Cat Squat: Reconnect with the Ground, Open to the Sky, by Parvati Devi
Cat squat, or Prasarita Padottanasana in Sanskrit, offers you a fabulous opportunity to reconnect with the ground, while you feel open and receptive to the sky. The visceral sense of two-way-moving energy in your body/being is particularly noticeable and accessible. As such, it is a beautiful asana in which you can experience being the channel of life-force energy that you are.
As a wide legged stance, Cat Squat allows your root energy center at the base of your spine to open more easily to the ground. You can feel how life-force energy runs down your legs, through your feet and into the ground. Then the energy centres in the soles of your feet have an opportunity to expand and grow roots that extend into the ground. When this happens, the Earth will give back to you, and nourish your new-found roots. Then, you experience a delicious rebound of energy back into your body, through your spine, up towards the crown of your head.
As a forward bend, Cat Squat allows your spine to experience gravity in a new way, lengthening almost effortlessly. Habitual tension between your vertebrae — cellularly, muscularly and in your nervous system — can swiftly release with the help of gravity. You give your tension to the ever-present, motherly embrace of the ground. As such, the inversion gives your body, mind and spirit the refreshing experience to see life from a new perspective.
For some, it will seem like an intense stretch, especially for those who habitually hold on in their hamstrings and hips. For others, it will feel vulnerable to feel inverted and so open. Yet all asanas are designed to purify you in mind, body and spirit. So whatever issues may arise, welcome them into your heart. Be present for them. Do not judge them. Instead, see them as broken parts of yourself that are returning home to your innermost being.
For those whose hip adductors and hamstrings are flexible, this will be a deep stretch. For others, you may need to keep your knees slightly bent throughout, to protect your lower back from strain, or from simply overdoing your stretch. Remember that any force you exert, you will experience an equal force push back from the universe – hence deeper tension the following day should you overdo your practice. Instead, give yourself plenty of room to breathe. Only do 80% your maximum. Give your body/being the space it needs to open in its time. It will open. You are like a flower. You cannot force it to bloom. If you push, you will only damage the flower. There is no right or wrong pose, only the most authentic expression of the asana in your body, in this moment.
Enjoy the opportunity in this pose to bring your head towards the ground. Practice gentleness and humility in doing so. By opening to what you carry in the recesses of your mind and body, you learn to live in greater freedom and ease.
● Begin in Tadasana, standing tall, with your feet hip-width, arms relaxed alongside your body. Your chest is relaxed and broad, chin slightly tucked in. The crown of your head floats upward, as your shoulder blades slide down the back of your body.
● Bring your awareness to two-way moving energy. Inhale, draw life-force energy through the whale spout at the crown of your head. Sense or visualize life-force energy descending through your spine, through your body/being towards your center of gravity, just below your navel.
● When you have arrived at this point, exhale and feel that life force energy split in two. It travels up your spine, out your whale spout towards the heavens, and down through your legs, out your feet and into the Earth.
● Practice this two-way moving energy for a few breath cycles. Sense or visualize that your body/being is a neutral conduit for life-force energy.
● When your breath feels focused and relaxed, take a step so that your legs are now a meter apart, knees slightly bent. Continue to draw life-force through your whale spout on the inhale, and experience two-way moving energy on the exhale.
● On the next exhale, slowly allow your neck to roll forward. Feel each vertebra move one by one, as though you were walking down the rungs of a ladder, through your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Move slowly, still breathing in and out, letting go of tension in your shoulders and arms. Allow them to respond to gravity as you roll forward.
● Continue to roll down vertebra by vertebra through your middle and lower back. Keep your knees slightly bent, so they are not locked.
● When you arrive as far forward as you feel comfortable, place your hands on the floor, below your face, about shoulder width apart. Your palms are broad and fully engage the ground. If you cannot do this comfortably, place blocks under your hands.
● Now inverted, inhale, breathing into your belly, as you bend your knees and arch your back to open up the chest. Draw life-force energy in through your whale spout and let it travel down your spine. Lift up and out of your shoulders, just as you do in Cat Pose.
● Exhale and straighten your legs, as you allow the crown of your head, your shoulders and your spine to roll and release back to the floor. Your arms are relaxed, hands still engaged with the ground. Your heels anchor as your feet broaden and dig roots into the ground. Life-force energy travels simultaneously down your legs and feet and up your spine towards your crown.
● Inhale, draw life-force back through your whale spout, spine and into your belly as you bend your knees again and arch your back to open up the chest, lifting up and out of your shoulders.
● Exhale, straighten your legs, feet engaged as you allow your upper body to release towards the floor. Feel life-force energy travel both down your legs and our your feet and up your spine towards your crown.
● Follow your breath rhythm, inhaling as you draw life force energy into your whale spout, exhaling two-way-moving energy. Practice for as long as you like.
● When you have had enough, take a few breaths in the forward bend position. Release a bit more. Then on your next inhale, roll gently back up. Feel that you begin your upward growth from the roots of your feet, through your ankles, legs and hips, slowly and mindfully, vertebra by vertebra remaining anchored in your feet. Breathe two-way moving energy.
● Roll up into a standing position, your arms relaxed alongside your body. Your neck, head and shoulders are the last to rise. Step your feet back to shoulder width apart. Take a few two-way moving breaths here, feeling rooted, vital and expansive. You are a conduit for life-force energy between the Earth and the sky.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of Avalon, Confessions from Your Awakened Self) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.