The simple cat-cow stretch is more beneficial than it looks. I love this pose because it’s simple enough that almost everyone can perform it and you don’t need to be particularly flexible to master it. It’s usually incorporated in a yoga flow as part of a warm-up, but cat-cow can also be done on its own as a way to release pain and stiffness and to nourish the deeper spaces of the spine. I particularly love this pose as a quick antidote to traveling or sitting for long periods of time.
What are the benefits of Cat-Cow?
Cat-cow is a gentle flow between two postures that increases flexibility in the spine which is why it is commonly used at the beginning of class to help warm the body and prepare for more rigorous postures. Flowing between cat-cow helps stretch the back, torso, neck, and stimulates the abdominal organs while simultaneously opening the chest.
For a relatively simple pose, the benefits of cat-cow are numerous. Coordinating this movement with your breath helps relieve stress and calms the mind. This sequence also helps to develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body. Cat-cow helps bring the spine into correct alignment and can help alleviate back pain when practiced regularly.
Benefits of cat-cow pose include the following:
- Improves posture and balance
- Strengthens and stretches the spine and neck
- Stretches the hips, abdomen, and back
- Massages and stimulates abdominal organs
- Creates emotional balance
- Relieves stress and calms the mind
How to hold this pose
1. Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Relax your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward.
2. Begin by moving into cow pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling.
3. Broaden across your shoulder blades and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
4. Next, move into cat pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back.
5. Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
6. Inhale, coming back into cow pose, and then exhale as you return to cat pose.
7. Repeat 5-10 times, focusing on your breath as you flow between cat/cow.