Cat Pose – Complete Tutorial

This pose gently massages your spine and stimulates your core muscles.

Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) Step-By-Step-Instructions (2 Ways to Do the Cat Pose)

The Cat Pose from the Tabletop Position

Step 1

The cat pose is usually recommended for morning routines. Before you start the preparations for the pose, make sure you have a towel and a mat near you.

Start the Yoga practice by thinking about an intention or a goal you may have that can be accomplished with the help of asanas and concentration, and place yourself on the mat.

Stand on your hands and knees on the mat.

This starting position is called “tabletop.” It helps you relieve the stress and gently stretch your muscles in the morning.

Make sure your wrists are right under your shoulders and your knees are right under your hips. Always synchronize your wrists your shoulders and your knees with your hips.

A few recommendations:

  • Keep your back straight but do not engage your back muscles
  • Lower your gaze and extend your neck forward to draw a straight line from your head to your tailbone

Step 2

Start by taking away the pressure on your joints. Spread the fingers and keep your middle finger facing forward.

To maintain your balance, press all of your fingertips on the mat. You can use a soft towel under your hands to protect them too.

If you suffered injuries in the past, protect your wrist by coming down on your elbows. Place your elbows under your shoulders and bring your forearms down on the mat too.

Step 3

Connect your body movements with your breathing.

Breathing techniques play a big part in the practice of yoga, start by focusing on controlled breaths while you are on your hands and knees.

Start by inhaling deeply the vital force in your lungs. Pause and exhale slowly.

When practicing Yoga, always make sure that the exhaling process take longer than the inhaling.

Step 4

As you exhale, slowly round your spine towards the ceiling while keeping your tailbone low. Think of a cat that is stretching. This is what your pose should look like.

Roll your shoulders back and tuck your chin. Keep your eyes facing the floor.

Make sure you do not force your shoulders or your chin. Keep the moves smooth and relaxed.

Step 5

Stretch your neck forward and relax. Do not try to stretch it too hard, as your chin does not have to touch your chest.

Take a deep breath and gently contract your abdominal muscles towards your spine as you take the air in and release the pressure on your core.

Repeat the same movement along with the breathing up to 10 times.

Step 6

If you want to stop here, simply return to the tabletop position while inhaling and exhaling slowly.

If you want to make the cat pose part of a series of movements and include it in a Vinyasa session, read the other techniques too.

cat pose

The Cat Pose Combined with the Cow Pose (Bitilasana)

Step 1

Often times, the cat and the cow pose are done together, and they both start on your knees and arms.

Make sure your wrists are below your shoulders and your knees are below your hips. If you do not have enough strength in your arms, go down on your elbows.

Take a deep breath and connect your body movements with your breathing.

Step 2

Arch you back as you take the air in and exhale while pushing your belly towards the mat in a cow pose.

Lift your pelvis and chest and keep your belly down in the cow pose.

Look forward and extend your neck without forcing it.

Step 3

Return to tabletop and create a flow between the cat and the cow pose.

Right after you have finished holding the cow pose, keep your back arched and slowly drop your chin towards the floor into a cat pose.

How to Mix the Cat Pose with Other Spinal Exercises

Step 1

Get on your knees and arms in the tabletop position on the mat and lift yourself into the cat pose. Hold it up to 10 breath cycles.

As you exhale, move your hands forward a few inches and lift your hips up. Straighten out your arms and try to keep your core muscles engaged.

To give you an idea of what the downward facing dog should look like, think of a inverted “V” shape that falls on the mat.

Try holding the pose up to 10 breathing cycle.

When you are done, slowly return into the tabletop position.

Step 2

The cat and the cow poses challenge your spine in opposite ways. The downward facing dog also has a counter-stretch pose, which is known as the extended cobra.

While you are still in the downward facing dog, slowly lower your hips towards the mat until you touch it.

Keep your shoulders relaxed and rolled back and open your chest.

While your legs are on the floor, keep your glutes and upper muscles engaged and your spine as firm as possible.

If your spine is not engaged, you might lose balance.

Keep your chin up and look towards the ceiling, hold the pose for at least 5 breath cycles.

Step 3

The seated twist pose goes well with the cat pose because it increases your flexibility and engages your abdominal muscles.

