Ayurveda and Yoga are essentially forms of pranic medicine. When prana is allowed to flow easily and abundantly through our body-mind, healing occurs naturally, even spontaneously.
Prana is the organic, intelligent force that animates our being.
It enables perception, communication and enjoyment of life through the senses. It also manages the autonomic functions like circulation, digestion and, of course, breathing.
According to Yogic texts, prana is channeled through our energy body, which is made up of 72,000 subtle pathways called nadis. At the core of the network are three main nadis, which are linked with the spine. The sushumna nadi runs from the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine, all the way up to the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head. The ida and pinagala nadis, which relate to our feminine and masculine energy, respectively, spiral in a double-helix pattern around the sushumna. Together, these three nadis define the chakra system and determine the quality of the body’s energetic system. This is actually why Yoga postures focus so much on spinal alignment: we are looking to allow the free flow of prana through these channels so that we can feel our best.
Today we’ll explore bidalasana, also known as cat posture. This is a simple asana that enlivens the spine and stimulates the free flow of prana through the nadis and chakras. Bidalasana is a wonderful warm-up posture to regularly integrate into your asana practice in order to increase spinal flexibility and release tension in the neck and shoulders. Not only that, but the extension and compression of the abdomen stimulates and balances the functioning of the internal organs.
Essence, anchor and strength
At Hale Pule we offer a simple framework to clarify the approach to asana practice. A pose is broken down into three elements: essence, anchor and strength. Routinely approaching asana with an understanding of these components will support the healing flow of prana and allow for a practice that can be sustained throughout your life.
Essence - the intention of the pose.
In bidalasana, the essence is to warm up the spine and harmonize the breath with movement. The ‘centipede’ variation lengthens both sides of the entire spine.
Anchor - connection to the earth.
The anchor points are the knees, palms and balls of the feet.
Strength - muscular engagement for optimal alignment.
The strength comes from pressing evenly through the anchor points and feeling the energy rebound from the Earth.
Bidalasana from the ground up
Find your anchor:
Begin on all fours with toes tucked under and knees under hips, wrists under shoulders. Ensure wrist creases are even across each wrist and fingers are evenly spaced. Firmly press the first knuckle of each finger into the earth, anchoring the fingers and arm.
Feel your strength:
As you press into the earth, lift up out of the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints and feel the energy rebound up through your arms and legs.
Embody the essence:
Let the breath be your guide. Focus lovingly on your spine and let the tailbone lead.
Inhale and extend your tailbone back and up as you arch your back , and gaze toward the ceiling.
Exhale as your tailbone moves forward and down to the floor and your back rounds, gaze toward your naval. Feel the opening in the backside of the body.
Continue following the breath, with the spine moving like a wave. Initiate each movement with the tailbone and let the rest of the movement unfurl from there.
Try changing the direction of the breath: inhale as you round the back, and exhale as you arch the spine. It’s good to practice the combination that is more challenging for the mind in order to bring balance.
Bonus round! To further encourage the flow of healing energy, move your spine in a different direction: side to side.
Find the same anchor, strength and essence.
Bring your attention to the tailbone and exhale as you shift the tailbone to the right and the top of your head to the right, bringing your right hip and shoulder toward one another. Keep the face pointing down and gaze at the floor, to form a C-shape with your spine.
Inhale to the centre and shift your tailbone to the left, bringing the left hip and shoulder toward one another. Feel the opening of space between the vertebrae on each side from the tailbone all the way up into the neck.
Enjoy this simple side-to-side movement and notice any areas of tightness or discomfort. Is it easier to move on one side or the other? Tightness on the right side could indicate an imbalance in your masculine (pingala) energy. Lack of mobility on the left might mean that your feminine (ida) energy is not flowing optimally. For more on the importance of an even balance between the divine feminine and masculine energies, check out this blog post.
If you have difficulty putting pressure on your knees, either fold up the side of the mat or place a blanket over the mat for extra padding.
For sensitive wrists, make a fist and support your weight with the tops of the fingers. Be sure you are rebounding by pressing into the floor and lifting your torso up, maintaining space in your joints. . You can also use a small cloth under the heel of the hand to take pressure off the wrists.
If you experience notable discomfort even with these modifications, practice a seated variation of bidalsansa:
Sit on your mat with feet on the floor in front of you, knees pointed up. Hold below the knee, on the shins. Inhale and start the movement with your tailbone to expand your chest forward, neck lengthens and gaze up. Exhale as you round your back, gaze in towards your belly button.
Repeat 5 rounds with the breath.
Common trouble spots
1. When hands are not placed below shoulders, or knees are not below hips, then our anchor is weak.
2. When the hands and knees are too close together this will impact our spinal mobility and put excess pressure on the wrists.
3. Locking the joints blocks the flow of prana and excessively stretches the joint which weakens it over time.
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