Cow Face
GOMUKHĀSANA (गोमुखासन)
(go-mook-AHH-sah-nah)

 


‘Go’= cow, ‘mukha’= face or mouth, ‘āsana’= posture


Alternate Names

Knee Pile with Archer Arms

Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Pose Type: Seated / Hip Opener / Stretch / Restorative

1. Start in Staff Pose (Dandasana), seated with your legs extended straight. Bring your shoulder blades back so that your shoulders are under your ears and your spine is straight.
2. Bend your right knee and bring it back to your chest.
3. Cross your right leg over your left leg, placing your right foot as close to the hips as comfortable, and rotate your right foot so that it rests on the outside to top of the foot.
4. Bend and rotate your left knee in and under the right thigh so that the outside to top of your left foot is resting on the floor, with the left heel next to your right thigh, as close to the hips as comfortable.
5. With your right knee stacked over your left knee (if possible), lengthen the spine from the tailbone up through the crown on the head, making sure that your weight is evenly distributed on your sit bones, rooting and grounding them to the mat. Draw your knees to the mat, keeping your hip sockets forward.
6. Inhale and reach your left arm up to the sky.
7. Bend the right elbow so that your right hand is behind your back resting between your shoulder blades.
8. With your right arm in place behind your back, bend and rotate your left elbow so that your left hand meets your right hand behind your back between the shoulder blades.
9. Elongate through your spine as you hook your hands together, slowly clasping your fingers into a bear grip. Keep your left elbow close to the side of your head and your right elbow close to your body.
10. Gaze forward, keeping your neck aligned with your spine and your chin up and aligned with your chest.
11. Breathe through this posture.
12. When you’re ready, release and repeat on other side.

Common Adjustments
• Hunched shoulders
• Rounded back
• Strained neck
• Head falling forward
• Spine / torso not straight and aligned with the hips
• Ribs popping out
• Hips / sit bones uneven or lifted and not touching the ground
• Knee strained
• Elbows not tucked in and are pushed out past shoulder width
• Fingers not touching (very common – a strap can be used as a prop for this)

Modifications
• For students with tight hips, place a blanket, pillow, or bolster under the buttock(s), elevating the hips. This will bring less stress to the hips and lower back. Placing a block under the buttock(s), with the pelvis tilting slightly forward, will have the same effect, as well as help with tightly overlapping the thighs, so that the knees are stacked on top of each other. For students, where one side of the buttock is off the ground, have them sit on the foot of the bottom leg to raise them up or use a blanket to level off.
• For students who have had a hip replacement, have them sit without their legs crossed over each other in a comfortable position.
• For students who have difficulty connecting their fingers behind their back, have them practice with a strap between their hands. With practice, they can start to walk their hands together (moving the bottom hand up or the upper hand down), when their flexibility increases. Some students can’t do either side; some can do it on one side, but not the other. Allow students to use props as needed, ensuring they are slowly increasing their flexibility. Students can also practice clasping their hands behind their back in Easy Pose (Sukhasana).
• For students with ankle or knee discomfort, place a blanket between the knees and/or under the ankles. It is important to note that not all students will be able to stack the knees, and that is okay.
• Flexible students who want to increase the stretch in their hips and legs deeper can bend forward so that the chest is on the legs and the arms are stretched over head.

Counter Poses
• Forward Bend, Seated (Paschimottanasana)
• Forward Bend, Seated Head to Knee (Janu Sirsasana)
• Staff Pose (Dandasana)
• Cat (Marjaryasana)
• Cow (Bitilasana)
• Child’s Pose (Balasana)
• Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
• Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
• Lord of the Fishes, Half (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
• Supine Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana)
• Eagle (Garudasana)
• Forward Bend, Seated Wide Angle - Dragonfly (Upavistha Konasana)
• Half Lotus, Seated (Ardha Padmasana)
• Lotus (Padmasana)

Anatomy
• Neck and Shoulders (Deltoids)• Chest (Pectoralis Major and Minor)
• Biceps and Triceps• Upper (Cervical) and Middle (Thoracic) Back and Spine
• Abdomen (Core) and Obliques• Hips (Iliopsoas)
• Gluteus Medius and Minimus• Quadriceps and Hamstrings
• Calf muscles• Knees and Ankles

Benefits
• Stretches and increases flexibility and strength in the shoulders, back, spine, arms, spine, hips, glutes, ankles, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, and chest.
• Opens the hips, knees / knee joints, ankles, chest, shoulders / shoulder joints, and heart and stimulates the circulatory, respiratory, reproduction, and digestion systems. This also improves function in abdominal muscles.
• Increases blood supply to the entire body, especially the legs and arms. This improves focus and reduces anxiety, stress, and mild depression.

Contraindications
1. Students with severe neck, shoulder, or back injury / inflammation, sciatica, a ligament tear or who are pregnant should avoid this pose.
2. Students with an injury or discomfort in the hips should avoid this pose, or practice with modifications, props, and guidance.
3. Students with stiff shoulders should take this posture slow and/or use props.

Chakras
Chakra One:Root or Muladhara (root support) Chakra. This is the survival and gravity chakra. Its goals are stability, grounding, prosperity, right livelihood, and physical health. Its location is the base of the spine, coccygeal plexus, legs, feet, and large intestines.
Chakra Two:Sacral or Svadhisthana (sweetness) Chakra. This is the chakra for emotion, sexuality, and attraction of opposites. Its goals are fluidity, pleasure, and relaxation. Its location is the abdomen, genitals, lower back, and hips.
Chakra Four:Heart, Love, or Anahata (Unstuck) Chakra. This is the love and equilibrium chakra. Its goals are balance, compassion, and acceptance. Its location is the heart.



Additional information on this asana can be found in your textbooks

  • In the textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini, this posture can be found in Chapter 8 – Seated Postures as “Gomukhasana – Cow’s Face Pose”.
    • Watch the Chapter 8 video “Gomukhasana” found in the Web Resources that come with your textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini. This video gives you an additional example of how to practice this asana.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, this posture can be found in Chapter 9 – SITTING POSES as “GOMUKHASANA – Cow-Faced Pose”.

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