Start from a seated position on your mat and extend your legs while keeping your arms on your sides.

Keep your spine straight. Your shoulders should be slightly rolled back. Make sure you do not place all of your weight on your tailbone. If you do, you risk injuries.

Put all of the pressure on your upper leg muscles and use a rolled mat or a rolled towel behind you to help you with your balance.

Next, bend your right knee lift your left arm as you inhale. Look to your right and hold the twist for at least 9 breath cycles.

Switch the arm and repeat the pose, but do not try to force the twist. Do as much as your body allows you to do without putting any pressure on your body.

Step 4

End your session with a child’s pose to restore your body.

To stretch and calm your entire body, move on the tabletop position and bring your feet together while keeping your knees apart.

Lower your hips and extend your arms forward while standing on a towel or a pillow to feel more comfortable.

You can stay in the child’s pose as long as you want, as it does not put any pressure on your body.

The Mental and Physical Benefits of Marjaryasana (Cat Pose)

While all Yoga poses improve your strength and flexibility, the cat pose is specifically used by beginners who are starting their Yoga journey.

When paired with other poses such as the cow pose, the downward facing dog and the extended cobra can offer a number of physical benefits to the yoga practitioner.

I have compiled a short list of the immediate benefits of using the cat pose:

  • Improves your balance and fights scoliosis
  • Gets rid of the tension in your back
  • Improves the blood circulation
  • Helps relax and de-stiffen your stiff neck
  • Builds strength in your arms
  • Beneficial to pregnant women

Marjaryasana also helps prevent stiffness and back pain, especially if your back pain is caused by a bad posture or a sedentary lifestyle

There are many mental benefits associated with the cat pose too.

Even though for many it might look like a simple pose, it actually teaches you to improve your focus and coordination.

Also, because each movement is synchronized by controlled breathing, it can help your body cells use the oxygen more effectively and increase your energy levels.

The cat pose is also associated with emotional stability since it balances all the chakras in our body through its complex movements.

Contraindications

There are not many contraindications to Marjaryasana, but if you are suffering from severe neck and head injuries, you should skip the pose.

The cat pose is more challenging for those who have low blood pressure. If you are feeling dizzy while holding the pose, rest in the child’s pose for a few minutes.

If you are still feeling dizzy even after resting in the child pose, you should not repeat the cat pose without speaking to an expert.

Tips for beginners

If you are just getting started with Yoga, you should know that any asanas that require working your core muscle are going affect your digestion.

Make sure you do not eat at least 2 hours before you started the exercise. This is another reason why the pose is recommended in the morning after a nightly fast.

If you have issues arching your upper back, ask your Yoga trainer or a friend to help you out by laying a hand above and between your shoulder blades to lift you up.

Your wrists can easily get injured if you do not have enough strength. You can avoid injuries by either standing on your elbows or by placing a soft towel on your mat.

Also, make sure that all of your moves are smooth. Do not put too much tension on your neck or back.

To get the most out of this pose, pair it with other spinal exercises. This helps increase your flexibility and makes it even easier for you the next time you do it.

How to make it easier to hold the cat pose

Yoga is a system that is meant to bring the mind and the body together. But it is also a way to condition your body and train it to become more flexible and stronger.

Each asana is linked to the other. If you want to become better at holding the cat pose and improving your breathing technique, you should work the other muscles in your body that contribute to holding the pose with other asanas.

Injuries can be easily avoided if you know the limits of your body.

If you do not have enough strength in your wrists, you can always place a soft fabric under the wrists or you can stand on your elbows until you build enough strength.

Often, the cat and the cow pose are recommended because they both improve the same muscles, and if you do both, each one of them will be easier to perform over the time.

As you practice Yoga more, you will notice that diet and sleep play an important part in the practice.

Did you benefit from this article? Did I miss anything? Any feedback or suggestions would be appreciated – please post in the comments and I will personally respond!

Marcus Stone

Marcus Stone

Soon after graduating college with a degree in Journalism, Marcus decided to pursue his love for yoga and traveled to Rishikesh, India to complete his RYS 500 yoga teacher training. Marcus wants people to know that yoga is for everyone – no matter your race, gender, age, or physical ability. >> Read More
Marcus Stone

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2017-11-19T15:00:07+00:00

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