Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana)

Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana) via flickr
Pose Type:

The cat pose (it looks like a startled cat with its back arched high) is often paired with the cow pose (which creates a low belly and a high tailbone) and uses the breath to create fluid movement in the spine. It is a highly popular pose and recommended for yogis who suffer from back pain, either regular pain such a morning back pain or occasional, as in back pain due to menstrual cramping. The pose works to create space between the vertebrae of the spine and it encourages the body to honor the natural curves of the spine inherent in every human to a different degree.

The pose starts in a tabletop position with the hands and knees positioned directly beneath the shoulders and hips. Take a moment to center your weight and ensure a neutral position is established while keeping the eyes to the floor.

Pose Sequence

The Chakravakasana pose seems like simple motion – coordinated with the inhale and exhale – but it does so much for the tight body. While a simple vinyasa, it is great for back pain especially just after waking up or in preparation for a strong vinyasa flow practice.

  1. This pose starts out on all fours, with the knees directly beneath the hip joints and hands directly beneath the shoulder joints.
  2. Keep the neck long with the crown of the head extending away from the tailbone as a natural extension.
  3. Once neutral position is established, on an exhale draw your belly into your back and round the spine up toward the sky so you look like a frightened cat. The chin comes in toward the chest.
  4. As you exhale, lower the belly toward the floor reversing the rounded back and gazing upward. The tailbone will come high and the head will be lifted.
  5. With each inhale open the backbend and with each exhale arch forward and up as the hips come slightly forward.

Releasing from the pose is done by reversing the movement, bringing the left leg up and over the body, flipping back into a downward dog. As you practice this pose, you can almost taste the delicious lightness and freedom of childhood play.

Benefits of Chakravakasana, or Cat-Cow Pose

The benefits of this pose include:

  • Exceptional for spinal flexibility
  • Does wonders for lower, upper, and middle back stiffness
  • Promotes healthy digestion and elimination
  • Improves abdominal strength

The cat-cow stretch is a classic yoga pose and for good reason. It stimulates the spine with a simple motion that is enormously beneficial while loosening the joints and muscles. It is often used at the start of a yoga practice to allow the body to warm up in preparation for asana flows.

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By Virginia O'Connor

Co-founder of and writer/content manager.