Marjaryasana and Bitilasana in Piedmont, Italy
Around the world in asana number two is a fact. I’m so excited to share this with you! Read all about Marjaryasana (cat pose) and Bitilasana (cow pose) and prepare your body for your next practice!
A couple of weeks ago I wrote my very first blog in the ‘around the world in 40 asana’ series. Since then, a lot has happened. First of all, I can now officially introduce myself as a yoga teacher! The practical exam was exactly two weeks ago today and I have to say it feels pretty (damn) great to see my name printed on the certificate that was handed out the next day. Second of all, I’ve visited Italy twice in the past weeks, once for work (Vicenza, close to Venice) and once for pleasure (Mombarcaro, Piedmont). It was on the trip to Mombarcaro that the pictures this blog (number two in the ‘around the world in 40 asana’ series) were taken.
I had an amazing time in Mombarcaro with the lovely and caring people from Lot of Life. They organized this yoga/ski trip and it was simply amazing! Everything was right; the yoga, the food, the setting, the timing, the view and the company. I loved it and really recommend this special and unique retreat for anyone who loves yoga and skiing or snowboarding!
Marjaryasana and Bitilasana
So what’s on for today? Two very simple, yet very effective poses that are generally combined at the beginning of a practice: Marjaryasana and Bitilasana. Or, respectively, probably better known as ‘Cat‘ and ‘Cow‘ pose. I totally get the comparison with a cat for I – as you probably know by now from my Instagram account – have two lovely Siamese ones at home, showing off their cat pose on a daily basis. But to be honest, I never really got the name ‘Cow pose’, for I don’t feel like being close to resembling an actual cow. But, looking at the picture of me on the top of this blog, I finally get it. I have to admit that I really do look like a cow that’s ‘mooing’ on the top of a mountain…
About the poses
The combination of Marjaryasana (cat) and Bitilasana (cow) strengthens and stretches the spine (Marjaryasana) and ‘awakens’ the abs (Bitilasana), thus warming up the body for the following practice. It also triggers your balance (distribute your weight evenly over your hands and knees) and it massages and stimulates the organs in the belly.
Breaking down Bitilasana (cow pose)
Both Bitilasana and Marjaryasana start with coming on ‘all fours‘, meaning on your hands and knees.
- Start on ‘all fours’. Your wrists are in one line with your shoulders and your knees in one line with your hips. Fingers are spread wide and press into your mat (decreasing the pressure on your wrists). The core is engaged by imagining that your zipping yourself up in a tight swimsuit (or dress, or tight jeans, you get the idea), meaning that your pulling your belly button towards your spine and then slightly up (for the lovers, in other words, engaging Mula- and Uddiyana bandha). Your gaze is towards the floor
- On an in breath you tilt the pelvis forwards and your sitting bones up, thus arching your spine from your hips to your chest bone. The chest bone itself reaches up and away, keeping as much length as possible. Try to move fluently and spread this movement over the entire length of your in breath
- Your gaze is in the direction of the ceiling (or sky if your lucky enough to be practicing outside). But it can also be in front of you, if your neck doesn’t feel comfortable doing that (today). As you can see, my gaze is towards the front, for after wearing a skiing helmet all day, this just felt more comfortable. As always, listening to what your body tells you is far more important than building up your pose according to ‘the books’
- Take a couple of breaths in this position or transition on your next out breath to either ‘all fours’ or directly to Marjaryasana
Breaking down Marjaryasana (cat pose)
- Coming from either ‘all fours’ or Bitilasana, your wrists are still in one line with your shoulders and your knees in one line with your hips
- Tilt your pelvis backwards on an out breath and ‘scoop’ your tail bone under
- Use your core to round your spine (really imagine creating half a circle with your upper body, this always helps me to round a little bit more)
- Gaze is towards the belly button, neck follows the line of the spine
- Take a couple of breaths in this position or transition directly on the next in breath to either all fours
Variations on Marjaryasana and Bitilasana
There are a couple of variations on the Marjaryasana and Bitilasana combination that trigger the balance a lot more that the ‘traditional’ poses. It can be nice to play around with the poses a little bit, by for example starting with regular Marjaryasana and Bitilasana poses and then add a little more spice to the beginning of your practice with the following variations. The cat (Phlox) is complementary.
Cat-Cow with extend arm (optional) and leg
For this variation, start again on all fours and check if your wrists are in line with your shoulders (fingers are spread and pressing into the floor) and your hips in line with your knees. Spine is long and straight.
- Now stretch out your right leg. Maybe you can also stretch out your left arm. If this is too much for your balance, just stick to stretching out your leg for now, flex your foot. The arm will come, trust me. Really engage your core to maintain your balance. You can stay in this pose for a couple of breaths to experience the challenge for your balance. Switch sides.
- If you want more and create a flow (movement on the pace of your breath), point your lifted foot, and on the next out breath pull in your knee and arm and round your spine.
- On the next in breath you stretch your arm and leg out again (with a pointed foot) and slightly arch your back like you would in Bitilasana. Gaze is up towards the ceiling if that feels all right for your neck. If not, look straight in front of you.
- Repeat a couple of times and then switch sides.
Cat-Cow with extended leg and a twist
For this variation you also start on all fours. Check again if your wrists are in line with your shoulders (fingers are spread and pressing into the floor) and your hips in line with your knees. Spine is long and straight.
- On the next in breath, lift your right leg up, bend the knee and look over your left shoulder towards your right foot. Don’t force your neck, it is just a direction
- On the next out breath, pull in your right knee towards your chest, nose towards your knee and round your spine like you would in Bitilasana
- Again, really engage your core muscles to maintain your balance
- Repeat a couple of times and then switch sides
So, that’s about it for the cat-cow pose combination and its variations. I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions, please do contact me, either via Instagram or by entering a comment below. If you want to be one of the first to read my latest blogs, then don’t forget to sign yourself up for the ‘blog-alert’ on the right side of this page.
At the end of blog number two in the ‘around the world in asana’ series, I would like to share two more pictures with you that were also made during my yoga/ski trip to Mombarcaro, which was organized by the lovely and truly inspiring people of Lot of Life. You and of course my fellow ‘retreaters’ have made this experience unforgettable!
I wish you all a wonderful Easter weekend! Enjoy being with your loved ones, take a big bite of that chocolate Easter bunny and take in all beauty that spring time has to offer!