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How to Do the Cat-Cow Exercise (Step-by-Step)

Updated: Aug 15

Muscles Worked: Back, Chest

Equipment Needed: None / Bodyweight

Difficulty: Beginner

The cat-cow, also known as Chakravakasana, is a yoga position and exercise that is thought to enhance posture and balance, making it great for back pain sufferers.

It may also be used as a warming up or assistance exercise in addition to resistance workouts.

This coordinated breath movement can also help you relax and relieve tension.

How to Do the Cat-Cow

  • Begin by kneeling on an soft mat or soft flooring, with your knees and feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing towards your body.

  • Lean forward slowly to lay your hands on the mat, beneath your shoulders, shoulder-width apart, palms facing forwards. Adjust your position so that your knees are precisely under your hips and your hands are squarely beneath your shoulders.

  • Squeeze up your core and abdominal muscles to keep your spine in a neutral posture, free of drooping or arching.

  • Upward Phase (Cat): Gently exhale and tense your abdominal muscles, lifting your spine towards the ceiling for 10-15 seconds. Allow your head to descend towards your chest while keeping your spine in alignment.

  • Downward Phase (Cow): Slowly relax and surrender to gravity's forces. Allow your stomach to sink towards the floor (raising your low back arch) and your shoulder blades to come together (move towards the spine). Before returning to your starting position, hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds.

Muscles Worked

Various muscles are worked while performing the cat-cow exercise, such as the following.

  • Hip flexors

  • Chest and abdominal muscles

  • Upper back muscles such as the trapezius

  • Spinal erectors

  • Various lower back muscles

Other muscles are activated as secondary and stabilising muscles, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, shoulders, etc, but not to a significant degree.


If you have a neck or spine injury, you should avoid this exercise to be safe. If you decide to do this exercise, maintain your head in line with your body and don't move it forward or back.

Pregnant women and anyone with back issues should only practise the cow pose, returning to neutral between repetitions. Do not allow the belly descend between repetitions, since this might strain the lower back.

Always stay within your own capabilities and restrictions. Before doing yoga or any exercise, speak to a qualified doctor or specialist.

cat-cow exercise

The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.

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