Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Marjaryasana is an asana which needs the performer to assume the pose of a Marjari or Cat. Therefore this asana is called Marjaryasana or Cat Pose. This pose often includes a blend of another pose called Bitilasana (Cow Pose), which are similar poses with small variations. When both these asanas are blended so as to enhance the effect of the asana, it will be called as Marjari-Bitilasana or the ‘Cat-Cow-Pose’. Marjariasana strengthens your wrist joints, shoulders and spine apart from stretching neck and back torso.
Marjaryasana – Cat-Cow Pose
Marjari = Cat / Bitila = Cow
Asana = Pose, Posture
Preparation for Marjaryasana
- It is good to do Marjariasana on empty stomach. Make sure to have food 4-6 hours before starting this asana. This will give enough time to digest the food. At the same time, the energy derived from the digested food will enable you to do the asana easily.
- You also need to keep your bowel and bladder empty and clear. So finish of your toileting before commencing this asana.
- It is beneficial to do the asana in the fresh and serene hours of early morning time. If you cannot do the asana in the morning time due to unavoidable reasons and or other commitments, you can carry this asana to be practiced in the evening time.
Method of doing Marjariasana
Positioning for the Asana
- Start this asana by standing on all four limbs in such a way that your back forms a table top. Your hands and legs will form the limbs of the table.
Performing and getting to the Marjaryasana
- Your arms (upper arms) should be perpendicular to the floor. Let your hands be placed flat on the floor (palms facing the floor), right under your shoulders (your shoulders, elbows and wrist in a single straight line, the hands forming an angle with the forearm and its palmar surface resting on the floor).
- Your knees should be hip-width apart. Your thighs form an angle with the legs at the knee joints, the knee joints and legs to feet placed horizontally, on the floor.
- Look straight ahead.
- Inhale and raise your chin as you tilt your head backwards.
- Push your navel down and raise your tailbone.
- Now compress your butts. You might feel a tingling sensation in your back and legs.
- Hold this pose for a few breaths.
- Breathe deep and long.
- Now you are in the cow pose.
- This asana is a combination of two movements. The counter movement is as follows. Exhale and drop your chin to your chest as you arch your back and relax your butts. Now you are in the Marjariasana or Cat pose.
Note: In short, in this combination of Marjariasana and Bitilasana (Cat-Cow Pose), inhale and come to Bitilasana (Cow pose) and Exhale and come to Marjariasana (Cat Cow). You need to do this alternatively, one after the other.
Bitilasana takes you to a ‘U’ pose when your navel or belly dips down, the ‘U’ formed between the butt, the mid back and the shoulder or head, the butt and shoulder (head) form the limbs of the ‘U’ and the mid part of your spine (opposite to your navel) which dips in forms the cup of ‘U’.
Marjariasana take you to ‘n’ pose where in it is opposite of Bitilasana. Your chin faces or touches your sternum, the mid back rises up and your butt (tailbone) dips down.
Thus in Cat-Cow Pose you to ‘U’ and ‘n’ alternatively as you inhale and exhale respectively. The name is Cat Cow Pose but you do the Cow pose first and then come to cat pose and then go back to cow pose in that order.
Release from the asana and coming back to the point of start
- Hold this position for few breaths. Then go back to the tabletop position.
- Do the movement and counter movement about 5-6 times before you come to a halt. Breathe easily and relax.
Tips for Beginners
The Cat pose is comparably an easy pose to do and a simple one too. If you find it hard to round the top of your upper back while doing the asana, you can take the help of the tutor or friend to help you do that. For this, you need to ask them to place their hand between and above the shoulder blades so that it can help activate that region.
Advanced pose (variation of Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
To enhance the intensity of this asana and to go deeper into it for better impact, you need to make some small variations to the original asana. You should take up into advance pose only under the guidance and supervision of an experienced Yoga teacher.
First variation –
- Start with the tabletop position
- Now exhale to take on the counter movement. Turn your head and look at your left hip.
- As you do this, gently move your hip towards your head
- Inhale and return to the start position before you repeat the movement on the other side
Second Variation –
- Begin with tabletop position
- Now move your hands forwards as you move your hip joints in a circular motion
- Inhale and move forwards
- Next, exhale and move backwards
Purva and Paschat Asanas
Before Marjaryasana, you can do one or more of the below mentioned Asanas –
- Balasana – Child’s pose
After performing Marjariasana (follow up poses), one can perform –
Duration, health benefits
What time should be spent in the pose while doing Marjaryasana-Bitilasana combined pose?
