Cat-Cow Stretch - Chakravakasana

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Begin on All Fours with a Neutral Spine

Hands and knees preparation for cat cow stretch
Andy Nowack / EyeEm / Getty Images

Type of Pose: Kneeling

Benefits: Improves spinal flexibility and abdominal strength.

Also Know As: Chakravakasana

The cat-cow stretch is a yoga essential, and with good reason. It consists of moving the spine from a rounded position (flexion) to an arched one (extension). It's a basic motion, but one that is enormously beneficial in preventing back pain and maintaining a healthy spine, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting.

Each movement is done in conjunction with either an inhalation or exhalation of the breath, making this a simple vinyasa. If you already have back pain, check with your doctor before beginning to make sure these movements are appropriate for your condition.

Instructions:

1. Start on your hands and knees, aligning your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.

2. Think of the spine as a straight line connecting the shoulders to the hips. Try visualizing the line extending forward through the crown of the head and backwards through the tail bone. This is the position of a neutral spine.

3. Keep the neck long, as the natural extension of the spine.

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How to Do Cow Pose

Cow Pose
Ben Goldstein

Inhale:

1. Curl your toes under.

2. Tilt your pelvis back so that your tail sticks up.

3. Let this movement ripple from your tailbone up your spine so that your neck is the last thing to move.

4. Your belly drops down, but keep your abdominal muscles hugging your spine by drawing your navel in.

5. Take your gaze up gently up toward the ceiling without cranking your neck.

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How to Do Cat Pose

Cat pose
Ben Goldstein

Exhale:

1. Release the tops of your feet to the floor.

2. Tip your pelvis forward, tucking your tailbone. Again, let this action move up your spine.

2. Your spine will naturally round.

3. Draw your navel toward your spine.

4. Drop your head.

5. Take your gaze to your navel.

Repeat the cat-cow stretch on each inhale and exhale, matching the movement to your own breath.

Continue for 5-10 breaths, moving the whole spine. After your final exhale, come back to a neutral spine.

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Cat-Cow in a Chair

Cat - Cow Stretch in a Chair
Chair Cat - Cow Stretch. Ann Pizer

If you have trouble coming to your hands and knees or if you want to sneak in a few stretches at work, you can adapt cat-cow into a chair yoga pose. The movements are pretty much the same as they are on the floor.

Begin by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees. Take a few breaths to establish a position with your shoulders over your hips and a nice long spine

Inhale:

1. Tilt your pelvis back, emphasizing your tail. Your belly will round forward.  

2. Pull your shoulders down and back.

3. Look up toward the ceiling.

Exhale:

1. Tilt your pelvis back, tucking your tail under. Your spine will round.

2. Pull your navel in.

3. Curve your shoulders forward and take your gaze towards your belly.

Repeat these movements on each inhale and exhale for 5-10 breaths.

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