Yoga exercises, Mountain Pose and Cat Pose, unite body and mind.
Yoga turns to nature to represent fundamental truths we share with all that is. Here we explore mountain’s lessons for stability and dignity. Then, we turn to the cat to experience our natural fluidity and flexibility.
Feel free to modify these yoga exercises to meet your body’s needs. Do them more frequently as your body grows stronger and more flexible. They support your natural health and healing.
Read the instructions through a few times and rehearse them in your head before doing them. Or, you can have a friend read them to you or read them into a recorder and play them back as you practice. There are also many yoga exercise books, DVDs, and CDs available to help you get started.
This simple, easy yoga exercise draws on the mountain metaphor for a healthy posture that sets the foundation for yoga poses.
Most often posture develops without much thought or awareness. It’s easy to adopt a posture that doesn’t support your health and not even realize it. For example, slumped shoulders and sucking in your stomach decreases breathing capacity and tilting the pelvis too far forward or back puts strain on your back and other muscles.
To correct unhealthy habitual posture you may want to start this exercise by observing yourself in the mirror. Common errors include tilting the pelvis too far forward, slumping shoulders and flattening the lower back. Respect the natural curvature of your spine.
Now bring yourself home to the mountain, home to your body. Be the mountain aligned with gravity, looking out at all creation.
- Place your feet shoulder width apart with the outsides parallel. Spread them open as secure as an eagle’s talons. Your weight is neither forward nor back. Check your pelvis so it tips neither forward nor back.
- Call forth the solid image of the mountain and your own sense of stability to enhance your posture.
- Let your waist grow long, lift and open your chest.
- Think of how the mountain arises out of the earth. Make yourself as tall as possible.
- Let your own dignity and majesty infuse your posture.
- Imagine a string from the sky attached to the center top of your head suspending and aligning your body.
- Feel yourself create spaces between the vertebrae in you back and neck as your spine lengthens.
- Your shoulder blades draw in and your chest lifts and opens up.
- Let your arms relax loosely by your side.
- Relax your throat, jaw, and eyes.
- Feel the dignity of your uplifted spine, your opened chest, and the stability of your grounded stance as you take a few abdominal breaths.
- Maintain for 15 to 30 breaths.
Mountain Pose with Corkscrew
- Begin with the Mountain Pose.
- Inhale while raising your arms over your head.
- Exhale as you bring your arms down to shoulder level. Hold and breathe, feeling the expansion in your chest. Your hands, feet, and chest are pressing down.
- Imagine your arms as the wings of a bottle opener and your torso as the cork.
- Inhale, then exhale slowly, pressing your arms down to your side as your spine lengthens like a cork popping up.
- Breathe and experience the unity of your body and mind.
Mountain Pose with Balanced Stretching
- Begin with the Mountain Pose.
- Inhale while raising your arms overhead and rise to balance on the balls of your feet.
- Exhale slowly, bringing the arms down to your side and feet down to the floor.
- Repeat 3 or 4 times allowing the rhythm of your breathing to direct your movement.
In this yoga exercise we imitate the natural fluid movement of the cat as it stretches its spine. Flexibility of the spine is fundamental to health.
- Begin on your hands and knees.
- Make your arms straight with hands spread and placed firmly under your shoulders.
- Place your knees apart, directly under your hips.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Take a few deep breaths feeling the chest open with each inhalation.
- Next, as you inhale, lift up your head, opening your chest. Drop your pelvis and belly into a soft bend. Your pelvis tilt pulls your buttocks up.
- As you exhale, hunch your back up and drop your head like an angry, hissing Halloween cat. The back rounds up, the head drops down, and the buttocks tighten: the pelvis tucks under.
- Repeat several times, or as long as it feels good, moving smoothly with your breathing rhythm.
Rest at least 5 minutes noticing what is happening in your body.
Mountain Pose offers a metaphor to renew your natural stability, strength, and dignity. Cat Pose helps you reconnect with your agility and fluid movement.
Be the mountain and be the cat enjoying yoga exercises!
Sources and Resources
Herbert Benson and Eileen M. Stuart, The Wellness Book: The Comprehensive Guide to Maintaining Health and Treating Stress-Related Illness (New York: Simon & Schuster 1993)
Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall, Yoga for Arthritis (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008).
Rodney Yee, Yoga: The Poetry of The Body (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002).