I watch the way our burmese cat moves and stretches, instinctively knowing what her body needs in just that moment. It's no surprise either that many traditional yoga poses take their cues (and names) from animals.
We've all seen how animals, dogs and cats in particular, sit and fold their rear legs under their body, stretch and tense their front limbs and then rest their heads between the front paws. In this position they are completely relaxed. The Animal Relaxation Pose (Saithalya asana in Sanskrit) is so called because it imitates this action.
BENEFITS OF SAITHALYASANA:
Stiffness in the spine is a common theme for many of us. This pose is reasonably simple and as well as being hugely beneficial for the whole body, it's a great prep pose for meditation postures as it loosens the spine, opens the hips and quietens the mind. The abdominal organs are also gently massaged (as you get lower down in the posture over time) which helps the digestive system.
This posture also works in a similar way to balasana (child’s pose) whereby it balances the nervous system. Ensure the forehead is either resting in the hands, on a block or blanket, or touching the floor (whichever is comfortable). Using abdominal breaths will deepen the massaging affect to the abdominal organs.
In the final position the abdomen is compressed, giving a valuable massage to the internal organs, especially those concerned with digestion. This massage squeezes out stagnant, impure blood and encourages it to flow back to the heart and lungs for oxygenation - an ideal cleansing pose for autumn!
Sit on your mat with the legs outstretched.
Carefully bend the right knee and place the sole of the foot against the inside of the left thigh, then carefully bend the left knee and place the left heel to the outside of the left buttock.
Turn your torso to face the right thigh and take a breath in, as you exhale walk the hands down either side of the right leg, lowering yourself down over the bent leg.
Fold forward as far as is comfortable, making any adjustments to the position of your legs.
Relax into the posture for around 5 breaths before coming out on the inhale, walking the hands back upwards to return to an upright seated posture.
Outstretch the legs once more, give them a shake, and then begin with the left leg, carefully repeating the posture to the left side.
If you have any lower back trouble only bend forward as far as is comfortable – or avoid this pose altogether. Avoid after the fourth month of pregnancy (I would also avoid during first few days of menstruation).