Updated: Oct 3, 2019
Here are two simple movements that help fuel an energetic momentum to my morning, keeping me open and resilient to the stress of the day. If you want to keep your spine strong, open and energetic, Cow & Cat to start every day. And don't ever miss a day.
There are several variations to accommodate this movement pattern, including performing from seated in a chair or standing, but here’s how it works from kneeling or Table Top pose.
Come down to your hands and knees. You certainly don’t need a yoga mat - perhaps just some padding for sensitive knees. Spread your fingers wide, as your hands support you under your shoulders, or placed ahead of your elbows to lessen force in the writs.
Now if you are dealing with replaced knees or an injury to the knee caps but kneeling is still achievable for you, place a folded blanket under the knees, bring the knee caps just beyond the plane of the blanket’s edge - thereby feeling more into the tops of your shins then direct downward pressure into the knee joints.
I prefer to place the top of my feet down against the earth, rather than curl my toes under with lifted heals, that way I have full access to my shins for stability - you’ll have to see what your ankles prefer here.
Press down through right and left hands evenly and energetically, sealing the bottom of each hand to the earth, but leaving a breath of space at the palm’s center. Melt your shoulder blades outward and spread open the area under the collarbones and armpits. Now feel how your rib cage can really expand on a deeper inhalation. It may feel sticky at first, so spend some time, just focusing on deep breathing into the ribs, front and back, with no other movement.
Since you’ll be working right into the spine, you’ll want your core musculature strong enough that the navel draws up toward the spine and sticks. Straighten out any pelvic tilt - start with a neutral back - as you activate your pelvic floor. Collect some data on your breath here to discern its natural rhythm. Don’t change anything about the breath. All of this is the preparatory work for the ebb and flow of Cow & Cat.
Think spinal stabilization and expressing the core muscles in a way they provide supporting strength for the spine as you follow the pace, flow or energy of your breath, drawing your heart forward between your hands through extension - top of the chest opens - lift your eyes forward and up, feel your pelvis want to tilt in a way that reveals a curve in the small of your back - this is Cow.
When you ready to take an exhalation, press down again into your hands, rounding your shoulders forward, drawing your heart up toward the back of your rib cage. Nestle your chin into your chest. You can accentuate the press up into Cat or hang out a bit into your bones here for a breath of two. Remain energetically connected down through your shins and tops of your feet, or toes, if you have them tucked.
When you’re ready to move forward into to Cow, feel your inhalation expand your rib cage. Draw the skin of your hands back against the earth, as you lift your eyes ahead and up, feel your vertebrae articulate open from your sacrum up to the cervical spine or neck, as you land back in Cow.
Move forward and backwards as your breath flows.Listen to the feedback of your body and bring along your head and hips in a way that feel good for you as you continue to explore the ebb and flow between extension and flexion.
Cow & Cat for a happy and healthy spine and to increase the nourishing energy at the start of and at any point during your day!