When on all fours (hands and knees): If the verb to bend the back upwards (forming an arch shape) is "arch", what is the verb to bend the back down (forming a valley)?

Or is there a short phrase that does the job? I have only thought up "curve the back down" or "bend the back down".

This is for a yoga exercise called "The Cat" or "Cat/Cow".

  • 1
    It's also arch. Mar 7, 2015 at 16:58
  • 1
    Heh. The marjariasana was the first thing that came to mind when I read the title. As @Ian says, the two outer positions in this asana are usually described as simply arching your back downwards and upwards, respectively. An example from Yoga Learning Center. Mar 7, 2015 at 17:36
  • Do you mean 'straighten'? Oh, an arch in the opposite direction.
    – Mitch
    Mar 7, 2015 at 18:29

4 Answers 4


All four hooves left the ground as the horse bowed its back.

To me that conjures up an image of the horse bending its back downwards (opposite to bucking, or arching the back upwards).

OED: bow, 11a
to bend (anything) downwards; to incline, to lower (often in fig. expressions)


While it is commonly used in horses, swaybacked is exactly the term you're looking for, at least in extreme cases. The term is also applied to people who suffer from lordosis.

"having an abnormally hollow or sagging back :'a swaybacked mare'"

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  • You sound like the expert in this field :-) Mar 7, 2015 at 17:28
  • Swaybacked (and lordotic) is a good word, but it describes a more permanent state than what you’d need for describing the movements involved in doing the marjariasana in yoga. Mar 7, 2015 at 18:30
  • Perhaps "sway your back"?
    – vidget
    Mar 7, 2015 at 18:50
  • It doesn't work as a verb. To "sway your back" also would imply moving up and down because "swaying" is a continuous movement. Mar 8, 2015 at 10:19

An inverted arch is an arch 'the other way up'. Both the technical and everyday usages of this compound / collocation are shown in this Wikipedia article, which is matter-of-fact to the point of being platitudinous:

An inverted arch is a civil engineering structure in the form of an inverted arch, inverted in comparison to the usual arch bridge....

Used as a verb, 'arch downwards' would be needed.


As another user commented, both the Cat and Cow positions are "arch" positions; each an inversion of the other.

But it's also true that we normally think of the shape in 'Cow' when someone says "arch your back." So, if we're looking for a verb that makes people think right away of the opposite posture (say, while receiving instruction in yoga class), I think of:

round (v.)

In or out of context of yoga, "Round the spine" or "Round your back" seems a crystal clear description of the 'Cat' position.

  • 2
    I've just realized the OP used "arch" to mean the 'Cat' position, as when on all fours the back forms the architectural shape of an arch. However, I think the more common use of "arch" with context of a back ("arch one's back" or "an arched back") refers to the stretching of the front of the body and contraction of the back of the body.
    – vidget
    Mar 7, 2015 at 18:49
  • This is true but I think it's not right to say that making the opposite of an arch-shape is called arching. Mar 8, 2015 at 11:37
  • I don't think rounding the spine or back is right for this. Round is something convex not concave. Mar 8, 2015 at 14:14

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