you do yoga, what poses do you like to relax yourself when you have a minute in the day? If you don't do yoga, will you try this? If you do, how did you like it? You can answer in the comments below!

Note: I am not a doctor or any type of medical/physical professional. My advice is given because it works for me, not because a doctor or professional said so. If you have any questions about your physical ability, please check with your doctor or physician first for all matters. 

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