Core Exercise: Cat Cow
Flexibility and mobility are core components of body health. To reduce back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain, stretching regularly is a vital habit to get into it. For those who have stiff backs or shoulders, work sedentary jobs, or keep a rigid posture all day, the cat-cow stretch can greatly improve your overall body wellness.
Cat cow is a great, beginner-friendly stretch that can be done daily. We recommend this to our patients, both family clientele and athletes, because it helps move the spine and reduce tension, no matter where your stiffness stems from. Do this in the morning, before bed, on your break from work, or as part of your warm-up and cool down to relieve tension in the body and introduce healthy movement daily.
What is Cat Cow
Cat cow is a spinal stretch that can be done daily. It is based on the tabletop position and is often found in yoga movements. However, cat cow is a great stretch for all workout routines to help with movement, pain reduction, and back mobility. This is considered more of a stretch, warm-up, or cool-down movement than a general exercise.
How To Do Cat Cow Pose
To perform the cat cow stretch, you want to get into the tabletop position: hands and knees on the floor, with a flat, neutral back to begin. Your hips will be above your knees and your shoulders will be above your wrists.
From the tabletop position, you will focus on pulling your mid back down, stretching your back. Your core will be pulled down during this motion. You will breathe in this position for 5 seconds. You will then arch your mid back up, imitating a cat stretching its back in the air. Focus on rounding your shoulders gently and pulling your core up and in. You will hold this position for 5 seconds.
You want to complete 10 total reps of each stretch, pausing and breathing through each position. Your focus is on the position of your core and back. Keep light engagement at all times.
Benefits of Cat Cow Stretches
Cat cow stretches are great for helping with back pain and back flexibility. This is a daily stretch that can be completed several times throughout the day as you feel stiff or pain. The arching motions help relieve stiffness and introduce movement back into your spine and body.
Cat cow also introduces light body engagement, great for strengthening your buttress and your core. You can release neck tension as you move the stretching motion through your back and shoulders. You also get body stability as you hold your tabletop position.
We recommend cat cow for:
- Torsional Buttress Strengthening
- Release Neck and Back Tension
- Shoulder Strength
- Hip Mobility
How Often Should I Do Cat Cow Stretch
Doing the cat cow stretch daily is highly recommended to stay on top of soreness, stiffness, and back pain. It can be done multiple times a day as needed as you feel your shoulders tighten, back stiffen, or general pain throughout the body. Breathe into the pose to help relax the body.
Is Cat Cow a Yoga Pose
Cat cow is often found in yoga practices. However, cat cow is also a great stretch for those who exercise or practice physical therapy outside of yoga. This is a great daily stretch that does not require a warm-up to begin. It is also great because it can be performed daily in a small space, like a bedroom, living room, or office.
We recommend cat cow to anyone working on back pain, shoulder tension, or general mobility and flexibility.
Tips for the Cat Cow Repetitions
To get the most out of your cat cow stretch and to help avoid injuries, always ensure proper form, alignment, and motions. Keep your hips stable and do not allow them to sway. Your hips should also stay above your knees. Keep your shoulders above your wrists and do not overextend your joints. The neck should remain relaxed and in line with your spine.
As you arch, focus on lightly engaging the core, moving through each vertebra of the spine, and not jostling your body from one position to the next.