The Benefits of Cat Stretch: A Marjariasana Yoga Exercise
An individual makes a union to its soul is considered as a physical exercise where people twist, turn, stretch and breathe. Yoga began about more than 10, 000 years old. One common form of this union to one’s soul is called Marjariasana. Marjariasana is derived from Sanskrit words marjari means cat and asana mean posture or pose. It is also known as cat stretch pose. It is pronounced as /mar-jar-ee-ahh-sanna/. You can never imagine how satisfying and beneficial a cat stretch can be.
Marjariasana or the Cat Stretch Pose is excellent in improving the flexibility of your spine. The flexibility of the spine and back muscles are maintained with the help of this asana. Through observing animals, there are asanas or poses that are being adopted. The cat family is considered as one of the most flexible spines in the animal kingdom.
Yoga practices can make us more and more sensitive to subtle sensations in the body. Paying attention and staying with finer sensations within the body is one of the surest ways to steady the mind.
All About Cat Stretch Exercise
Marjariasana or the Cat Stretch Pose is a great way to focus on your breathing. This asana helps in stretching and strengthening of the spine, which helps reduce pressure between your vertebrae and joints. Like other asanas, it is considered best when Marjariasana is practiced early in the morning. However, because of some reasons, you may not able to practice it in the morning, still, you can practice Marjariasana in the evening.
Mornings are preferred as the food is digested and your body has the energy to perform the asanas. But make sure that when you are practicing Marjariasana in the evening, you should have had your food five to six hours before you practice as food takes time to digest.
In addition, the Marjariasana is a movement that combines forward bends with back arches. It gives your back the complete movement it needs. So, your vertebrae become mobile, and the movements in your cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine release all the tension trapped in them. In Yoga, it is excellent for improving the flexibility of the spine.
The Science Behind the Cat Stretch
The Marjariasana is a movement that combines forward bends with back arches, giving your back the complete movement it needs. Thus, your vertebrae become in motion, and the movements in your cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine release all the tension trapped in them. The back and forth movements help in circulation of the spinal fluids that also help strengthen the spine.
Stretching has been an essential part of yoga. However, it has invoked several questions among its practitioners, scientists, and skeptics. Modern science has interpreted the technical knowledge behind the stretching and bending involved in marjariasana; how the benefits manifest on the practitioners.
The movements have also work on the digestive system and enhance the working of the digestive organs while completely cleansing the system. The muscles in your limbs are activated, and this gives them the strength and energy to work better.
- Stand on all fours, such that your back forms a table top and your feet and hands from its legs. Build a pose like a cat.
- Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor, and your hands should be placed flat on the floor, right under your shoulders. Your knees should be placed hip-width apart.
- Look straight ahead.
- Inhale and raise your chin as you tilt your head backward. Push your navel down and raise your tailbone. Compress your buttocks. You might feel a tingling sensation.
- Hold the cat pose for a few breaths. Take a long and deep breath.
- This asana is a combination of two movements. As you exhale curl your head inward and press the middle of your back towards the ceiling, rounding your spine upward.
- Hold this position for a few seconds before you go back to the tabletop position.
- Do the movement and countermovement about five to six times before you come to a halt.
Related post: Perform Cat Stretch
Try Other Spinal Stretches
- Lift into a downward facing dog. The downward facing dog typically is one of the first yoga poses you’ll learn. This pose also stretches your spine and back muscles, particularly the back extensors. You use these muscles when you stand or lift things.
- Drop into an extended cobra. Just as cat and cow pose to stretch the spine in opposing ways, the extended cobra is the opposite of downward facing dog, giving your spine a good counter-stretch.
- Flex your spine with a seated twist. The seated twist increases flexibility down your entire spine and massages your abdominal organs to improve your digestion. As the name implies, you’ll start this pose from a seated position.
- Relax with a deep forward bend. The deep forward bend is a classic yoga pose to stretch your entire back, including your muscles and your spine. It also increases circulation to your back muscles and spine.
- Rest in child’s pose. Many yoga practitioners end their sessions with child’s pose, an easy and calming pose that also stretches your entire back. Typically, it’s best to move into child’s pose from the tabletop position.
Modifications & Variations
The Cat poses are simple kneeling poses that do not have any variations. To deepen the poses, you can exhale and try to round your back even more during the poses. This can help you increase the stretching benefits. Placing a hand slightly above and between the shoulder blades can help activate the stretch as well.
In case you have wrist pain during the pose, you can drop down to your elbows. Also, you may rest your forearms on the floor as you do the poses. For neck pain, keep your head in a neutral alignment with your spine during the poses and never raise or lower your head. You can roll up a yoga mat or towel and place it under your knees for support. This can alleviate pressure and pain in your knees while on the ground.
Adding a Cow Pose
Come to tabletop position.
