When I’m first starting to move on my mat, one of my favorite moves is cat/cow pose. It feels SO yummy! It’s one of those poses that was never difficult and always came naturally to me (many people feel that way). It’s always felt good in my body, and helps to stretch out those kinks first thing in the morning.
The cat/cow movements have many benefits. First and foremost, they are awesome for preventing back pain and keeping your spine healthy (that said, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have back issues, just to be sure it’s safe for you to move this way). The moves also require you to engage your abs, which can be a gentle way to improve abdominal strength. And let’s not forget the focused breathing benefits. I find this pose one of the absolute easiest for me to move my body with my breath. You know how you’ll be in the middle of a pose that’s really difficult and your instructor says something like, “Don’t forget to breathe! Keep your breath attuned to the movement,” and all you can think is, “Are you effing kidding me? I can’t even expand my rib cage enough to get a good breath!” Yeah. I know that feeling too. But this pose? I find it to be the best pose for really listening to my breath and flowing with it. Maybe you’ll experience that too!
Steps to Master Cat/Cow Pose:
- Start on your hands and knees in table top position. Ensure your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips.
- Check to ensure your spine is in a neutral position, and keep your neck long (if you simply stare straight down, your neck should be long).
- On an inhale, reach your tailbone up toward the ceiling. Allow your spine to arch and your belly to drop down.
- Look up toward the ceiling.
- Ensure your shoulders are engaged and away from your ears (we have a tendency to let our shoulders creep up).
- On an exhale, begin to tilt your pelvis under, and allow your spine to round.
- Drop your head, and take your gaze to your belly button.
- Press your hands firmly into your mat while keeping your shoulders engaged.
- On each inhale, move back into cow pose.
- On each exhale, move back into cat pose.
- Repeat for 5-10 breaths, following the natural rhythm of your own breathing.
- After your final exhale, return to a neutral spine.