Cat-cow pose is a key yoga practice that involves the movement of the spine in a rounded mode. As the yogi moves the spine around, he inhales or exhales breath in conjunction with the movement of the body.
The cat-cow pose is part of the poses that are used as a warm-up or relaxation sequence. Some people use it as part of practice in yoga class for the prevention of back pains. Read on as we take you through the hidden facts of this pose.
Items Needed to practice Cat-cow pose
The practice of cat-cow pose does not require sophisticated materials. It requires the following:
· Yoga mat
· A small space
What are the step by step instructions on how to practice Cat-cow pose?
The following steps will help you to carry out the cat-cow pose with ease:
First Step: Place your hands and Knees
Begin the exercise by placing your hands and knees with your wrists positioned directly under the shoulders. Ensure the knees are also directly under the hips. Point the fingertips to the top of your yoga mat.
Ensure that the hands are placed flat on the mat. Align the hips of your body over your knees. You are at liberty to adjust the position of the feet for maximum comfort.
Second Step: Alignment of your heels
To have a better positioning of your body, align your heels to position well with the midpoint of your chest forward back knee.
Also, align your shins with your knees. Endeavor to tuck the chin and keep the back of the neck long to prevent neck injury.
Third Step: Begin with the cat pose
Start the exercise by tucking the tailbone under, round the spine, then tuck the chin, and push the gaze to your abdomen/belly. Use the movement to make a “C” shape with your spine as you take one exhale.
Fourth Step: change neutral spine into cow pose
The next step is to transit the neutral spine position and into cow pose by tilting your tailbone up, arching the back, lift your head from throat and chin.
Then, set your gaze on a point on the wall while taking one to inhale with the move into cow pose.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Practicing Cat-Cow Pose
There are various mistakes some yogis make when carrying out this exercise in yoga class. Some of the mistakes are:
1. Hunching of the shoulder
It is tempting to hunch the shoulder towards the ears when beginning this exercise. As a result of this, it does not enable full-body movement.
It causes you to get stuck in the cervical and thoracic spine, which hinders you from achieving the maximum benefits of the cat-cow pose.
2. Thrashing the Body Around
Though the exercise may look easy, it is essential to be conscious of your body movement.
You have to focus on the slow movement of each vertebra rather than thrashing the body around. If you do it well, you are sure to get good body stability and mobility throughout the spine.
3. Movement from the Back
The key essence of this movement is complete spinal movement. Your major task is to begin from your spine. Once you begin the movement from the lower back, it will give you partial spinal mobility.
4. Straining of the Neck
Some yogis strain their necks when practicing this pose, which may lead to neck injury. It is essential not to strain the neck when lifting your gaze to the wall.
When moving into a cat, drop the head naturally without forcing the head down. Make sure the shoulder blades are relaxed instead of dropping up towards the ears.
Some Variations to Cat-cow Pose
Several changes come with this cat-cow pose. Some of them are:
1. Cat Pose with blocks
In case you have pains with tight muscles in your hands or wrists, some modifications can allow you to still practice the cat-cow pose.
You can use blocks or books to place your forearms. If there is no block around, make use of firm pillows.
Sometimes, you can also rest on a fist instead of an open hand. Thus, it will still produce the same benefits as practicing with your hands and feet flat on the floor.
2. Cat-cow pose in a Chair
Another modification to the cat-cow pose is sitting on a chair with the feet under the knees and hip distance apart.
For those that are tall, sit bones upward on a folded blanket to keep yourself in a balanced position. If you are short, put blocks or folded blankets under your feet to keep your knees at 90º.
Take a deep breath as you sit as tall as possible. Exhale as you round the spine while pushing out your spine outward.
Ways to add Cat-cow pose to Routine
Cat-cow pose happens to be one of the main moves that begin in a tabletop posture. Thus, it is quite normal to flow into other tabletop practices.
Some recommended tabletop poses that are good to add before and after the cat-cow pose for maximum spinal mobility are:
1. The knee hover pose
The Knee Hover Pose is one of the excellent moves in yoga and fitness routines, beneficial for building core strength and stability. This pose engages different muscles, including the glutes, abs, and back, with an emphasis on the quadriceps and hip flexors.
When done correctly, it can help improve balance and develop a better mind-body connection.
It involves lifting the knees off the ground and balancing on the hands, with the arms straight and shoulders aligned over the wrists.
The knee hover pose targets the lower body while also working on upper body strength, making it a multi-beneficial exercise for anyone looking to improve their fitness levels.
How to do Knee Hover Pose
Just like the cat-cow pose, start on all fours. Position your gaze some inches in front of the floor. Carry the knees a few centimeters above the floor with the remaining part of the body still in the right position.
Keep your gaze as you gently lower the knees to the floor, resuming a tabletop position. Repeat the procedures about 8 times and take a deep breath.
2. Tiger Pose
Tiger Pose is a popular yoga position that offers numerous physical and mental benefits. It is typically practiced as part of a sequence of poses in a yoga class or asana practice.
