Fig. 13.2b: Cat Pose—Back Arched Up
Bidalasana (bidala means "cat" in Sanskrit) is most popularly referred to as "Cat Pose" or "Cat Stretch," and alternatively by some practitioners as "Cat-Cow Stretch." This stretch uses deceptively simple yoga movements that can help you strengthen and stretch the spine simultaneously.
To prepare for Cat Pose, assume a kneeling position on the floor. Try to practice this exercise on a carpeted surface or with some padding under your knees to protect them. You should be on all fours—the knees directly under the hips and the hands under the shoulders. The feet should be flexed (toes curled under) and the palms and fingers pressed firmly into the floor.
As you inhale, curve the area of your lower back downward as you lift the head, creating a hollow downward curve in the area just above the upper ridge of the back of the pelvis. Continue to inhale as you progressively increase the downward arch of the spine and back. Feel the movement extend all the way into the middle back, upper back, shoulders, neck, and head so that your nose is pointing directly forward or up. Allow your back and shoulder areas to remain wide and broad, as illustrated in Fig. 13.2a. (This is the "Cow" portion of "Cat-Cow Stretch.")
Smoothly, without pause, exhale as you reverse the curvature of your spine, once again initiating the movement in the lower back. Point your toes so that the top surfaces of the feet rest on the ground. Compress the abdominal area to initiate an exaggerated arch upward, continuing the movement through to the middle back, upper back, shoulders and, last of all, the neck and head. Your nose will now be pointing in the direction of the floor, as illustrated in Fig. 13.2b. (This is the "Cat" portion of "Cat-Cow Stretch.")
Continue to practice Cat Pose. Breathe rhythmically: as you inhale, arch your back downward; as you exhale, arch your back upward. Perform this Cat Stretch for several rounds of rhythmic breathing if you are a beginner, or for up to for several minutes if you are more experienced in the pose. As you alternately arch and round the spine, become aware of the effect of this stretch on your entire back, not just on the area around the center of the back surrounding the spine. Feel the effect of the strengthening and stretching radiating all the way out from the spine to your sides and even around to the front of the chest. As you perform these stretching movements, be aware of the movements of a cat as it spontaneously stretches its back. When you've finished performing Cat Pose, relax for a moment in Child's Pose. Be aware of how this stretch has affected you. Does your back feel differently than before you began the stretch? Do you feel differently—emotionally, mentally, and/or psychologically—as a result of this yoga posture?
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