Regularly practicing yoga does wonders for your overall wellbeing. It is an effective way to stay in shape, explore and expand your physical limits, bring your focus to the present, and calm the mind. Even those who don’t head to the studio on a regular basis can reap the benefits of the practice by working on yoga poses on their own time. Cat/Cow Pose is a great stretch to implement into your physical practice, as it is the perfect posture to warm up your body before getting into a yoga flow—or any other physical activity.
Cat/Cow Pose is the combination of two yoga asanas—Marjaryasana (Cat) and Bitilasana (Cow)—into a flowing vinyasa. This foundational warm-up pose is often practiced at the beginning of the class, as it helps to bring movement to the spine. It is performed breath to movement, so it is great for getting centered at the start of class and bringing your focus to your breath. Cat/Cow is perfect for beginners and experienced yogis alike, as it is easy to perform, yet full of incredible mental and physical benefits.
Performing Cat/Cow Pose
To practice the posture, start in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the ground. Ensure your palms are stacked directly underneath your shoulders, and your knees underneath your hips. The arms should remain straight in order to focus the movement in the spine, rather than the elbows.
On an exhale, move into Cat (Marjaryasana). Round your spine up towards the ceiling while tilting your tailbone down and driving your pubic bone forward. As you do this, tuck your chin down towards your chest. While your head is tilting down, elongate through your neck to ensure you still leave space between your chin and chest.
On your next inhale, move into Cow (Bitilasana). Raise your head and face forward, and tilt your tailbone up, letting your back curve. Ensure you don’t tilt your head back too far or over arch your back, as it can result in strain.
Continue slowly alternating between Cat and Cow, connecting one breath to each movement. Practice the posture for at least 30 seconds, but continue as long as feels fit for your needs. Give yourself time to fully feel the stretch in your back, abdomen, and neck as you breathe through the pose. The movement should be slow and gentle, so be patient and fight any urges to quickly shift between the two postures. The pose is safe to practice if you are pregnant, but ensure you are not contracting your abdomen too forcefully while moving between the two poses.
Benefits of Cat/Cow Pose
Practicing Cat/Cow Pose promotes a wide range of benefits for your body and mind, including the following:
- Centers your focus on the present and connects you to your breath.
- Warms up your body to prepare for more intense movement.
- Improves flexibility in the spine.
- Releases tension in the back and neck, helping to relieve pain in those areas.
- Provides a gentle stretch to the abdomen and hips.
- Massages the organs in the abdomen, including the kidneys and adrenal glands.
- Allows you to develop coordination.
- Improves posture and balance, as well as spinal alignment.
- Calms the mind and helps you let go of stress.
Whether you consider yourself a dedicated yogi or just dabble in the practice from time to time, give yourself the opportunity to work Cat/Cow Pose into your overall workout routine. The movement is easy to practice for people of all athletic skills, and you can incorporate it into nearly any physical practice you take part in.