When you are travelling to any new destination, the last thing you usually will plan into your itinerary is exercise. Most people don’t even have to try to get in their daily 10,000 steps when they are wandering the streets of any new city… especially if that city is Italian where most people wouldn’t dream of using a rental car. Driving in Italy is not for the faint of heart - by car or scooter. Trust me. I have tried, and survived, both.
But walking around these breathtaking cities is also taxing on your physical and emotional energy. There is nothing quite like falling into a freshly made bed after a day of getting lost in a new city. So, think about how much more energised you could be if you took just 10 minutes of your day (morning preferably) and did something for you. Many yogis say: if you can only do one posture (or exercise) during the day…..then do the Cat-Cow stretch (Chakravakasana).
This yoga pose helps relieve stress and low back pain. It helps to increase the flexibility of your neck, shoulders and spine as well as stretching the muscles of your back, hips, abdomen and chest. Doing the pose also opens the chest and lungs allowing you to breathe easier while improving your posture and improving your spine.
The wonderful thing about Cat-Cow (besides the fact that it features ‘cat’ in its name) is that you can do the posture while you are travelling almost anywhere - either seated or in the conventional form on a yoga mat, soft carpet, or towel. You could even do this in your aeroplane seat, especially useful for those long haul flights… or ridiculously uncomfortable low-cost airlines… you know who I mean.
Whether you do this exercise on the floor or in a chair this simple series of movements will help you to get new energy coursing through your body. It will help you to wake up and warm up your muscles, stretch your abdomen, and clear your mind - a perfect way to start any new adventure.
How to do Cat-Cow (Chakravakasana)
Begin on your hands and knees (on all fours) on a yoga mat, towel, or soft carpet.
Your knees should be directly underneath your hips and your hands directly underneath your shoulders.
As you inhale, drop your belly, tilt your pelvis forward and gaze up (cow pose).
As you exhale, round your spine like a cat and draw your gaze towards your belly button.
Try to move slowly to really feel the movements in your spine as you move in and out.
This exercise can be repeated up to 20 times. It is best done following your own breath, trying to keep inhalation and exhalation even (for example inhale for a count of 3 or 4, exhale for a count of 3 or 4).
Seated Cat-Cow modification
To do this posture sit on a chair (or aeroplane seat) with your spine long and both feet on the floor and place your hands on your knees.
As you inhale, arch your back, roll your shoulders down and back bringing your shoulder blades closer together. This is the cow part of the stretch.
As you exhale, round your spine and drop your chin to your chest letting your shoulders and head come forward. This is the cat part of the stretch.
Continue moving between the cow posture on the inhalations and the cat posture on the exhalations for 4-5 breaths.
Written by our resident chiropractor