Yoga Bites: Cow and Cat: 2 poses can help to keep spine supple

By Sarah Hundley July 16, 2012 07:10 pm

Yoga Bites appears every four weeks.

Yogis say that we are only as young as our spine is supple, and there’s a lot of truth to that.

I need not tell you about the rigors of life and the toll they take on your body, especially the spine. Yogis practice poses that decompress and lubricate the spine to create and maintain elasticity and durability, which is the pathway to a more youthful and energetic body.

A common warm-up and cool-down move in yoga practice is Cat’s Breath. This simple flowing sequence, or vinyasa, consists of two complimentary poses alternating fluidly back and forth.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this power-packed vinyasa; it brings heaps of treats to the party. The two poses that make up this flow are Cow (Bitilasana) and Cat (Marjariasana).

Let’s begin on hands and knees, stacking shoulders over wrists and knees under hips with a neutral spine. If this hurts your knees, place a folded blanket, mat or towel under them. Spread your fingers and palms. Broaden the soles of your feet. You might like to smile.

Let the breath be the invitation to move. Inhale as you curl your heart and tail to the sky, dropping the belly toward the earth, like a contented purring cat. On the exhale curl the tail down and allow the spine to respond naturally to this wave as it ripples all the way up the spine.

Press what’s down, down more, and feel the corresponding lift that creates at center as you draw your navel in toward the spine and round your back high like a Halloween cat. Allow all of your worldly concerns to exit right out the top of your head, down into the earth to be transmuted. Continue this spinal dance letting the breath lead. Move slowly and gently as you follow your breath’s natural rhythms.

When arching in Cow keep the energy in your shoulders looping back and down, encouraging the shoulder blades to integrate fully onto your back ribs, which then lifts your heart and opens your chest from behind.

Press down into your fingertips while drawing energy up through the center of your palms, up into your shoulders, keeping the head of the arm bones engaged in their sockets. Hug muscle to bone.  Practice this for three to five minutes a day this week, and observe the effects of this healing tonic for your three treasures, your body, mind and spirit.

Mooing and meowing are optional. Many yogis like to add Lion’s Breath by reversing the breath and exhaling fiercely through the mouth when arching into Cow, sticking the tongue out and down with wide eyes.

Feel free to roar here. Let your neighbors hear it. Be playful, let go, and let flow. If you’re craving more adventure today, continue this vinyasa with your knees lifted one inch up off the mat for several breath cycles. Enjoy the release and relaxation these moments of self-care offer.

Sarah Hundley, a certified yoga instructor and massage therapist, owns Shambala Studio in Crescent City. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it