How to Do Cat Pose in Yoga (Guide to Marjariasana)

Cat Pose is one of the most popular yoga poses, often paired with Cow Pose in a wonderfully spinal nourishing flow. But this pose is not only a way to stretch the spine; it can also stimulate the vagus nerve, switching your nervous system from “fight-or-flight” mode to “rest-and-digest” mode.

“I often provide Cat Pose in yoga therapy sessions as an opportunity for my clients to synchronize their breath with their body movements,” says Yoga Answered contributor Isabella Koepf. “Breath and body regulation has a profound impact on balancing the nervous system and promoting complete body, mind, and soul wellness.”

Cat Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Marjariasana
Pose Type: Core Yoga Poses
Difficulty Level: Beginner pose
Targets: spine, shoulders, hips, pelvis, abdomen, throat, and wrists
Benefits: Improves blood circulation, relieves back pain, tones the vagus nerve, increases coordination, relaxes menstrual cramps, strengthens the shoulders and spine, increases mobility in the hips, stimulates the abdomen and throat, strengthens the wrists
Preparatory Poses: Tabletop Pose, Thunderbolt Pose, Seated Spinal Twist Pose, Easy Pose with Spinal Cat/Cow Movements, Child’s Pose

How to Do Cat Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Begin in a tabletop position by resting your hands flat on the mat just underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Make sure that your legs are hip-distance apart and your arms are shoulder-distance apart to create a strong base in this pose.
  2. Create a strong base with your hands by spreading your fingers flat onto the mat and pressing into the four points of the palm of your hand.
  3. With an exhalation, slowly round your spine towards the ceiling and bring your chin towards your chest as you curve your tailbone towards your nose.
  4. Gaze towards your belly button and push the floor away from you to broaden your shoulder blades.
  5. Keep your arms straight throughout this practice to focus the stretch onto your spine.
  6. To exit the pose, slowly allow your spine, chin, and pelvis to return to neutral in a tabletop position.

Beginner’s Tip

If you feel any tension in your knees or wrists in this pose, try placing a blanket underneath your knees to provide additional cushioning. If you feel any pain in your wrists, try placing a blanket or angled cushion underneath the base of your palms to cushion this area and reduce the angle in your wrists. Another variation to reduce stress in the wrists is to place your forearms on top of blocks instead.

Make sure not to collapse your shoulders towards your ears, and instead try to relax them away to provide more space for your neck and shoulders to stretch. Additionally, Cat Pose is a gentle pose on the spine, so try to avoid forcing your chin towards your chest or striving. It is more beneficial to focus on your breath and the flowing movements in this posture rather than pushing to achieve any particular shape or extension.

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