How to do the cat stretch with Pilates

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Pilates Blog

The Pilates cat stretch is probably one of the most well-known back-stretching exercises that you can do. Check out this lovely exercise if you are suffering from lower back pain or just a dull ache, tightness. This is a great everyday exercise that can be done anywhere no equipment to help relieve that horrid low back pain. Please proceed with caution if you know of any lumbar disc injuries.

How to do the cat stretch

Kneeling on all fours, make sure that your wrists are in line with your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your pelvis. Keep your face towards the floor. Your spine should be flat and long. The name of this position is the four-point kneeling position. Exhale deeply. Engage your stabilisers and glutes. As you do this, widen the hip bones as you flex your spine upwards.

Inhale as you flatten your spine back into neutral, keeping your lumbar spine relaxed throughout. As you do so lift your head up and gaze the ceiling. Repeat between 12 and 15 times deepening the essential connection each time. As you perform the cat stretch, visualise your navel being magnetically drawn to the ceiling, releasing your lumbar spine further on the exhale.

You should be aiming for gluteal and hamstring activity throughout the exercise. If you would like to simplify this exercise, begin by practising the Pelvic Funnel on all fours before you add the flexion of your lumbar spine. If you wish to intensify the exercise, on the inhale gradually release your sitting bones and draw your hip bones together, bringing your spine into an extension.

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What are the benefits of doing the Pilates cat stretch?

There are a number of benefits of doing the Pilates cat stretch:

  • Stronger abdominal or, put another way, core musculature
  • More mobility or flexibility in the spine
  • Less stiffness as well as soreness in the back from daily activities
  • Better awareness of the body
  • Decreased back spasms through the process of articulating and creating space between the vertebrae
  • Enhanced breathing capacity
  • Increases bone density in the wrists, hips, spine as well as for those with osteoporosis
  • Assists with opening the spinal canal for those with stenosis in the spine.
  • Enhanced posture
  • Less neck as well as shoulder pain in addition to tension

To get the most benefit out of performing this exercise, make sure that your body is lined up properly. Breathe in and out of the rocking movements. Don’t hold your breath for more than a couple of seconds at one or the other end.

Really draw your belly button up and into your lower back in order to achieve that deeper hollowing of the pelvis floor as well as abdominal muscles as you arc your back up.  When coming into the extension, imagine that you are keeping a gem pulled into your belly button so you don’t lose your core support.

Common errors when doing the cat stretch

To maintain the correct stretch and prevent injury or strain, avoid these errors.

Don’t Strain Your Neck

When you lift your gaze to the ceiling, do so with control and don’t overextend your neck. When round your back, let your head drop naturally rather than forcing it down. Also, be sure to maintain your shoulders in a relaxed position and do not draw up toward your ears.

Keep the Movement in the Spine

Keep the arms straight so the movement is with the spine and not your arms and elbows.

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