Cow Face Pose, Gomukhasana: Upper Body Stretch and Balance
Gomukhasana which is popularly known as Cow Pose is a seated yoga posture. It is a strenuous pose, especially for anyone who is not flexible in the shoulders and knees. However, doing it to whatever extent possible is an effective way to counteract the forward-bending tasks that we do each day. Seated poses balance the energy of the standing poses.
Looking at it from above, this posture resembles the face of a cow, with the feet making the horns and the knees making the mouth. Many find they need practice to bring the feet in a symmetrical position to look like a cow.
The Sanskrit word Gomukhasana is a combined word meaning:
go = cow
mukha = face
asana = pose
The cow face pose limbers up the hips and legs, as well as the shoulders and is great for relieving tension in the upper back. This pose is suitable for students at all levels since it can be done in easier variations with similar benefits.
Benefits of the Cow Pose or Gomukhasana
This seated yoga pose helps to stretch the shoulders and arms with many other benefits such as:
- relieving tension or stress in the neck
- stretches the spine
- stretches the armpits and triceps
- stretches the ankles, thighs and hips
- improves lung capacity
- helps in centering
- opens the chest
- opens the hip joints and keep the knees flexible
It can also be done by sitting on a blanket and using a strap to help achieve the pose.
Tips to do Cow Face Yoga Pose
How to do Cow Face Pose or Gomukhasana
The final position of the cow face yoga pose can be done in a few steps:
- sit on the floor with the feet apart and the knees slightly bent
- bring the right foot under the left knee and place the heel close to the left hip
- have the toes pointing left
- then bring the left foot close to the right hip, toes pointing to the right
- the left knee should now be over the right knee
- keep the weight distributed between the sitting bones
- press the left knee down with both hands to bring the knees together
- make sure the back is straight with the spine extended
- shoulders relaxed and away from the ears
- helps in centering
- with your left hand, reach behind your back from below; the palm is turned out, away from your body
- bend at the elbow, moving your hand up toward the center of your back as high as you can without straining
- raise your right arm beside your right ear. Bend at the elbow and reach over your right shoulder. Try to interlock the fingers of both hands or touch the finger tips
- if it is difficult to interlock or touch your fingertips due to tight shoulders, grasp one end of a tie or strap with your raised hand. Let the tie hang down your back and grasp the loose end with your other hand
- keep your body erect. Your right elbow should point straight up, not forward; your upper arm should be as close to your right ear as possible
- breathe normally. Hold the position for 8-10 seconds
- unlock hands (or release the lower end of the tie) and let your arms fall to the sides of your body. Shake out your hands and shrug your shoulders
- repeat on other side
Variation of Cow Face Pose or Gomukhasana
The Cow Pose can be done from a standing position, with your feet about hip-distance apart. An easier variation is Modified Cow Pose or Vikrta Gomukhasana which is less arduous. It can be done anytime you feel tension or stress in your neck and shoulders. The difference is in the position of the hands and legs.
- sit in a comfortable position in a cross-legged easy pose or sukhasana
- raise your right arm beside your right ear. Bend at the elbow and reach over your right shoulder. Your hand rests near the middle of your upper back.
- raise your left arm to shoulder height, bending at the elbow; the palm faces out.
- reach toward your right hand and interlock the fingers of both hands
- using gentle but steady pressure, allow your left hand to pull your right hand down and across, toward your left shoulder
- the left elbow points down to the floor as your right elbow points straight up. The upper right arm remains as close to your right ear as possible; your forearm is behind your head. Breathe and hold the stretch for 8-10 seconds.
- Release and reverse the stretch
- do the stretch a few more times on each side.
The Modified Cow Pose can be done at your office desk or at any time of the day. Another pose beneficial to stretch the shoulders is the Seated Eagle pose and release tension and stress in the neck.
The Cow Pose's or Gomukhasana's final position can be achieved with practice. It is a good idea to first warm up the hip region by doing yoga poses for the hips. Beginners find it difficult getting both sitting bones to rest evenly on the floor and the knees don't stack one on top of the other evenly. When the pelvis is tilted, the spine can't properly extend. If so then use a folded blanket or cushion to lift the sitting bones off the floor and support them evenly.
You may also notice that it is easier to clasp the hands on one side but not the other. Practicing this pose regularly will help achieve balance on both sides.
Further Practice for the Shoulders and Legs
- Camel Yoga Pose, Ustrasana
The Camel Pose or Ustrasana is an intermediate level kneeling backbend yoga pose. It stretches and strengthens the spine, thighs, abdomen and back muscles. It is an energizing and improves posture.
- Reclined Hero Pose, Supta Virasana
The reclined hero pose is an intermediate yoga backbend and has many benefits. It is a rejuvenating and energizing pose. Find out the steps to achieve the final position, add into your yoga practice.
- Eagle Yoga Pose, Garudasana
The eagle yoga pose can be done in two ways, standing and seated variations. It is great for releasing tension in the shoulders and strengthening the spine and legs. Learn more about its benefits.
- Yoga Poses for Shoulders
The challenges of our life can cause stress and tension in our shoulders and neck muscles. Find out how to relax and strengthen the shoulders through yoga poses.
- Yoga Poses for Hips
The hips and buttocks bear the weight or the human body and determine its balance. It is important to strengthen and ensure good muscle tone for easy movement and flexibility in daily life. Learn about some of the yoga poses that can benefit the hip
- How to Comfortably Sit Cross Legged in Yoga
Many of us take sitting cross legged on the floor for granted. However, are we in perfect balance and alignment when we sit on the floor. Find out how to sit correctly and for long periods to practice yoga, pranayama or meditation.