The Cat pose — Marjaryasana in Sanskrit — is a yoga pose that helps to stretch and strengthen the upper body (the spine and shoulders) and the core.
It gets its name because your body goes from a neutral spine to look like an angry cat.
The Cat pose is typically performed with the Cow pose (Bitilasana) and is often performed as part of the sun salutation sequence and can warm the body or help transition between poses.
|Sanskrit Name and Pronunciation:||Marjaryasana (mar-jar-YAH-sah-nah)|
How to Do the Cat Pose
- Start on all fours on a yoga mat in a tabletop position with your hands shoulder distance apart and your knees under your hips.
- Engage your abdominal muscles as you inhale and lift your head and tailbone toward the ceiling, creating a gentle arch in your back.
- Exhale and round your spine, tucking your chin toward your chest and bringing your tailbone toward your knees.
- Repeat this movement, inhaling as you arch your back and exhaling as you round your spine for several breaths.
|Back:||Erector spinae, Quadratus lumborum, and Multifidus muscles|
|Shoulders:||Trapezius, Serratus anterior|
|Gluteal:||Gluteus maximus, Gluteus medius|
|Legs||Tensor fasciae latae, Hip flexors|
|Core:||Transverse abdominis, Rectus abdominis, Obliques|
The Cat pose offers several benefits to the body and mind. Some of the benefits of practicing this pose include:
Stretches and Strengthen the Spine
Cat Pose helps to stretch and strengthen muscles of the spine, including the erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, and multifidus muscles. This can help to improve posture and reduce the risk of back pain.
Improves Shoulder and Hip Flexibility
Cat Pose stretches the muscles in the shoulders and hips, including the trapezius, serratus anterior, gluteus maximus, and tensor fasciae latae muscles. This can increase flexibility and range of motion in these areas.
Engages and Strengthens Core Muscles
Cat Pose activates and strengthens the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and oblique muscles, helping to improve core stability and support for the spine.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Cat Pose can help calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. The pose’s rhythmic breathing and gentle movement can be soothing and relaxing.
Improves Balance and Coordination
The combination of movement and balance required in Cat Pose can help to improve balance and coordination.
Drawbacks and Risks
Marjaryasana, or Cat Pose, is generally considered a safe and accessible yoga pose for people of all levels of experience.
- Spinal Strain or Injury. If you have a history of back injury or spinal problems, it is important to be cautious when practicing Cat Pose.
- Knee Strain. You may experience discomfort or strain when practicing Cat Pose if you have weak or unstable knees. To reduce the risk of injury, it is important to ensure your knees are aligned properly under your hips and to use a cushion or blanket under your knees for support if needed.
- Neck Strain. If you have a neck injury or sensitivity, it is important to be careful when practicing Cat Pose. Make sure to keep your neck in a neutral position and avoid tucking your chin too far toward your chest, as this can strain the neck muscles.
- Wrist Strain. If you have wrist pain or sensitivity, it is important to be cautious when practicing the Cat Pose. Make sure to align your wrists under your shoulders and use a cushion or block under your hands for support if needed.
People may make a few common mistakes when practicing Marjaryasana, or Cat Pose:
- Too Much Back Rounding. Maintaining a natural curvature in the spine while practicing the Cat Pose is essential. Rounding the back too much can put unnecessary strain on the lower back muscles and increase the risk of injury.
- Chin Too Close to Chest. When practicing Cat Pose, it is important to keep the neck in a neutral position and avoid tucking it too far toward the chest. This can strain the neck muscles and lead to discomfort or injury.
- Hands Too Forward or Backward. Proper hand placement is important for maintaining balance and alignment in Cat Pose. If your hands are placed too far forward or backward, it can throw off your balance and cause strain on the wrists and shoulders.
- Hip Sagging. Keeping the hips level and aligned with the knees while practicing the Cat Pose is important. Sagging the hips can unnecessarily strain the lower back muscles and lead to discomfort or injury.
How to Modify
Modifying the Cat pose to suit your individual needs and abilities is simple.
- Use Props. If you have difficulty maintaining balance or finding comfort in the pose, you can use props such as blocks or blankets to support your body. For example, you can place a block under your hands or a blanket under your knees to reduce the weight you are supporting.
- Adjust Hand Position. If you have wrist pain or sensitivity, you can modify the position of your hands to reduce strain on the wrists. For example, you can place your hands on the edges of a block or stack of blankets or turn your hands outward.
- Move Your Head. If you have neck sensitivity or injury, you can modify the position of your head to reduce strain on the neck muscles. For example, you can lift your head slightly or turn your head to one side to reduce the stretch on the neck.
- Use a Wall. If you have difficulty maintaining balance in Cat Pose, you can use a wall for support. Stand with your back to the wall and place your hands on the wall in front of you as you arch and round your spine.
Meagan Morris is the editor in chief of Celebribody. She's veteran health and wellness editor with over 15 years of experience. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Yahoo Health, Cosmopolitan, SELF, and Women's Health, among others. She spends most of her time writing, but her favorite part of the day is spent under a barbell doing squats.