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Learn the Back Stretch Exercise, Cat / Cow

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Updated August 10, 2009

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Instructions for the Cat - Cow Back Stretch
yoga - cat pose back stretch

Pilates and yoga student, Adam Lussier, shows cat pose

(c)2009, Marguerite Ogle

Cat-cow back stretch is a wonderful, balanced exercise for the back because it is both a stretch (cat), and an extension (cow) exercise. It tones and stretches the abdominal muscles as well. Cat-cow develops flexibility in the spine, and is one of the exercises often recommended for back pain.

If you have taken exercise classes in the past, chances are that you've been introduced to cat-cow. It comes from yoga and is one of the exercises that Pilates and yoga share.

Cat-cow is really a combination of two yoga poses, cat and cow. It is often done as a warm up exercise. However, once you understand the support from the abdominals, and the length of the spine in action, you might want to do it with more energy later in your practice.

Moving into Cat Pose

  1. Begin on your hands and knees.
    Your hands are directly under your shoulders, and your legs are in a true hip width apart position, putting your knees directly under you hips. Your toes can be curled under if that is comfortable.

    Engage your abdominal muscles to support your spine so that you have a straight line from your ear to your hip.

  2. Inhale. Then, on your exhale, pull your abdominal muscles in and up as you arch your back way up like a stretching cat. At the same time, let your head and tailbone drop down toward the floor.

    Take the stretch further by imagining that you are bringing your head and tailbone together, as if you were going to make a big circle of your body.
Next, move to the cow pose part of this exercise.
Related Video
Cat Cow Yoga Stretch

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