Cakravakasana (read as Chakravakasana) is the cat-posture. This simple-looking posture took me years to appreciate and perform adequately. though the range of motion is small, it is a very dynamic posture because it has a potential to move the entire spine. As you inhale hollow the back, arching it downward, as you exhale round the back – arching it upward. In the end it’s that simple, but there’s more then meets the naked eye.
Let’s look at one possible starting position – with a rounded back. Make sure that your hips are located behind the knees – far enough so that your hands are placed very lightly on the floor, with almost no weight on them. You can test this by trying to lift your arms – you should be able to lift them without falling forward. Your arms should be very soft – starting from the shoulders, elbows and through to the hands on the floor. The back should be stretched evenly – as if you were trying to equally separate all the vertebrae from one another.
From this position (downward facing cat) begin inhaling as you begin to move your back, working from the upper back gradually towards the hips – moving each area of the back separately (instead of moving the entire back all at once). First there should be movement in the shoulders and upper back expanding and opening the chest, then the mid-back, the lower back and finally the hips roll out. The neck can be slightly stretched and raised at the end of the movement. Which brings us to upward facing cat.
Upward facing cat has an opposite form in the back, but similar qualities in the periphery. The arms should still be soft from shoulders to the hands. The hips should still be behind the knees, though slightly forward with more weight placed on the hands (weight should be distributed equally between the arms and the legs).
From this position begin exhaling and this time the movement is in the opposite direction, from the hips to the upper back. First the hips should roll back, then the lower back begins to round, then the mid-back and finally the upper back and all the way to the neck – as the head gets tucked back in as you arrive at downward facing cat again.
Have another look at the animation at the beginning of this post and try to identify some of the subtle aspects. Cakravakasana is an opportunity to experiment and experience movement throughout the entire back. It is preferable to get a little movement in many placed instead of a lot of movement in only a few places. It is a posture of subtle discovery.