1. Child’s Pose (Adho Mukha Virasana)
Physical Benefits : Stretches and tones the spine, the muscles on top of the feet, ankles, shins, buttocks and hamstrings. Lengthens the shoulder girdle thus relieves tightness and pain in back and neck. Reduces high blood-pressure, alleviates menstrual cramps, relieves fatigue, stress, headaches, dizziness, restlessness, acidity and flatulence.
Therapeutic Benefits : Nervous system is soothed and heart is rested.
Limitations: To be avoided if you have knee injuries, incontinence or diarrhea.
How To Practice : Start by sitting on your heels, knees hip-width apart, big toes together. Keeping your sternum tilted to the ceiling, walk your hands out in front of you until your arms are straight. Keeping your forearms off the floor and active, exhale and bring your forehead to the floor ( it is more important to lengthen your spine than to have your forehead on the floor ). The arms and hands are the same as in Adho Mukha Savasana (downward dog) ; all the fingers spread widely apart, index and thumb pressing down into the floor, forearms turning inwards. Biceps roll out towards the triceps to open the shoulder girdle.
Lengthen the spine by pushing the hands away from you at the same time you bring your buttocks onto your heels and draw the front groins into the body by making them soft to encourage opening up the lower back. Draw the shin bones evenly towards the floor lengthening the tops of the feet and the ankles. If you cannot sit back on your heels, try rolling a blanket (or placing a bolster) and placing it between the buttocks and heels. To come out of the posture roll up vertebra by vertebra head last.
2. Cat & Cow Pose (Marjaryasana & Bitilasana)
Physical Benefits : Stretches the neck and back torso, opens the chest and brings flexibility to the spine. Strengthens abdominal organs. Improves posture, balance and coordination. Good for digestion and sinus problems.
Therapeutic Benefits : Reduces stress and calms the mind. Creates emotional balance.
Limitations : Those with neck injuries should keep the head in line with the torso, not dropping it forward or back. Pregnant women and those with back injuries should only perform Cow Pose, (rounded back) bringing the spine back to neutral between poses — do not let the belly drop between.
How to practice :
1. Come to all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Keep the index and major finger pointing towards front of mat. Begin with a neutral spine, keeping your head and neck in a neutral position as well with eyes soft and looking towards the mat.
2. Let your belly drop towards the mat. With your chin and chest look up towards the ceiling.
3. Roll the shoulders back away from the ears and pull the shoulder blades down towards the middle back.
4. Now transition into Cat Pose: On the exhale, pull your bellybotton towards your spine and round your back toward the ceiling like a Halloween cat.
5. Let the top of your head point towards the floor.
6. On the inhale, transition back into Cow Pose, exhale as you return to Cat Pose.
7. Repeat 10-15 times.
3. Balancing Cat Pose (Cakravakasana)
Physical Benefits: Strengthens the muscles along each side of the spine. Improves balance and stability. Strengthens shoulders and hips.
Therapeutic Benefits : Improves confidence, focus and concentration.
Limitations : Those with neck injuries should keep the head in line with the torso, not dropping it forward or back. Pregnant women and those with back injuries should only perform Cow Pose, bringing the spine back to neutral between poses — do not let the belly drop between transitions.
How to practice :
1.Come to all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Keep the index and major finger pointing towards front of mat. Begin with a neutral spine, keeping your head and neck in a neutral position as well with eyes soft and looking towards the mat. Toes are pointed to the back of the mat with tops of the feet pressing the floor. (If this is too intense on the feet, roll a blanket and slide it under the tops of the feet.
2. On the inhale, extend the right leg behind you keeping the thigh rolled in towards the center and the pelvis in line with the mat, foot flexed. On the exhale stretch it out further keeping the right buttocks level with the left.
3. On the Inhale, extend the left arm away from the torso palm facing down. Lift the hand to the same height as the shoulder and exhale on the stretch. Breath in this position for 3 breaths focusing on the balance and the calm you can find in the posture. For more of a challenge, you can lift the straight leg off the mat and try to find a stable, calm point in the posture with the breath. Repeat on the other side.
Important points : Make sure to keep the pelvis and hips parallel to the mat. Keep the weight evenly distributed on both legs, engaging the abdominals towards the spine to stabilize the pelvic area.