Gomukhasana means Cow face pose. In India, where yoga originates, cows are a revered animal. As a Midwesterner who went to college in Texas, I believe that I have above average familiarity with the faces of cows. However, as I teach and practice this pose, it never, ever reminds me of a cow’s face.
The name of this pose may be a mystery to me, but its purpose is not. Gomukhasana is one heck of a hip opener. While this pose can feel extremely intense, the use of a block lessens the intensity and makes it appropriate for yogis of all levels.
Plus, Gomukhasana adds the bonus of shoulder stretching. If you have tight shoulders, I recommend that you keep a yoga strap, belt, or some other piece of fabric nearby. This combination of hip and shoulder stretching is a 1, 2 punch for many people; it’s part of what makes this exercise so great.
- Use ujjayi breathing.
- Begin on your hands and knees. If you have tight hips, have a block nearby; if you have tight shoulders, have a strap nearby.
- Engage your abdominals and lift your belly button toward your spine.
- Bring your right knee forward between your hands. Make sure that you have some weight on this leg.
- Scissor your inner thighs to bring your left leg toward (or even past) your midline. You should feel that your legs are crossed very deeply, toward the top of your thigh.
- Get ready to grab your block.
- Make sure your feet are pretty far away from each other. You need to have enough space to sit between your feet.
- As you sit back, place a block at whatever level you need beneath your SITs bones. Feel your SITs bones connect to the block. If your hips don’t feel horribly tight, you might want to try lowering your block or removing it completely to get a deeper stretch. However, if you’re in pain without the block, put it back.
- Make sure you have your lower body situated before moving on to your arm placement.
- Bend your right arm and place it so that your hand is on your back with your humerus (upper arm bone) beside your rib cage. I like to use my free hand to get this arm in place.
- If you have tight shoulders, grab your strap with your left hand.
- Reach your left arm up toward the ceiling, and bend your elbow.
- Try to reach your fingers toward each other behind your back. If your fingertips won’t touch, just grab hold of the strap wherever you can reach it.
- Hold for 5-8 breaths.
- If you’re not doing the additional Gomukhasa stretch, follow steps 6-8 listed below to unwind and switch sides.
Additional Gomukhasana Stretch
- Complete all the steps listed above.
- Release your hands, and carefully unwind your arms.
- Make sure that you still feel your SITs bones pressing into the surface beneath you. As you feel your SITs bones press down, feel yourself lift through the top of your head.
- Hinge forward from the waist, then allow yourself to soften over your legs.
- Hold for 5-8 breaths.
- To come out of this pose, engage your core muscles, and shift your weight forward.
- Straighten your left leg to help your legs unwind.
- Come onto your hands and knees to begin the left side. This time, the left leg will come forward to begin the pose. Likewise, it will be the right arm that reaches toward the ceiling.
Here is a video for visual learners.
So, if it doesn’t look like a cow’s face, what do you think this pose resembles? Let us know in the comments below.
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