One can stay in Marjariasana for a time period of 10 seconds for each pose. Repeat 5-6 times in each pose Cat cow pose.
Health Benefits of Marjaryasana-Bitilasana–
- Marjaryasana-Bitilasana helps in stretching, flexing and strengthening the spine
- The asana strengthens both your shoulders and wrists
- Marjaryasana-Bitilasana tones up the abdomen and abdominal muscles. It helps getting rid of accumulated fat, especially that around your tummy. It makes you look good, slim and healthy. It is a good treatment for excess fat accumulation, overweight and obesity.
- By toning the abdomen, the asana also gives a good massage to your digestive organs and activate them, thus improvising the digestion and assimilation of food.
- Marjariasana helps in improving the circulation of blood and oxygen in the body.
- The stretching of the body which the asana gives relaxes your mind and removes stress and strain.
Effect of Marjariasana-Bitilasana – Ayurveda details:
Effect on Doshas
Effect of Marjariasana-Bitilasana on Doshas and Subtypes
Marjaryasana or the cat pose helps in balancing your Prana Vayu. Therefore it keeps your mind healthy, calm and free from stress and mind.
Marjariasana balances the Vyana Vayu and Udana Vayu and thus helps in improving the circulation of blood, oxygen and nutrients to different parts of the body.
By balancing the Samana vayu and stimulating Pachaka Pitta, the asana helps in aiding good digestion of food and its assimilation. The abdominal massage given by the asana extends its impact on the abdominal organs, mainly digestive organs and help in enhancing one’s capacity of digestion.
Effect on Dhatus
Effect of Marjariasana-Bitilasana on Dhatus –
Marjaryasana strengthens the mamsa dhatu (muscle tissue), especially those around the spine, shoulders and hands, and also the muscles of the abdomen. The asana also gives a good stretch to these muscles. The asana strengthens the snayus (ligaments) and kandaras (tendons) of the spine, shoulder and wrist. It enhances the flexibility in the spine and upper limbs. Apart from this by giving good stretch and massage to abdominal muscles, it activates the digestive organs and kindles the digestive fire.
Marjaryasana-Bitilasana helps in dissolving and mobilizing the excess fat which has collected in the body, especially the abdominal area (tummy fat). Thus it helps in destroying the vikrita meda (morbid fat tissue).
Marjaryasana-Bitilasana, what it promises!
Marjara or cat is one of the likable and loved pet animals and has been a friend of man for ages. Similarly the Bitila or Cow is one of the most used and loved domestic animal.
This asana gives an amazing stretch to the body and strengthens the spine, shoulders and wrists, also relaxes the mind. Hence Marjariasana is a comprehensive and wholesome exercise.
This asana is a movement that is a beautiful blend of forward bends and back arches. It gives your back the complete movement and flexibility it needs to be at its optimum best. Thus your vertebra becomes mobile and flexible. It releases the tension trapped in your cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine and relaxes them.
The back and forth movements that you do while doing the pose will help in free circulation of spinal fluids. This will also help strengthen the spine.
The wonderful movements also work on your digestive system and enhance the functioning of the digestive organs. It also helps in detoxifying the body in totality.
The muscles in your limbs are activated. The muscles gain immense strength and flexibility and work better.
Impact on Chakras
Marjariasana-Bitilasana helps in activating and awakening the Manipura Chakra or the Solar Plexus. Thus it helps in enhancing your knowledge of subtle self and self awareness. It also helps in enhancing the metabolism, in proper digestion of food, formation of nutrient juice and assimilation of nutrients in the body and also provides the base for a good body-mind health.
Marjaryasana also activates the Anahata or Heart Chakra and enhances the circulation of blood, oxygen and nutrients needed for our survival and health to every corner of the body.
Contraindications and precautions
Who should not do?
Patients suffering from below mentioned conditions should avoid doing Marjariasana –
- Severe Back Pain, injuries
- Severe Neck pain, injuries
- Head injury
Remember to speak to your Yoga teacher before taking up to this pose.
Just Before Finish
Marjaryasana-Bitilasana is a wonderful combination of two poses which strengthens your spine, arms, legs and shoulders. It is the best exercise to relieve body-mind stress and keep us at optimum wellness. The asanas help in enhancing digestion and metabolism, aids proper circulation of blood and oxygen to all the cells and organs of the body and reduces the bad fat in your body making you fit and healthy.
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