The “Cat-cow” stretch

Self-defense training involves two basic elements: tuning your perception to be aware of potential danger, and understanding ways to keep yourself safe. Part of keeping yourself safe is keeping your body healthy, strong and mobile. And today’s simple stretch focuses on this last element – mobility.

Cat-cow is a great way to warm up your back before more active movement. The easiest way to do these poses is to get on your hands and knees, keeping the knees below your hips and your hands below the shoulders. The “Cow” pose (see left side of illustration) is a back extension. The tailbone comes up, your gaze comes up, and the ribs and belly are pressed downward. Let your inhale initiate the movement. The Cat pose (which looks like an agitated feline) exercises back flexion. Start the movement with your exhale, tucking the chin and the tailbone, pressing your back up towards the sky.

Move between the cat and cow pose, synchronizing with your breath. Keep your breath slow and even, and do this until you feel your back has loosed up a bit. And try some of the variations I’ve listed in the comments. Enjoy!

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