If you experience persistent pain in your pelvis, back, shoulder, or neck, you might have an unconscious tendency to protect yourself by increasing rigidity in your body. The Cat/Cow Pose help to undo that stiffness.
This might look like holding your shoulders up toward your ears, holding your breath, and abdominal or butt gripping.
If we move and breathe mindfully, we can decrease tension by encouraging rib expansion and spinal mobilization. This decreases superficial muscle (muscles closer to the outside of the body) over-activity and helps reprogram the nervous system.
Create the flow of Cat pose and Cow pose
Cat Pose and Cow Pose can be practiced separately or together, depending on your body’s needs.
Start by coming on to the ground or yoga mat and find the table top position on your hands and knees.
Your knees will be hip distance apart and your hands will be directly under, or slightly in front of, your shoulders. Watch that you don’t hyperextend your elbows—try a microbend so you don’t lock your elbows. This will ask your body to use your muscles more versus relying on the joint and ligaments.
To activate your quads more, press the tops of your feet into the ground.
Exhale into Cat Pose as you move into spinal flexion (curling the spine):
- Curl your pelvis under as if you were drawing your tail between your legs.
- Pull in your lower abdomen as you curl your tailbone under.
- Allow your pelvis to curl under, your spine to create a C shape, draw your chin to your chest and your upper back up towards the ceiling.
Inhale into Cow Pose as you move into spinal extension (arching the back):
- Visualize your tailbone reaching up towards the ceiling.
- Release your belly towards the floor.
- Allow your chest to melt through your shoulders.
- Bring your head to look forward (or up).
Does the breathing confuse you? Read my thoughts about pairing breath with movement.
Make Cat/Cow Pose work for you
The beauty of a yoga practice is its flexibility (no pun intended!). That is, you can make adjustments to the positioning and use props. Try some of the variations below and make it work for you!
Use your fists
Do you use your hands and forearms at a keyboard all day? Or taking care of baby? You might prefer not having your wrists bend at such a sharp angle.
One variation is to make a fist and bear weight on the fist.
Another option is to place your hands on arm weights on the ground.
Cushion your knees
Lots of folks have tenderness at the bump just below the knee, called the tibial tubercle.
Try rolling your yoga mat up to give you a little more padding. If you have an extra mat or towel you can place it horizontally across your mat for more cushion.
Stand or sit
Have you had a surgery or unable to weight bear on your knees for another reason? Try Cat/Cow Pose while sitting or standing with your hands on your thighs.
In the seated option, instead of weight bearing through the shoulders and knees we weight bear through the sitz bones. This offers a different perspective for pelvic floor muscle