Cat and Cow are actually two distinct poses, but more often than not are practiced together, moving with the breath. Inhaling for one, and exhaling for the other. You’ll usually find them at the very beginning of a class as part of the warm up. Or maybe it’s at the end when you’re starting to cool down and make your way to the floor series.
Wherever you find it, its goal is to softly articulate the spine, stretch the back and neck, and stimulate the organs in your abdomen. Cat works into the thoracic spine and stretches the muscles between the shoulder blades really well. Cow opens the front of the body with a beautiful stretch through the abdominals, neck, and shoulders.
The combination is fantastic for every yogi out there -- from beginners to old hats, from kiddos to the well-lived, from prenatal to postnatal and everyone in between. It’s accessible. It reduces stress and anxiety and calms the nervous system. With regular practice it can even help prevent back injury, and it’s even been said to turn breech babies to the head down position in preparation for birth.
To make sure you’re reaping all the rewards of these two poses, and not causing any unknown damage to your bod, here are some of the most common misalignments in Cat/Cow, and how you can go about fixing them.
Wrists Should be Directly Below Shoulders
Make sure when you pop up onto all fours from Child’s Pose or your starting position, your wrists are directly beneath your shoulders. It’s easy to have them creep forward or backward, and can cause unnecessary pressure on the wrist crease.
Keep your fingers facing forward and check that your wrist crease lines up with your shoulders.
Knees Directly Below Hips
Similar to the above, it’s important to make sure your hips are directly above your knees -- not leaning forward or backward.
If your hips are too far forward for your knees it can put additional pressure on the tip of the kneecap. If they are too far back, it will inhibit your range of motion through the spine.
Knees and Shins at Hip Width
This one goes hand in hand with lining your knees up directly beneath your hips, and if you have them lined up properly, it shouldn’t be an issue. But it is important to keep your knees, as well as your shins, at hip width. You don’t want to see your toes touching together or your heels spread too far apart.
Think nice, clean, straight lines for this pose. We are talking 90 degree angles here for your hips, your knees, your wrists, and your armpits (shoulders).
Are there common misalignments you find your body in when you’re working through this sequence that we’ve left out? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!