Marjarasana – Yoga the back

Marjarasana, also know as the cat-stretch pose is a simple yet powerful yoga asana for many back ailments.

The pose does many things, among them

  • establishes ideal spinal alignment
  • strengthens and stretches back muscles
  • develops coordination of spinal movement.
  • Stabilizes the sacrum to release lower back pain
  • Supports back by engaging abs
  • Loosens spine
  • Stretches hips

A Way to Experience Ideal Spinal Alignment -

By getting on all fours, and positioning your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips, the cat-cow allows your spinal alignment to occupy a supported and centered position. Doing the pose regularly will give you a sense of what this feels like and will help you to develop postural balance.

Coordinating Your Spine as a Whole -

The cat-cow pose establishes an ideal spinal alignment from head to pelvis, with no parts left out. This is done by means of your knees and hands securing you to the ground, called "closing the kinetic chain." To do the pose, first roll your chin to your chest and hunch the spine like a cat (flexion of the spine) and then slightly arch your back while lifting the head (extension of the spine). The slow arch of the cow stretches your neck and the front of your torso, while the curve of the cat helps to relieve stress by lengthening the spine and improving the circulation to the discs between the vertebrae. Your abdominal organs will also be massaged, stimulating both digestive and reproductive systems in your body.

A Pelvic Tilt with More Challenge -

Have you noticed that the cat-cow has you doing a similar action in your spine to the pelvic tilt? If so, you are not imagining it! Like the pelvic tilt, the cat-cow provides flexion and extention of the spine. Unlike the pelvic tilt, in the cat-cow you are also balancing yourself on all fours, so your muscles have to work harder to keep you in good alignment. And, by being on all 4s in the cat-cow, you have a different spatial orientation than in the pelvic tilt. This develops coordination.

Strengthening and Stretching Back Muscles -

When you go into the cow part (arched back) of the cat-cow pose, your back muscles get a workout. When you go into the cat part, they are stretched.

When to practice -

Pretty much, anytime! As the pose promotes deep relaxation and deep breathing, the cat-cow stretch is great to practice before bedtime, engaging you in a physical chant through its simple but rhythmic sequence. Women will gain extra treats from this pose as it’s been used to relieve menstrual cramps and is usually included in prenatal yoga classes!