Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Warming Up: Seated Cat/Cow

It's time to start warming up our bodies.  

It is very likely, in a beginner yoga class, that two of the first poses (asana) you will learn are Cat Pose and Cow Pose.  These two poses are a common part of warming up and are usually done in sequence, on the breath.  The starting position for Cat/Cow is on all fours, in a table top position.  But today we are going to do them from a seated position.  You can do this sequence from Easy Pose, or any comfortable seated position - including sitting in a chair.  This sequence is a nice 5 minute break if you work at a desk!  It is a more accessible option if you have limited mobility and is also a more comfortable option if you have weak wrists,

Building mobility in our spine is very important and the combination of Cat/Cow incorporates both a forward bend and a back bend.  Doing these poses from a seated position is a more gentle movement, but if you have a back injury be sure to seek advice from a medical practitioner before practicing  ANY yoga!

Lets start with some gentle head rolls.  Let your chin drop towards you chest, and roll your head back and around.  Since we've already connected to the breath you may like to maintain this connection by allowing one full breath cycle for each rotation. Inhale as you take your head to the side and back, exhale as you take your head to the other side and forward.  Do a few slow, fluid rotations in each direction.

Now, bringing the head back to center we come into Cow Pose.

With your hands on your knees, inhale and bring the chest forward, expanding through the rib cage and tilting your pelvis back for a gentle back bend.

On the exhale, move into Cat Pose.  Tuck the tail bone and move back on your sit bones, letting your chin come towards your chest for a nice forward bend.

Continue these movements, on the breath for as many cycles as feels good to you.

To finish the sequence I like to do a gentle, seated twist.  From the same position inhale and lengthen the spine, and on the exhale take your right hand to your left knee and your left hand behind you and look over your left shoulder.  Hold the twist for a few breaths, lengthening the spine on each inhale and gently sinking more into the twist on each exhale.  Return to center on an inhalation and repeat on the other side.

Now we recross our legs and repeat the sequence

*** A note on recrossing the legs.  We recross our legs to have a balanced practice - we should practice each pose in a yoga practice on both sides.  For these seated postures there is no need to repeat everything twice, but it's important that you spend the same amount of time with your right leg on top in Easy Pose as your left leg on top.  If you don't have the time or the inclination to do everything twice there are other ways to ensure balance in your practice.  You can do the connection to the breath sequence with your right leg on top and then change your legs for the Cat/Cow warm up.  Or you can do your practice with the right leg on top today and your left leg on top tomorrow.  Do whatever works best for you.

You can find a short video of the sequence here.

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