Watch a cat closely and you will see that it periodically stretches its spine upwards and downwards. This asana imitates this action, and though it is very simple it is very useful in ensuring the best possible health of the practitioner. A cat yawns at the same time; you can do the same if you wish, but it is not a traditional part of the asana.
Technique Kneel on the ground. The knees and the feet may be separated slightly or kept together; either way is suitable for this practice. Lean forwards and place both hands flat on the floor in front of the knees. The hands should be positioned so that when your trunk is horizontal the arms are vertical; in other words, the hands should be directly below the shoulders. The thighs should be vertical. Relax your whole body. Arch your back upwards while exhaling so that it forms a hump. Contract your abdomen to remove as much air as possible from your lungs. At the end of exhalation, your head should be between your arms facing towards the thighs.
Then slowly depress your back and raise your head as you breathe in. At the end of inhalation, the head should be facing upwards and the spine should be arched as much as possible in a concave curve (see illustration). Expand your abdomen fully to fill the lungs with the maximum amount of air. Then raise your back upwards, while lowering the head and breathing out. Repeat the whole process again. Practice as many rounds as time will permit. Breathing and duration Breathing should be as described, making sure that the abdomen is contracted as much as possible at the end of exhalation and expanded as much as possible at the end of the inhalation.
Try to perform the movement and breathing as slowly as possible, with full awareness. Aim to make the downward and upward movements have a duration of at least five seconds each. This asana can be done for as long as you have time available. Ten full rounds are reasonable for general purposes. If you have any particular ailment, longer is prescribed. Benefits This asana supplements the previous asana (saithalyasana) in that it loosens up the spine. Those people with rigid spines and chronic back or neck aches are especially advised to do marjari-asana regularly. The pelvic and abdominal regions are well-massaged, with a beneficial influence on the internal organs. The organs of digestion, reproduction, and elimination are innervated by nerves in and around the spine.
Marjariasana gently stretches and stimulates these spinal nerves. This has a supplementary influence that improves the function of the internal organs. Many women suffer from ailments of their sexual organs. This asana has been found to be very useful in improving the health of these organs and helping to eliminate reproductive disorders. Women suffering from menstrual irregularities and leucorrhoea have achieved enormous benefits from the regular practice of this asana. At the time of menstruation, this asana can help give relief from menstrual cramps. This is an excellent asana for post-pregnancy cases as it tightens the abdominal muscles and encourages the abdomen to resume its normal shape