While this might be the most unappealing name for a stretch, we urge you not to overlook it only for that reason. The cat vomit pose is an easy-to-do movement that has great benefits for the overall health of your spine. There is no equipment required, so this is a simple movement to incorporate from the comfort of your own home.
This pose is basically a segment of the more traditional “Cat-Cow” pose practiced in yoga, but without the “cow” part of the movement. One would assume that the name “cat vomit” comes from the shape that this movement creates. It is very similar to how a cat may look while coughing up a hairball. Again, don’t let this deter you! As off-putting as that imagery may be, this pose is truly beneficial for your overall spine health. And it is so simple to do that there really is no excuse not to.
Let’s dive deeper into the cat vomit pose. In this article, we will talk all about how to perform the cat vomit movement, the benefits of including it in your regular stretching routine, and ways to modify it if necessary.
What is the Cat Vomit Pose?
The cat vomit pose is a spinal flexion movement that is performed on all fours. It requires no extra equipment - only enough room on the floor to be on your hands and knees and a padded surface if you desire. We recommend having a yoga mat or blanket on the floor to pad the knees.
Once you have found an area that you can use, start from the Tabletop position. Because this is the starting position for cat vomit, it is vital that you set up properly. In Tabletop pose, your hands should be firmly planted on the floor directly under your shoulder. Your knees should be on the floor as well underneath your hips. Press the tops of your feet into the floor for stability. Keep your gaze pointed down at the ground to avoid any unnecessary strain in the neck. Lastly, pull your belly button in towards your spine. This will help engage your core and keep your spine in a neutral starting position.
From here, take a big inhale in through your nose. On your exhale, round your back as much as possible while you simultaneously bring your chin towards your chest. Think about sending your back towards the ceiling, bringing your belly button even closer to your spine, and sending your tailbone down towards the floor.
On your next inhale, slowly come out of the cat vomit pose and return to the starting position. Sync up with your breath again and repeat as many times as you feel necessary.
Benefits of the Cat Vomit Pose
The cat vomit pose is a beneficial pose for your overall spinal health. For many of us, we spend long periods of the day sitting in a chair hunched over a computer. Unfortunately, this leads to poor posture, tight hips, and a hunched back.
The cat vomit pose puts our spine into a flexed position. Spinal flexion certainly has many benefits when done properly. It is of utmost importance that when we move into spinal flexion, we do so from our core. This is why we encourage you to set up properly in a Tabletop position prior to attempting this posture. It allows you to recruit the correct muscle groups and move from your center to avoid any injuries. Strengthening your back and core muscles can also help protect your spine.
Putting your spine into intentional positions can help increase blood flow to the area which is beneficial for the health of your spinal discs. If you experience back pain, this position may bring relief as well.
Cat Vomit Pose Modifications
If you struggle with any sort of back pain, whether it presents in your upper, mid, or lower back, please consult your personal healthcare professional before attempting this on your own at home. Above all, we always want you to be safe and avoid injury.
If a Tabletop position feels uncomfortable or painful on your knees, please use a folded blanket or rolled-up towel to place underneath them for extra support. If it is the wrists that are experiencing pain, you can come down onto your forearms and complete this movement as written. This will help take pressure off of your sensitive joints.
If coming onto your hands and knees is not possible, don’t worry! You can modify this by performing the movement while seated in a chair. The movement will follow the same steps - you are just in a seated position instead. Focus on rounding through the spine, dropping your chin to your chest, and syncing up with your breath. You should feel a similar stimulus in the spine as completing this on the floor.
Starting in a table top position, slowly draw a deep breath in. As you exhale, round your back as much as possible (safely) draw your chin to your chest and your tailbone down. Slowly inhale, ease out and repeat, exhale firmly to active your core and midline.