How to relieve tension with one simple exercise

cat-cow stretch

By Liz Darrington, Remedial Massage Therapist.

The world is a topsy-turvy place right now with the coronavirus (COVID-19) adding uncertainty to our daily lives. As a result, many of us are feeling more stressed than usual, with tension building-up and manifesting as tight knotted muscles. Under normal circumstances, this would be the time to visit a remedial massage therapist. However, given this isn’t possible right now, I thought the next best thing would be to share one of my all-time favourite exercises to help get you through. So why not dim the lights, put on some relaxing music and find some floor space to start unwinding with the cat-cow?

The cat-cow is a gentle exercise that is relatively easy to do. It’s often recommended for back pain, with some saying it’s like giving your spine and surrounding tissues a gentle massage. Coordinating the movements with your breathing will also help relieve stress and calm the mind.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how it’s done.

Step 1:

Start on your hands and knees in a neutral position. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Make sure your fingertips are pointing forwards and your head is centred with your eyes looking at the floor.

Step 2:

Begin by moving into cow pose. As you breath-in, drop your belly down toward the floor. At the same time, lift your chin and chest up so that you’re now looking toward the ceiling. Bring awareness to your shoulder blades and draw them together so that your shoulders pull away from your ears. Hold for 5-10 seconds.

Step 3:

Now move into cat pose: As you breath-out, draw your belly up toward your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. Let the top of your head hang down toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest. Keep the fingers spread wide as you push the mat away and focus on opening-up the space between your shoulder blades. Hold for 5-10 seconds.

Step 4:

Repeat 5-20 times, remembering to inhale with the cow and exhale with the cat.

So, there you have it. Give it a go. Remember the more you practice, the more you’ll feel a difference. Take it easy and happy stretching!

Remedial massage at Northside Health is temporarily closed due to Covid-19. We will be in touch when circumstances change.