In this pose, the body is brought into a quadrupedal position with the hands and knees on the ground, and the spine is arched, mimicking the position of a tiger about to pounce.
The pose helps to increase flexibility in the spine, shoulders, and neck. It also helps to strengthen the arms, legs, and core muscles.
Additionally, this pose has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, making it a valuable addition to any yoga or wellness routine.
How to do Tiger Pose
Start on all fours and place the hand in a way that the wrists will be directly under your shoulders and knees. Position your gaze a few centimeters in front of the floor with pubic bone forward.
Raise and extend the left arm up to shoulder height. Let it reach towards the front of the floor. Raise and extend the right leg. Let it be at the height of the hip and towards the back of the floor. Return the leg to its original position so that the body resumes its tabletop position.
Repeat the same process with the other side and change sides for 25 – 60 seconds while breathing normally.
3. Puppy Pose
Puppy Pose is a yoga asana that provides a soothing stretch to your back, shoulders, and arms.
It is a variation of the widely-known Child's Pose, where your head extends in front of your body to elongate your spine.
The name of this pose comes from the way puppies stretch when they wake up from a nap, bending their forelegs and extending their spines with their tails wagging.
Puppy Pose helps to open up the chest, increase flexibility, and alleviates stress and anxiety.
It is a perfect pose for those wanting to ease into their yoga practice or for those who want to lengthen their spine and release tension in their upper body.
How to do Puppy Pose
Just like others, start on all fours. Followed by lowering one forearm to the floor at a time. Then, arch the lower back while strengthening the arms out with the chest dropped down.
Rest the forehead on the floor, and position hips high with alignment over the knees all the time. Remain in the position for about 40 – 60 seconds. Ensure to breathe naturally while taking practicing this pose.
4.The Inverted V Pose
The Inverted V Pose is a fundamental yoga pose commonly incorporated in various yoga styles. It's also known as downward-facing dog pose or adho mukha svanasana in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language.
The pose is recognizable by its inverted V-shape created when the hands and feet are on the ground, and the hips are raised. This pose is beneficial for stretching the spine, hamstrings, and calves.
It targets both upper and lower body muscles and improves flexibility, strength, and balance. In addition to its physical benefits, the pose is also ideal for calming the mind, reducing stress, and enhancing focus.
How to do Inverted V Pose
Begin the pose on all fours. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Lift the hips into the air while extending your legs and adjusting your weight back into the feet.
Thus, forming an inverted "V" shape with your upper body. Remain in the position for about 30 – 60 seconds. Remember, while taking the inverted "V" shape position, breathe naturally to keep yourself fit for the pose.
What are the Benefits of Cat-cow Pose?
We have numerous benefits of cat-cow pose. Different yogis practice it for different purposes. However, some of all the benefits of this pose are:
1. Body and Mind Boost
Cat-cow pose boosts the body and mind in various ways such as stretching the chest and abs, strengthening the back, boosting your moods, improving digestion, and spinal mobility, and increasing blood circulation through female reproductive system.
2. Stretching of Shoulder, Wrists, and Spine
Cat-cow pose stretches the shoulder, wrists, and spine. It prepares one for extra movement.
The slow rhythm during the move between the cow pose and the cat pose synchronizes breath and incites the body for relation response.
The parasympathetic nervous system of the body becomes alert and ready to respond to stimuli.
3. Deactivation of Body Stress
Cat-cow pose focuses on the deactivating stress response of your body. Thus, causing you to become calm, enhances good health and body awareness. Moreover, movement enhances creativity of the body as a result of this pose.
4. Relief to People with Scoliosis
Relief for people with scoliosis is another benefit of cat pose. When people with scoliosis practice the cat-cow pose, it helps them to naturally restructure the spine using a neutral alignment procedure.
5. Body feels Lighter with less anxiety
The cow aspect of the practice acts as a heart opener, which makes one feel lighter. The cat aspect deals with anxiety by helping you to get grounded while rounding the spine close to the earth (sympathetic Nervous System).
6. Stimulation of the body hormones
Regular practice of cat-cow pose stimulates adrenalin glands and reduces the pain of menstrual cramp. The pose also softly stimulates the female reproductive system, which improves blood circulation.
Useful Tips for Beginners
To get the best out of this pose, kindly keep in mind the following tips:
- During the cat phase, drop your head and let the back of your neck release. Avoid the temptation of forcing your chin to move toward the ceiling or chest.
- During the cat phase gentle massage, drag the belly button tightly towards the spine to increase your abdominal massage.
- During the cow phase, start the movement from the tailbone. Ensure that your head and neck move to the last part of the joint.
- Draw the shoulder away from the ears. It will protect your neck from injury during movements.
- Ensure to control your breath while coordinating your body movement. Improper coordination of your synchronized breath movement may lead to dizziness or headache.
- Cow-cat pose prepares you to other tabletop practices and develop postural awareness.