If you come to my classes you know my warm-up well as it’s always the same. It’s because I feel that my warm-up is brilliant and I don’t me to say that I feel I am brilliant unless of course I add all of us in the equation and say we are all brilliant in our own unique way. But I do believe that the warm up I teach in my asana classes is brilliant. I have really thought about it and explored a variety of options that always fall short. When I prepare a class some of the things I reflect on include the following:
Kramas: progressive unfolding’s of the body. What needs to be awakened first for the body to stabilize and release;
Stability, flexibility and integration;
Move the spine in all six directions;
Offer postures from every family: standing, balancing, seated, twist, back bends and inversions;
Chakras and how to bring energy and support equanimity;
Energizing the body and centering the mind;
Heat and coolness - building and reducing - expansion and contraction – active and passive; and
I think about you and the sacred time you have to explore your body, to listen to your vibration and support a curious connection between your mind, your body and your breath and become very conscious when the mind begins working for the ego through judgment, expectations and comparison.
Part of my warm-up includes Cat Cow because warming up the body with this brilliant movement has the following benefits:
Gently prepares the spine;
Awakens the deep abdominal muscles;
Enhances wrist flexibility and strength;
Awakens the first, second, third, fourth and fifth chakras which means grounding, fluid energy, inner fire and concentration, openness and compassion and listening abilities; and
Brings awareness to the *three energetic body locks.
*The three energetic body locks are connected to the three diaphragms which include the primary thoracic diaphragm located at the base of the lungs, the pelvic floor and the vocal diaphragm located in the throat. If we are breathing in accordance to our true nature when we inhale the thoracic diaphragm and the pelvic diaphragm move downwards and the vocal diaphragm moves upwards and they all move in the opposite direction on exhale. I say if we are breathing in accordance to our true nature as many of us are shallow breathers and many have poor posture which has a negative impact on the breath.
For example, one of the issues some experience is that they have a continuously contracted and tense rectum which creates a forward thrust with the hips. This can also create extreme tension and weakness in the pelvic floor causing all sorts of physical discomforts such as back pain, not to mention a weakening of one’s ability to contain energy.
When we talk about energetic locks it can seem esoteric or confusing but the more we practice cat cow the more we can create a direct experience to feel, connect and work with these centres as cat cow offers an opportunity to play with all of them when we round the back. If we focus on lifting, not squeezing, contracting or tensing but simply lifting the pelvic floor, inviting the thoracic diaphragm in towards the rib cage at the bottom of the exhale and allow for a connection between the throat and the chest we have all three energetic body locks awakened. We may not be aware of this the first few hundred times we practice but eventually it all starts to fall into place and we awaken aspects of our being that support a sense of equanimity and harmony.
There is no doubt that connecting with the energetic body locks is an advance practice but the beauty about cat cow is that it’s a practice that can be practiced by most beginners and the more we practice it, the more we tune in to it and the more we experience its depth and realize that most of us will never out grow its amazing benefits.
Cat Cow points of focus:
Do spread the fingers and push the floor away from the body. Don't lean into the hands and avoid collapsing in the lower back or through the scapula's. As you inhale arch the back and let the heart centre lead the way as it moves through the gates of the arms. As you exhale, let the sacrum lead the way, feel the lift of the pelvic floor, invite the thoracic diaphragm to move under the rib cage and bring the chin to the chest, the chest to chin. At the top of the inhale be present to fullness and the bottom of the exhale be present to emptiness. Let the breath lead the way. Effort and focus and yet effortlessness and lightness.
“May we continue to be blessed with the courage to always keep-up and the wisdom to always let go!” Om Shanti Sylvie