Fancy learning a pose you can pick up in 5 minutes that might kickstart a lifelong love affair with the relaxing, rewarding physical and spiritual practice of yoga? You need Cat Pose.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cat Pose (Marjariasana in Sanskrit) is a beginner-level yoga pose.
  • It helps build core stability and flexibility in your back.
  • People often combine it with Cow Pose into a single flow.
  • Like all elements of yoga, it can help you improve mobility and strengthen your mental health.
  • It’s a cat-egorically good basis for more advanced techniques and flows.

We’re letting the cat out of the bag on everything around the perfect form, the benefits of Cat Pose, and the common mistakes it’s best to avoid.

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Danil Nevsky/Stocksy United

Cat is one of the most basic yoga poses, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. The first steps on your yoga journey are vital. Take this opportunity to ensure your form is spot-on and lay the groundwork for future success.

Here’s how to pull off a perfect Cat Pose:

  1. Begin on all fours in Table Pose. Your knees should align beneath your hips and your wrists beneath your shoulders.
  2. Your fingers should be spread out, with your fingertips supporting your upper body.
  3. Exhale and engage your core. Tuck in your belly, and feel your spine naturally round upward.
  4. Lower your head, and press with your fingertips to complete the flexion in your spine.
  5. As your back reaches peak roundness, hold for 3–5 breaths.
  6. Lower your back, raise your head, and return to the starting position.

Yoga lovers often perform Cat Pose as part of a flow with Cow Pose. But before combining it with another pose, focus on perfecting the curve in your back.

You’re looking to gently nurture a smooth, rippling motion from the base of your neck to the base of your spine.

Cat Pose is a gentle but measurable introduction to yoga. Beginners can start getting to grips with synchronizing breath and motion, while also feeling some early benefits.

Nowadays, we spend a lot of time sitting down — working at desks, driving, and streaming shows (not at the same time, mind). That can all add up and may translate to health problems including:

  • chronic knee pain
  • a higher risk of metabolic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure
  • possible increased risk of endometrial, ovarian, colorectal, and prostate cancers, as well as a heightened mortality risk in those who live with cancer
  • lower bone density, which can contribute to an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life
  • depression

The findings of a 2017 study suggest that yoga can help people effectively manage depression. Its physical benefits are also the subject of plenty of research.

One 2019 pilot study found that combining yoga with traditional Ayurvedic medicine might provide an alternative to conventional weight-loss interventions that can help people manage obesity. Doctors are also currently trialing yoga as part of a program in India that aims to help peeps prevent type 2 diabetes.

For older folks, gentler yoga exercises may improve their physical and social quality of life. Since Cat Pose is so beginner-friendly, it could be the perfect gateway to reaping those benefits. Even if you’re a spring chicken now, you’ll hopefully reach your advanced years one day.

Why not start preparing?

Depending on your level of fitness, you might not want to get straight into Cat Pose right away. Or, you might want to skip it and stretch the same areas at a more advanced level.

Here are some variations that allow you to do both.

Seated Cat

Turns out you can get a cat to sit!

The seated variation of Cat Pose can help you perfect that motion in your spine without worrying about the need for your limbs to align above your hips and shoulders. Really pay attention to how everything moves between your neck and butt.

You can achieve perfect form like this:

  1. Sit on a sturdy chair. You can also start cross-legged on a yoga mat, if that’s more comfy for you.
  2. Reach your hands forward to your knees, with your fingers slightly spread.
  3. As your hands reach your knees, begin rounding your back from the neck downward.
  4. Push with your fingertips to complete the flexion.
  5. Hold for 3–5 breaths.
  6. Return to your starting position, rolling your back into its neutral posture from the base of your spine upward.

Standing Cat

The Standing Cat Pose variation gets you used to aligning your body as you move. If you’re progressing to it after Seated Cat, you’ll be able to match the motion in your spine with the right posture:

  1. Start by standing with your legs hip-width apart, with your knees ever so slightly bent.
  2. Place your hands forward onto your knees, but keep your spine as neutral as you can.
  3. Making sure your knees stay aligned above your feet, breathe out slowly.
  4. Rolling downward from the base of your neck, flex your spine until you’re in Cat Pose.
  5. Hold for 3–5 breaths before returning to your neutral posture.

Remember, paying close attention to the basics is super important at this stage.

Cow Pose

Cat Pose flexes your spine by arching your back like, well, a cat. Cow Pose is its opposite number. It works your spine in a similar way, but by extending the back inward instead. Here’s how:

  1. Get into Table Pose.
  2. Align your hips above your knees and your shoulders above your wrists.
  3. Tilt your pelvis so that your tailbone raises up.
  4. Inhale.
  5. Bend your back with a rippling motion that moves from your tailbone up to your neck.
  6. When you’re about to reach maximum extension, allow your head to raise up.
  7. Hold for 3–5 breaths before returning to the neutral position.

Cat-Cow flow

Now you know Cat Pose and Cow Pose, it’s time to put them together into your first yoga flow. Cat-Cow is a great way for yoga newbies to start moving between poses and marry their motion with their breathing.

  • Start from that same neutral Table Pose, on your hands and knees.
  • Inhale as you first move into Cow Pose, then exhale as you flow into Cat.
  • Repeat for 5–10 full flexions and extensions.

Make sure you match the timing of your breathing to the motions between poses. That’s some real yoga sh*t right there.

King Dancer Pose

If you feel like stepping up the difficulty, King Dancer is an intermediate-level pose that builds on the core strength and spine mobility that Cat Pose helps you develop.

Here’s how to get your Dancer moving:

  1. Start standing, with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands by your sides.
  2. Transfer your weight to the right foot. Lift your left foot from the ground by bending the knee backward.
  3. With your left hand, reach back and grip the inside of the raised foot.
  4. Lift your right arm upward and begin to lift your left leg behind you while kicking your left foot back into your left hand.
  5. As you actively kick your foot back, begin to lean forward with your torso to find your balance.
  6. Hold for 5–10 breaths before returning to your start position.
  7. Repeat with the other leg.

And, let’s be real, King Dancer is a regal title worth bragging about to anyone.

Even though it’s manageable for beginners, Cat can pose problems if your form is off. Pay attention to these rookie errors so you can dodge them.

Don’t stress your neck

Your spine should lead the motion of Cat Pose, and it should feel natural. If you push your neck down before it’s ready, you risk strain and injury.

Work on perfecting that rippling motion to boost your spine’s mobility.

Don’t move your body with your arms

Be sure to keep your arms planted and straight. This will help you make sure you get the most out of the pose and focus the motion on your spine.

That’s where the benefits really take root.

Taking up yoga could be the beginning of a lifelong health journey. Cat Pose helps set a solid foundation for taking your lifestyle into your own hands.

It won’t be long before you’re building it into a flow with Cat-Cow and developing the confidence to tackle a wider range of poses and motions.

Geddem, tiger!