Tame Your Cat and Cow with Proper Alignment!
Cat-cow is a go-to flow for most yogis and non-yogis alike. It’s pretty easy on everybody and feels amazing! Even for those who have common injuries or sensitivities, like wrist or knee issues, there are simple tweaks you can use so you can still enjoy a good cat-cow. This pose shouldn’t be limited to a class setting. I find myself dropping to the floor for a few rounds throughout my day! It’s incredibly grounding, centering, and invigorating all at the same time. But here’s the thing, there is one misalignment I see far too often, in class or private sessions, that once corrected makes a huge difference! Before we get to alignment, let’s talk about the amazing benefits.
During a Cat-Cow Flow, our spine is being nourished. It’s receiving blood flow, oxygen, and Prana (Life Force). Our spine experiences flexion and extension which cultivates and enhances the primary and secondary curvatures of the spine (sacral, lumbar, thoracic, and cervical). This process also encourages space between the vertebrae potentially alleviating back pain and even sciatica. All of this creates balance and a restful state for our spine. When this happens, the message being sent to our brain is one of calm and peace. So, although our spine is the primary receiver here, the benefits clearly go beyond.
From a physical standpoint of the spine, we’re encouraging flexibility and strength while performing Cat-Cow. It also improves the tonal quality of our internal organs and strengthens and lengthens the muscles in our hips, core, and chest.
Cat-Cow also stimulates our chakras, especially Muladhara (root-RED), Svadhisthana (sacral-ORANGE), and Sahaswara (crown-ULTRAVIOLET). I like to use the time I spend in Cat-Cow to visualize the colors of these chakras. I begin visualizing their vortex nature and any negative or heavy energy beginning to disintegrate as these chakras increase their vibration and health.
Now for the important alignment details. Although this sweet little flow is pretty simple, there is that one crucial misalignment that makes a huge difference so read carefully.
Begin from table-top:
- Ensure that your wrists are stacked below shoulders
- Feet and knees are hip width apart and hips stacked over knees
- Head is in neutral and gaze is down at the Earth (slightly ahead)
- Release tops of your feet to the Earth
INHALE into Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
- As you inhale, chest and tail lift toward the sky and belly falls toward the Earth. Your gaze lifts straight forward while creating length in your neck to avoid collapsing in the cervical spine.
EXHALE into Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
- As you exhale round and lift your spine toward the sky while drawing your belly in toward your spine (without losing alignment in your knees and wrists).
Here’s the misalignment I referred to earlier:
Make sure that your palms are actively pressing into the Earth as you exhale into Cat. Too often people allow their palms to cup causing slumping in the shoulders which dumps all the weight into the shoulder girdle. When you keep your palms actively pressing into the Earth, the shoulder blades fan open as you arch into cat, so you’re releasing and lengthening the rhomboids, as well as other muscles, underneath the shoulder blades-releasing tension and breathing Prana into these over tensed muscles.
Side-note: if you have wrist or knee sensitivities, try placing a rolled-up towel under your knees or the base of your hand and your wrist to help reduce the angle and pressure in the joint.
That’s it! Perform this juicy Cat-Cow flow as many times as you’d like allowing your spine to receive the nourishment and Prana it deserves for working so hard for you.
Have a tip or twist to Cat-Cow? Want to know proper alignment for a specific pose? Comment and share with us below!