This pose stretches the spine, back muscles and neck, stimulates blood flow in the wrists and increases the circulation of spinal fluid. Coupled with Cow pose (1b), it is a wonderful warm-up for the spine and, when synchronised with the breath, has a calming effect on the mind.
Tip: As you round the spine on an exhalation in Cat pose, try energetically pushing the heels of the hands away from you. As you inhale and dip the spine in Cow pose, draw the heels of the hands towards you.
Cow pose stretches the front of the torso and throat area. Like Cat pose it stimulates the wrists and spine.
Stretches the chest, hip flexors, quadriceps, sides of the waist and tops of the ankles and feet. Improves balance and mental focus. Great for runners, cyclists or if you spend a lot of the day sitting.
Tip: Energetically draw the front heel and the back knee together to create more stability in the hips /and groin.
Stretches the inner thighs, groin, chest, lungs and shoulders. Strengthens your legs, improves stamina and concentration.
Tip: To avoid creating tension in the shoulders, try rotating the palms upwards and then, keep the shoulders soft, slowly return the palms of the hands so they're facing down.
Strengthens the legs, back and torso, lengthens the side of the body, stretches the inner thighs, hamstrings, calves, spine, shoulders, chest and hips.
Tip: To create more strength and tone in the waist and stability in the legs, try hovering the lower hand slightly away from the leg.
Improves balance, creates external rotation in the hips, strengthens the ankles, legs and spine, increases focus and concentration and quietens the mind.
Tip: If you find it difficult to keep the sole of your foot in place, press the sole of the foot of the bent leg into the thigh and - equally as firmly - press the thigh into the sole of the foot.
Improves strength and mobility in the back, stretches the front of the body, increases stamina and stimulates the digestive organs.
Tip: Rather than going for height in this pose, think about length. Keep the back of the neck long and extend out through the crown of the head, the fingers, and the toes.
Stretches the chest, neck, spine, and hip flexors. Strengthens the back, glutes, and hamstrings and legs. An accessible backbend for most people.
Tip: For a greater stretch in the upper back and chest, try moving your shoulder blades closer together before lifting the hips, and bending your elbows so that your palms face one another.
Stretches the ankles, hips and thighs, opens the upper back, chest and shoulders, and works the triceps. If the version in the photo is uncomfortable for your legs or hips try stretching the lower leg out in front of you.
Tip: Try to avoid turning the pose into a backbend just so you can get your fingers to reach. It's better to use a strap or scarf between your hands. Draw the lower ribs slightly in and focus instead on lengthening the elbows away from one another.
This pose is known as the 'great rejuvenator' for good reason. It alleviates pressure in the legs, helps the circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid and is a wonderful pose to do before bed or if you wake up in the middle of the night. Rest your legs against the wall or make it a little more active by just raising your legs above your hips, like Katherine in the photo below.
Tip: Place a pillow/bolster/folded blanket under your lower back to make it more of an inverted pose.