Home yoga Beyond Cat-Cow: Add Movement and Variety to Your Starting Pose 

Beyond Cat-Cow: Add Movement and Variety to Your Starting Pose 

by Marianne Navada
forearm table top variation yoga

The Base Pose in Yoga

Yoga poses have a base pose—be it standing, sitting, the hands, or on all fours, also known as tabletop position. The art of yoga is to incorporate a twist, extension, balance, or flexion from the base pose. This is the reason why to get deeper in any pose, you need a strong base. It’s the reason why we ask students to go into tadasana or mountain pose before tree or dancer’s pose. Tadasana, a pose that requires both feet firmly on the ground (standing), prepares us to stand on one leg. For cat-cow, our base pose is tabletop.

Beyond Tabletop and Cat-Cow Pose 

Most classes use cat-cow as a warm-up pose. These classes start with child’s pose to ground students, cat-cow to get students moving, and then downward facing dog. Cat-cow gets students to freely move the spine and also slowly adding weight to the wrist and hands. I love it. 

I have attended a few classes where the teacher used tabletop position as the base beyond cat-cow and also to start adding more dynamic movement. Here are a few ways to add core, twist, and movement to the tabletop base. 


  1. Cat with Knees Off the Ground: Lift the knees an inch off the ground. Push the floor away from you, externally rotating the arms. Round the back as much as you can to engage the core and help straighten the elbows.
  2. Bird Dog: On the inhale, extend the right arm and lift the left leg off the ground keeping the leg straight. Find length in the back body. Exhale, round the back, take the gaze to the navel, and have the right elbow and left knee as close to the navel as you can. Repeat 5x on each side with intention. This movement incorporates balance, movement, and core. 

Twists and Shoulders

  1. Open and Twist on the Forearm: Take the forearms to the floor. Inhale, look up and extend the right hand to the sky opening the right shoulder. Exhale and initiate the twist by taking the right arm behind the left elbow and extending the right hand as far as you can. To add more balance, try reaching out the left hand to the sky and open the left shoulder. Repeat 5x and complete both sides.
  2. Open and Twist with Bent Elbow: From tabletop, bend the right elbow and place the hand on the back of the neck. Inhale open the right shoulder to the sky. Exhale and have the right elbow touch the left elbow. Repeat 5x and complete both sides.
  3. Reverse Bird Dog: On the inhale, take the right arm over head and bend the elbow and have the palm touch the back, while the left knee and foot reach for the sky. Repeat 5x on each side with intention.

Hips and Side Body Stretch

  1. Hip Mobility and Side Body Stretch: Take the right knee to the right to open the hips, create circles with the knee 3x. Reverse the direction of the circle 3x, lubricating the hip joints. Take the knee as close to the right armpit and hold for 3 breaths. 
  2. Modified Side Plank: Place the right foot to the side of right knee. You’ll make an “L” shape with the legs with the shins creating a horizontal line. Lean the weight slightly on the right arm, keeping the weight evenly distributed on the right hand. Extend the left leg and place the left foot on the floor, inline with the right knee. Extend the left hand, so the left shoulder is above the right shoulder. Take the gaze to the right hand and then look up and shift the gaze to the left hand giving yourself a neck roll. Yogi’s choice: if you feel like adding movement, try taking the left hand through the right arm and lift it up again.

Adding static holds and mobility to warm up poses such as table-top allow students to slowly ease into their bodies as the practice progresses. Moreover, movement lets students who are fidgety in the beginning of class address some of the initial nagging discomfort. But it also lets them feel the peace in stillness.

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