How to do the Cat Cow Exercise

How to Do the Cat / Cow Exercise

The cat cow stretch is a staple in yoga classes everywhere. It helps to soothe a stiff back and neck, while opening up the hip flexors and engaging the core. It also increases flexibility in the shoulders, spine and neck. 

The first position – cat – allows for a stretch that is as open as you like, with the back rounded just a bit or high into the air while the tailbone is tucked in. The second position – cow – pulls the abdominals in and lets the back muscles relax. Synchronized with rhythmic breathing, cat / cow is an effective way to strengthen your core, reduce back pain and rest your mind.

Also Known As

  • cat cow pose stretchMarjaryasana
  • Cat / Cow Pose
  • Cat and Cow Stretch

Level

Beginner

Targets

Back, torso and neck

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Start in tabletop position (on all fours with hands aligned with shoulders and knees aligned with hips.)
  2. Shift until your knees are hip width apart and your fingers are pointing forwards. 
  3. Centre your neck and head in a neutral position and soften your gaze, relaxing your jaw.
  4. Exhale, bring your belly to your spine and arch your back as high as you like. 
  5. Inhale, lower your spine to a neutral position and drop your belly.
  6. As you drop your belly, lift your chest and chin, looking up at the ceiling, moving your shoulders away from your ears.
  7. Repeat 5-10 times.

Tips/Common Mistakes

  • If your wrists are sensitive, you can do this stretch with forearms on the floor
  • Place a folded blanket or towel under your knees
  • Keep your shoulders away from your ears to protect your neck as you move through cat / cow
  • Coordinate your breath with the movements. Your body should feel like a wave as you inhale and exhale through the poses.

And that’s how you do the Cat Cow Exercise.