Cat Pulling Its Tail
Remember last week how we talked about Yin mainly focusing on the lower half of the body? Well, let’s step out of our comfort zone this week, shall we? While it still mainly focuses in the area of the lower back, Cat Pulling Its Tail pose provides a beautiful stretch across the chest, upper back, and through the shoulders, especially if the “advanced” posture is taken. However, the “advanced” version is much easier to achieve with a teacher or assistant who can make sure you are getting the full benefits of the pose. But don’t worry, it can certainly be done on your own but as always, be aware of any pain, tingling, or other uncomfortable sensations. In addition to providing that lovely stretch across the top half of the torso, this pose also decompresses the lower back and offers an opening in the quadriceps and thighs. As always, our focus is on how the pose works on the joints/connective tissue and these muscular openings are merely icing on the cake.
When I teach, I have a love/hate relationship with how to explain coming into this pose. Seeing someone do it makes the process much easier, but trying to verbalize that process can be difficult. The love part of the relationship comes when I have explained the steps but there are still a few (ok- a lot) yogis flailing about trying to mimic what I’ve instructed. This usually ends up as a little giggle break in class and then -once everyone is settled- we get to have a nice conversation about humility :).
Speaking of humility, I’m going to borrow the words of Yin yoga student , Bernie Clark, to explain this oh-so-delicate process. You can check out his incredibly insightful website here.
Start by sitting with both legs out in front of you. Twist to the right and recline onto your right elbow. Keeping your bottom (right) leg straight, bring your top (left) leg forward and to the side. Bend the bottom leg, bringing that heel toward your buttock. Reach back with your top (left) hand and grab the bottom foot. Pull the foot away from you.
You may begin lying down. From here, roll onto your right side. Keeping your bottom (right) leg straight, bring your top (left) leg to the side. Bend the bottom leg, bringing that heel toward your buttock. Reach back with your top (left) hand and grab the bottom foot. Pull the foot away from you.
Okay, did you get that? It might take you a few tries, but you should end up looking like this picture.
If you feel as though this is enough, stay here for three to five minutes and then repeat on the other side. If you’d like to take it a step further, remove the arm that is supporting you out from underneath so that you are able to recline onto your back. Remain here or go one more step and turn the head so you can look down at the bottom foot. Try to pull the foot away from the glutes, and be warned that this is where an extra set of hands would be useful. Before turning your head you should look like this.
To come out of either pose, let go of that bottom foot and ooh and aah when you feel the tension release. Now straighten the leg of that foot (the bottom one) and roll onto your back. A nice counter-pose is Caterpillar which we covered here. When you’re done, repeat on the other side and again hold for three to five minutes.