Low Back Pain: The Sexy Cat Exercise for Healthy Hips and a Happy Back

by | Oct 14, 2013 | Back Pain, Exercise and Fitness, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips | 1 comment

catHave you ever experienced hip pain or low back pain?  Most people at some point in their lives have dealt with one or both of these debilitating problems.  Our sedentary lifestyle and poor movement habits have led to grippy overworked hip flexors, weak abs, and generally speaking imbalances with the strength and flexibility of the lumbo-pelvic complex (our hips, legs, pelvis, and low back.)

There are many aspects for movement and stabilization of the lumbo-pelvic complex that can be addressed to keep your hips and spine healthy and help eliminate low back pain.  Kathy Grant’s Sexy Cat exercise is one of my favorites for improving lateral movement of the low back and pelvis, deepening core support, and understanding how to work and release the right muscles to move the hips and back in a way that feels good and reinforces healthy movement habits for the swinging and un-leveling movement that should be happening naturally at the hips for a healthy stride when we walk and run.

If you’re hips and low back don’t naturally do at least a little of this “Sexy Cat” action when you walk, the lack of mobility in your low back, hips, and pelvis, may be a contributing factor to your low back pain!  Getting started with the Sexy Cat exercise the range of motion your hips move in may be small, and that’s ok, with time and practice you’ll find it easier to get things moving for a great “Sexy Cat” hip swing.

Basic Instructions – How To Do The Sexy Cat Exercise

(This exercise is a basic hip hike exercise kneeling)

  • Begin kneeling on all fours with a neutral spine position (pelvis not too arched, not too tucked)
  • Engage the lower abdominal muscles 2 inches below the navel on the right side (pulling up in and back) to hike the right hip up towards the right side of your ribcage.  You will be shortening the distance between the hip and ribs on the right side of the waist, and lengthening the distance between the hip and ribs on the left side of the waist.  Allow your eye focus to look over your right shoulder towards the hip.
  • Use low abs on the opposite side to return the hip, spine, and head to center. (Your kneeling “neutral” starting position.)
  • Use the abdominals 2 inches below the navel on the left to hike the left hip up towards the left side of your ribcage.  Allow your eye focus to look over the left shoulder towards the left hip.
  • Strive to keep the hips and shoulders in the same horizontal plane throughout the exercise.
  • Alternate sides for 5-10, or more, repetitions.

Breath Patterns for the Sexy Cat Exercise

It will always be easiest to exhale while you’re zipping up 2 inches below, and using the low abs!  So if you’re just getting started with this exercise, Inhale center, exhale to swing the hips to the right, inhale to center, and exhale to swing the hips to the left.  Focus on really finding and using one side of your low abs on every exhale.  You will alternate sides on every breath, to swing the hips right and left.

With experience, you should be able to move on either an inhale or an exhale and maintain good support.  So the next challenge for a breath pattern on this exercise will be:  Inhale to swing the hips to the right, exhale to center, inhale to swing the hips to the left, exhale to center.

Initiate the Sexy Cat Swing from the Tip of Your Tail

To smoothly and sequentially execute the movement, you have to not only use your low abs, but allow your tailbone to swish sideways.  In fact it’s most ideal to start the movement with the tailbone, and then engage the abs. Your low back muscles will do some of the work, but try not to let them initiate the hip hike.  Use your guts more to do the work, feel one side of your waist/low back stretch as the other side “hikes up.”  Maintain a feeling of length through your spine.  Strive to feel your sitting bones reaching away from you while you move your sexy hips!

Alternate Exercise – Hook-Lying Hip Hike

If you feel challenged to get this Sexy Cat hip hike working well in a kneeling position, flip over and lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor (hook-lying position.)  Place your hands on your hips to help feel the work of the abs and movement of the hips and one side of your waist gets shorter and the other side gets longer.  Both sides of the pelvis should remain flat on the floor while the hips swish from side to side.

The difference in how gravity affects your position will make the exercise feel different kneeling vs. lying on your back, but the movement is the same and the muscles working to initiate the movement are exactly the same.

The Sexy Cat is a simple exercise you can do at-home to work on hip un-leveling and improving core support, plus it can help you enjoy the benefits of a much needed stretch for your low back muscles to help reduce or eliminate low back pain.

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.

1 Comment

  1. Cindy Lamm



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