How to do the cat-cow pose


How to do the cat-cow pose +2023

Shot of young woman in cat cow pose practicing yoga at home

Back pain or tension? Luckily, stretching your thoracic spine (the middle section, from the base of your neck to the end of your ribs) is easy: just do a lap from cat to cow pose, more commonly known as cat-to-cow pose.

As a yoga teacher, Cat-Cow is one of my favorite ways to start classes because the combination of these two poses helps warm up your spine and relieves back and neck tension. But you don’t need a yoga class as an excuse to do cat-cow. Get on the floor whenever you need to stretch your neck, spine, hips and abs – it feels great to do this pose in the morning, after an ab workout, or before bed to help your body and mind to calm down. Here’s how to make the most of it.

Benefits of the Cat Cow Pose

First and foremost, “the cat-cow pose strengthens and improves flexibility of the neck, shoulders, and spine,” it says Cristina Chan, certified trainer at F45 Training. “The movement also stretches the muscles of the hips, back, abdomen, chest and lungs.”

That’s right: The cat-cow pose not only increases flexibility and relieves tension in your spine, but it can also be an effective abdominal, neck, and chest stretch. Because you tuck and round your pelvis, Cat-Cow is also considered a great hip stretch. If you’re bloated, Cat-Cow can even help relieve bloating by massaging your abdominal organs, thereby improving digestion.

In connection with your breath, Cat-Cow can also become a kind of moving meditation. “The benefits of synchronized breathing will also help you relax and relieve the stress of the day,” adds Chan. “The combination of breathing and body movement is key to getting the most out of it Cat-Cow Exercise.” (See below for more on breathing during Cat-Cow.)

Demonstration of cat cow pose in yoga

How to do the cat-cow pose

As Chan pointed out above, engaging your breath can help you get the most out of this stretch — even if you’re not doing it mid-yoga class. “As you inhale and move into cow pose, lift your sit bones up, push your chest forward, and let your stomach sag,” says Chan. “On an exhale, come into cat pose while outwardly rounding your spine, tucking in your tailbone, and pulling your pubic bone forward.”

Here’s exactly how to do the cat-cow pose:

  • Start with your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips and your wrists are under your shoulders. Start in a neutral spine position, with your back flat and abs tight. Breathe deeply.
  • As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling and imagine pulling your belly button up toward your spine. Tuck your chin toward your chest and let go of your neck. This is the cat attitude.
  • As you inhale, raise your head and tailbone toward the sky without putting unnecessary pressure on your neck. Arch your back and let your stomach relax and loosen up. This is the cow pose.
  • Continue to flow back and forth from the cat pose to the cow pose, connecting your breath to each movement—always breathing in for the cow pose and exhaling for the cat pose.

Cat Cow modifications

  • If you are unable to explore the full range of motion in Cat-Cow, simply round and bend your spine as much as possible.
  • If this pose bothers your knees, place a rolled up towel or yoga blanket under your knees.
  • If your wrists are bothered by having your palms flat on the floor, try relaxing your fists and resting your knuckles on the floor instead.
  • If being on the floor puts too much pressure on your body, you can do this pose while sitting on the floor or in a chair. Just put your hands on your knees and pull your chin to your chest to do the cat pose, and then lift your head and chest to do the cow pose.

Cat Cow Variations

If you want to get more out of your basic cat-cow, instead of just arching and rounding your spine in one linear motion, bring some lateral and circular motions to your hips to improve your range of motion. Go slowly and find what feels good for you – just don’t forget to breathe.

—Additional reporting by Lauren Mazzo

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