Both the cow pose and the cat pose are done on all fours, which makes them good poses to do together. Make sure your wrists are directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
Arch your back.
On an inhale, come into cow pose by dropping your belly towards the floor and lifting your pelvis and chest towards the ceiling. Make sure to keep your shoulders open and your tailbone tucked in.
Return to the tabletop.
If you are doing cow pose by itself, hold the stretch for 5 to 10 deep breath cycles. On each exhale, think of lowering your belly and deepening the arch in your back. On every inhale, lift your sitting bones and open your chest.
Create a flow of cat and cow.
Cat and cow pose perform together as a vinyasa flow. In yoga, “vinyasa” means to synchronize your movement with your breath as you flow between two poses.
Before & After
Warm-Up: Considering this is a stretch, you don’t really need a warm-up exercise. However, if you must, do the cat pose after you do the angle pose.
Cool Down: After more strenuous yoga poses, you can complete your workout with the downward-facing dog.
Precautions and Contraindications in Practicing the Cat Stretch Pose
It is best to consult a doctor before you indulge in the cat stretch pose. Even if your doctors give you a clean chit, make sure you practice this asana under the guidance of a certified yoga teacher especially if you suffer from back and neck problems.
Avoid Marjariasana if you encounter or in any of the following conditions:
- Pregnant women as it exerts a lot of pressure on the abdomen.
- Women who are menstruating.
- People who have any issues or pain in their neck or back and have had recent surgery.
- If you have any doubts about your condition, consult a physician before practicing Marjariasana and always practice asana under the supervision of a trained yoga expert as it helps to keep away any injuries that can happen through this practice.
- Do not over exert yourself while practicing the Cat Stretch Pose. Do not push yourself beyond the limits. Go only as far as your body allows.
- Those who are suffering from chronic spinal problems
- Have had a heavy meal.
Those who are with Chronic headaches or migraines.
- Anyone who is suffering from Diarrhea.
- With eye ailments like Glaucoma, Near-Sightedness, conjunctivitis, Detached Retina, and sinusitis.
- People with chronic heart-related issues.
- Never to people suffering from Vertigo.
- People with brain injury or any brain diseases.
- With high blood pressure.
Recommended For Those Suffering From
- Neck pain
Benefits you can Get in Cat Stretch Pose
The Cat Stretch pose can improve the condition your spine. We all have problems with our spine especially we tend to sit most of the time. But this exercise though performed in a short period of time can give you numbers of benefits.
The up-down movement of the neck activates the delicate neck muscles and preventing sagging at the neck and face. The pressure on the thyroid, also massages the thyroid, aiding weight loss by increasing metabolism. The hardening of the legs and arms between the two movements of each cat stretch tones the limbs to a great extent.
There are many other amazing benefits of this simple, yet essential yoga posture.
- It stretches, strengthens, and adds flexibility to the spine.
- It can strengthen both your shoulders and wrists.
- The process improves as it massages and activates the digestive organs.
- This asana helps to tone the abdomen while getting rid of unnecessary pockets of fat, slowly but surely.
- Being on your fours also improves the circulation of both blood and oxygen in your body.
- The stretching relaxes the mind and removes all the stress and strain.
Impact on the Mind
While Cow Tilt and Cat Stretch may look easy, it is a powerful pose for the mind. The breath-synchronized movement increases coordination, fosters intentional focus, and invigorates prana (the vital life force in the body). Furthermore, there is an increase in emotional balance and stability of the mind.
Lengthening the spine improves circulation to the discs between the vertebrae, which in turn relieves stress from the back and calms the mind.
Impact to the Physique
There are many physical benefits of Cat and Cow Pose, including toning the gastrointestinal tract and female reproductive system. The asana flow helps relieve stress from menstrual cramps, lower back pain, and sciatica. Cat/Cow Pose increases the flexibility of the neck, shoulders, and spine. The movement also stretches the muscles of the hips, back, abdomen, chest, and lungs.
Cat Stretch held at its peak releases tension of the upper back and neck. Activation of the tailbone emphasizes the root movement of the spine, which increases flexibility for forwarding and backbends.
In addition, the spine consists of both primary (thoracic and sacral) and secondary (cervical and lumbar) curves. Inhaling in spinal flexion (Cow Tilt) increases the primary spinal curves and decreases the secondary spinal curves. Exhaling in spinal extension (Cat Stretch) increases the secondary curves and decreases the primary curves.
Cat/Cow Pose strengthens and improves the flexibility of the spine through utilization of the reciprocal relationship between the primary and secondary curves.
Cat/Cow Pose activates the Swadhisthana Chakra, the second chakra. There is an association of a blocked second chakra with deep emotional turmoil and depression when not fostered. When nurtured, the movement enhances creativity and the ability to focus and learn.
The flow attributes to connection with the inner source of inspiration and the ability to experience joy.