A multifaceted practice with many more benefits than simple adapted Marjaryasana/Bitilasana or Cat/Cow pose!
Rolling Cat is a core Birthlight practice both during pregnancy and afterwards that protects the lumbar curve, mobilises the whole spine and back whilst adding strength to the arms, shoulders and upper back.
After baby is born, rolling cat AKA swooping swan provides moments of playful interactions with baby as mum appears and disappears whilst stretching and releasing her whole back and promoting the flow of prana in the major nadis. In Surya Namaskar, sun salutations, it also replaces Bjanghasana, cobra and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, upward-facing dog during pregnancy and is the progressive route back to these poses after birth.
- Start at the back of the mat and transition down to all fours landing both knees simultaneously. (if you have a thin mat on a hard floor it is a good idea to use a blanket under the knees)
- Find ‘zero balance’ where weight is evenly distributed between hands and knees, knees under the hips- or a little wider if more space is needed for baby in pregnancy, hands shoulder width apart and under the shoulders, fingers spread out comfortably, middle fingers pointing straight forwards and no gaps under the knuckles so weight is spread through each hand not just in the wrists.
- Keep a ‘table top’ back to release strain from the lumbar curve- so not letting the lumbar back dip towards the floor. Neither the back or the abdominal muscles should be working hard to maintain the position- if one of these areas feels like it is working then probably the distance between the knees and hands is too short or too long.
- If the wrists are sore generally, check there’s no gap under the knuckles and that the hands are not turning in or out at an angle. You can try rolling the edge of the mat over a couple of times to lift the base of the palms thereby making the angle of the wrist joints less acute. If this does not help then have 2 piles of foam blocks – one for each forearm to rest on, effectively raising the floor so you’ll still have a table top back.
- In third trimester, when the baby’s weight can pull the weight uncomfortably forwards into the hands, shift the hips slightly backwards.
- You can warm up the shoulders and upper back with some kitten rolls, alternately peeling one hand of the floor whilst rotating the shoulder. Then try rolling the shoulders without lifting the hands and the roll them alternately.
- Then exhaling, arch the back and drop the head to look towards the baby or where baby used to be- this will release the neck and base of the skull, as you continue exhaling take the hips backwards towards the feet…inhaling take yourself forwards, elbows bent and into the sides, straightening the arms as your head comes over the hands. Repeat to get into the flow of movement following your breath.
- Each woman can practice according to her strength, energy and comfort. Some women may enjoy sitting all the way back to the heels and sweeping forwards with the face low close to the floor- for others their strength or size of baby bump will not allow is but they will still be able to mobilise their spine beautifully.
- Added strengthening after birth can be gained by placing blocks between knees and lower legs – be sure to get the right distance – knees hip distance and lower legs parallel. As you exhale gently squeeze the blocks and release as you inhale.
- Sound can be added on the exhalations – sighing, hhaaaa, humming.