(Marjaryasana): Techniques, Benefits, Variations

Level – Beginner

Cat Pose

(Marjaryasana)

Cat Pose Prep & Practice

1

Come to a tabletop position, taking the shoulders directly over the wrists and hips over the knees. Hands come shoulder width apart. Take the knees hips distance.

2

Spread the fingers wide. Press down evenly through the palms, fingers, and wrists. Uncurl the toes, resting the tops of feet down on to the floor.

3

On an exhalation, draw the chin in. Lengthen the back of the neck and pull the abs up toward the ceiling as you round the back. Push the floor away from you.

4

Upper arms externally rotate as you protract the shoulders. Tuck the tailbone in.

5

To come out of this posture use an inhalation to slowly lower the torso back to a neutral tabletop position. Bring the head back in line with the spine.

Variations/Modifications

  • Place a folded blanket under the knees
  • Practice on forearms
  • Practice in a seated position

Physical, Mental and Emotional Benefits

  • Strengthens the wrists, arms, and shoulders
  • Tones the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor
  • Relieves tension in the upper back muscles 
  • Increases flexibility in the spine

Contraindications

  • Weak wrists 
  • Shoulder Injury
  • Knee Injury 
  • Sore Neck, keep neck in line with the spine

A Few Notes

Cat cow pose is one of the most popular warm-ups in every yoga class, especially in active classes like Vinyasa. Mimicking a cat stretch, this asana warms your core muscles, abdominal organs, lower back, spine, and shoulder blades for your yoga practice. Even if you are not preparing your body for asana, the cat stretch is a powerful way to keep your spine and neck flexible. I especially recommend it to people who work on computers all day, which can cause a lot of pain in the shoulder blades. When paired with cow stretch, this posture becomes a healing dynamic exercise.

For practitioners who are looking for a deep stretch in the back muscles, you can progressively increase the range of movement in this posture. For instance, if you begin in table pose with a neutral spine, then you can slowly increase your cow stretch and cat stretch with each breath. From there, you can begin to move your spine in a circular motion all while moving between cat stretch and cow stretch, like a jump rope. Make big circles with your spine, tucking your tailbone deeply which in the cat posture. After a few rounds, you can switch directions.

This posture is truly delicious and all of the variations that come with it make it an especially fun warm-up on your yoga mat.

What are the benefits of cat cow pose?

Cat cow pose is a great spinal stretch, but is beneficial to a lot more of the body as well. It opens the chest and belly muscles by stretching in a way that is opposite to our natural stature. It opens the hip area by moving all of the connective tissue around your hips. It stretches the hand, wrist, and forearm areas, as well, which is especially helpful to people who work on computers all day. Some say that it also supports the adrenal glands, though this is a less studied benefit.

Do you inhale on cat or cow?

Inhale in cow pose as you move your belly toward the floor and lift your head up. Fill your chest with air as you pull your shoulder blades toward each other and down toward your tailbone. Then exhale as you curve your spine and tailbone toward the floor, tucking your chin toward your chest. Use the compression of your body to help push the air out of your lungs. Repeat this at your own pace.

Is Cat Cow bad for your back?

While cat cow can feel absolutely incredible for most people, it is not always good for those with a spine or neck injury. If you’re ever uncertain, you can always ask your yoga teacher. As a general rule of thumb, no posture should cause pain.

Want more yoga pose tutorials? See more in my Yoga Pose Directory.

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