Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)

How-To, Benefits, Tips, Tricks & Related Poses

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Cat-Cow Pose, Sanskrit: Marjaryasana-Bitilasana, (maa-r-jaa-raa-suh-nuh , Bi-ti-laah-suh-nuh)

marjara (cat) + asana (pose) , bitila (cow) + asana (pose)

Also known as: Cat Cow Pose, Cat Cow Child Pose Flow, Kneeling Cat Swan Flow, Hovering Cat Pose, Cat Cow Stretch

Pose Type: Backbend, Stretching, Stress Relief, Back Pain, Sciatica

Difficulty: Beginner

woman doing the cat-cow pose yoga sequence

Gently flow between Cat and Cow to warm up and stretch your spine

Cat-Cow Pose Fundamentals

The Cat-Cow Pose is technically not a pose but instead a flow between two yoga poses: Cat Pose, and Cow Pose.

Come into Cat-Cow at the beginning of a Vinyasa yoga flow to gently warm up the spine, hips, and upper body for the rest of your practice. Or come into Cat-Cow Pose to de-stress after a long day, or as a short break from your desk.

Cat-Cow is a wonderful opener for a yoga flow not only because it physically warms up your body, but also because it is an exercise in linking your body with your breath, centering yourself in your practice right from the get-go. Inhale as you move into extension: Cow, and exhale through flexion: Cat.

It’s common to do cat cow pose for a full body stretch at the beginning of a yoga practice or pilates class.

  • Warms up the lower back, upper back & abdominal muscles
  • Improves body awareness and coordination
  • Calms and soothes the mind
  • Can relieve low back pain
  • Stretches and strengthens the spine and neck
  • Massages the internal organs
  • Improves full body posture

Full Video Tutorial:

How To Do The Cat-Cow Pose: Step-By-Step

1. Begin on all fours – ankles directly beneath shoulders and hips directly above knees, toes untucked. This neutral spine position is called Table Top Pose.

2. With a deep in breath arch your spine lifting your sit bones up to the ceiling and eyes up to the sky, bringing your shoulder blades together as you roll your shoulders back and down. 

3. This is Cat Pose – stay here for 2-3 breaths. 

4. As you exhale, round your spine tucking your sit bones under. Here, roll shoulders in towards your heart, chin falling to your chest and your gaze moving to your navel. 

5. This is Cow Pose – stay here for another 2-3 breaths. 

6. Repeat alternating between Cat and Cow.

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing cat cow pose

Tips And Tricks:

  • In Cat-Cow Pose, focus on linking your movements up with your breath. Picture your breath moving up and down the length of your spine as you flow, like a wave lapping the shore.
  • Be sure to draw your shoulders away from your ears as you flow through the sequence, this will help to protect your neck.
  • Come into Cow tailbone first and let the head hang down last.
  • Come into child’s pose as a rest after cat-cow.

Cat-Cow pose variation: Rolling Cat-Cow Pose

For a freer-flowing Cat-Cow, roll through the sequence.

Hinge at the knees and ride the wave of the breath with greater expression.

Find what feels good as you flow back and forth. You may find certain areas of your back are in greater need of some loving stretching. This rolling Cat-Cow can help to ease some of that tension and grant you a greater awareness of your body.

Cat-Cow pose variation: Seated Cat-Cow In a Chair

  • a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing cat pose on a chair
  • a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing cow pose on a chair

1. Begin this flow seated in a chair, hands resting palm down on your knees and feet flat on the floor.

2. Inhale and tilt your pelvis back. Round your belly forward, and melt your shoulders down and back. Lift your chin and gaze towards the ceiling. This will be your Cow Pose variation.

3. Exhale and tilt your pelvis forwards. Round your spine forwards, pulling your navel in towards your spine. Round your shoulders forward and drop your chin, gazing towards your belly. This will be your Cat Pose variation.

4. Repeat this sequence for as long as serves you. Remember to flow with your breath.

Precautions & Contraindications:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Cat-Cow involves putting a significant amount of pressure through the wrists. Modify the pose by coming down onto the forearms as you would do in Sphinx Pose, come onto two yoga blocks with your forearms. Another alternative is taking a chair variation of Cat-Cow, as outlined above.

Knee Injury:

Cat-Cow Pose places a lot of pressure on the knees. If you feel any knee pain or discomfort during Cat-Cow, roll up a blanket and place it under the knees for an extra layer of cushioning.

Neck Injury:

If you have a neck injury, keep your neck in line with your spine as you flow through the sequence. Be sure not to drop your head down or lift your head back as this may add pressure to the vertebrae in your neck.

Preparatory Poses

Tabletop Pose

Counter Poses

Cat Pose and Cow Pose are each a counter pose for the other. You should feel aligned and balanced after breathing and moving through Cat-Cow.

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Maria Andrews is a 200h Registered Yoga Teacher, long distance runner, and adventure lover.

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