Utthita Marjaryasana: Extended Cat Pose
A great way to introduce the concept of balance, Utthita Marjaryasana (oo-TEE-tah mahr-jahr-YAH-suh-nuh), or Extended Cat pose, is great for beginners, and as a warm up for for deeper postures. While often practiced as part of the Cat/Cow series, Utthita Marjaryasana requires you to pause and balance while strengthening and lengthening the muscles of the arms and legs. Regular practice of Extended Cat pose is said to improve focus and memory while reducing stress and fatigue.
Philosophy + Origin
To better understand the philosophy behind Utthita Marjaryasana, we look at the symbolism of the cat. In many texts, cats represent a balance between opposites (like dark and light, outer and inner), which is easy to conceptualize in this posture where opposite sides of the body are asked to find equilibrium. Additionally, cats are known to symbolize patience, healing and a desire (or curiosity) to explore the unknown. When practicing Extended Cat pose, embrace the qualities of a cat that allow it to wait patiently for that opportune moment to pounce. Which areas of your life are you needing to “pounce” into in order to explore their potential?
- To protect the knee, place a blanket underneath.
- Turn the fingers of the hand on the ground out slightly to reduce wrist discomfort. You can also practice the posture with the hand in a fist if needed.
- For a more advanced posture, lift and extend corresponding arm and leg rather than the opposite.
CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:
- Wrist injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Knee injuries
Rather than just lifting and extending arm and leg in this posture, take your time and be very aware about the muscles you are engaging, especially in the abdomen. Although the arm and leg are extending away from the body, the action should instead be a feeling of contracting in towards the central midline. In doing so, you prevent collapse in the skeletal structure, ensuring the maximum benefits of this pose.
- Begin on all fours in the center of your mat. Align your knees so that they are directly beneath your hips. Align your wrists so that they stack directly beneath your elbows and shoulders. Your thighs and your arms should be perpendicular to the floor. Elongate the back of your neck while keeping your gaze down and your head neutral.
- Shift your weight to your right hand as you turn the toes of your left foot under so that you can actively press through the ball of the foot. Like a corset, draw the outer abdominal muscles in toward the center of the body. With an inhale, begin to lift your left hand and your right foot off the floor. Continue to lift your opposite arm and leg until they are both parallel with the floor.
- Keep the bicep of your left arm by your ear, palm facing in. Flex your right foot and press through the heel to activate the leg muscles. While extending through the fingers and toes, feel a “pulling in” into the shoulder and hip socket. This action will help keep you active in the posture.
- Keeping the gaze down, breathe in the posture for 30 to 60 seconds. Return to all fours and then repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
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- Utthita Hastasana in Tadasana
- Utthita = extended
- Marjari = cat
- Asana = pose
- Lengthens arms, legs and spine
- Tones the core
- Improves overall balance
- Prepares for more advanced balancing postures
- Boosts energy
- Increases devotion, kindness and selflessness
- Improves mental focus, memory and overall concentration
- Relieves stress and tension
- Opens the Heart Chakra (Anahata)
- Promotes love, compassion and forgiveness
The “seed sound,”or bija mantra, for the heart chakra is YAM. Recite mentally or aloud as many times as you need until you feel your heart beginning to open to more love and the possibility to forgive.
Designed to bring two halves together as one, Anjali mudra is a powerful way to promote balance in the body and mind while also calming nerves and connecting to the heart center. To practice, bring the palms of your hands together, ensuring that the fingers line up perfectly. Press gently through the palms and fingers of the hands with the hands at heart center. You can also bring the thumbs to touch your sternum.
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