Gomukhasana, or Cow Face Pose, is a yoga posture that involves sitting with crossed legs and arms in a specific position. It stretches the hips, thighs, and shoulders, and can help to alleviate back pain and reduce stress. To practise the pose, stack your right knee on top of your left knee and bring your right arm behind your head, reaching down your back. Bring your left arm behind your back and try to clasp your fingers together, or use a strap if needed. Breathe deeply and hold the pose for several breaths before switching sides.
गोमुखासनस्य तु वक्षस्य
प्रविशेत् यदि यो नरः।
क्षीण क्लेश भवेत् तस्य
सुखम् आसनम् उच्यते।
“Gomukhasya tu vakshasya
pravishet yadi yo narah
ksheena klesha bhavet tasya
sukham asanam ucyate”
Translation: “If a person enters into the posture of Cow Face Pose, their chest and shoulders become purified, and all their troubles and difficulties disappear. This posture is said to be comfortable and pleasing.”
This sloka highlights the physical and mental benefits of practicing Gomukhasana, such as improved posture, reduced tension in the shoulders and chest, and a sense of ease and comfort in the body and mind.
Meaning of Gomukhasana and Where it Came From
The name “Gomukhasana” is derived from two Sanskrit words: “gomukha,” which means “cow’s face,” and “asana,” which means “pose.” The pose is named after the shape that the legs and arms create, which resembles the face of a cow.
For thousands of years, yoga practitioners have been performing the Gomukhasana, which is referenced in ancient texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gheranda Samhita. The pose has its roots in India, where cows hold sacred status, representing peace and serenity.
Gomukhasana is a seated pose that involves crossing the legs and bringing the arms into a specific position. It is known to stretch the hips, thighs, and shoulders, and can help to alleviate back pain and reduce stress. It is also believed to stimulate the kidneys and aid in digestion. The pose is often practiced in Hatha, Vinyasa, and Iyengar yoga classes.
When To Practice
Gomukhasana can be practiced at any time of the day, but it is generally recommended to practice it in the morning on an empty stomach or in the evening after a gap of a few hours after a meal. It is also beneficial to practice Gomukhasana when the body is warmed up, so it can be incorporated into a longer yoga practice or performed after a few rounds of sun salutations.
Gomukhasana can be especially helpful for people who sit for long periods of time, such as office workers, as it can help to release tension in the hips and lower back. It can also be helpful for athletes and runners, as it stretches the thighs and shoulders.
Step by Step guide How to do Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
- Begin in a seated position on your mat with your legs extended in front of you.
- Bend your left knee and bring your left foot towards your right hip.
- Cross your right leg over your left leg, stacking your right knee on top of your left knee.
- Reach your left arm straight up towards the ceiling, then bend your elbow and bring your hand behind your back, palm facing out.
- Reach your right arm behind your back, palm facing in, and try to clasp your fingers together.
- If you can’t reach your fingers, hold onto a strap with your right hand and reach your left hand towards your back to grasp the other end of the strap.
- Sit up tall, lengthening through your spine, and relax your shoulders down away from your ears.
- Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths, then release your arms and legs and repeat on the other side.
- To come out of the pose, slowly release your arms and legs, uncross your legs, and extend both legs out in front of you.
Note: If you have any knee or hip injuries, be mindful of any discomfort and modify the pose as needed. You can use blankets or blocks under your hips to support your knees and make the pose more comfortable.
Here are some common mistakes that people make when practicing Gomukhasana:
- Forcing the knees to stack perfectly: Trying to force your knees to stack perfectly on top of each other can put unnecessary strain on your knees and hips. It is more important to listen to your body and find a comfortable position for your legs.
- Hunching the shoulders: It’s important to keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears. If you feel tension in your shoulders, try to soften the muscles and release any tightness.
- Overarching the lower back: When reaching your arms behind your back, be careful not to arch your lower back too much. Instead, try to keep your spine lengthened and your lower back supported.
- Forgetting to breathe: Breathing deeply and slowly is an important part of yoga practice, so try to maintain a steady breath while in the pose. If you find yourself holding your breath, try to relax and focus on your breath.
- Not using props: If you’re unable to clasp your hands behind your back, use a strap or towel to help you reach. Props can also help to support your knees and hips, making the pose more comfortable.
Contraindications (Who Should Avoid)
While Gomukhasana can provide many benefits, it may not be suitable for everyone. Here are some contraindications and precautions to keep in mind:
- Knee or hip injuries: If you have knee or hip injuries or pain, it may be difficult or uncomfortable to get into the pose. You may need to modify the pose by using props, such as blankets or blocks, to support your knees and hips.
- Shoulder injuries: If you have shoulder injuries or pain, it may be difficult or uncomfortable to reach your hands behind your back. You can modify the pose by using a strap or towel to help you reach.
- Recent surgery or injury: If you have had recent surgery or injury, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider before attempting any new yoga poses.
- High blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, it is important to be cautious with inversions and avoid holding your breath while in the pose.
- Pregnancy: If you are pregnant, it is recommended to avoid twisting or compressing the abdomen. It is important to consult with your healthcare provider before attempting any new yoga poses.
- Avoid practicing Gomukhasana if you experience pain, discomfort or dizziness.
20 Health Benefits of Gomukhasana
- Stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles: Gomukhasana is an excellent hip opener that stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. It can help to relieve tension and tightness in these areas.
- Opens the chest and shoulders: The pose also helps to stretch the chest and shoulders, which can improve posture and breathing.
- Improves spinal alignment: Gomukhasana helps to improve spinal alignment by stretching the spine and releasing tension in the back.
- Reduces stress and anxiety: The pose can have a calming effect on the mind, reducing stress and anxiety.
- Enhances flexibility and mobility: Regular practice of Gomukhasana can help to increase flexibility and mobility in the hips, shoulders, and spine.
- Stimulates abdominal organs: The pose can help to stimulate the abdominal organs, improving digestion and elimination.
- Relieves sciatica pain: Gomukhasana can help to relieve pain and discomfort associated with sciatica by stretching the hips and thighs.
- Improves posture: Gomukhasana can help to improve posture by stretching the chest and shoulders, which can help to counteract the effects of slouching and sitting for extended periods of time.
- Relieves tension in the neck and shoulders: The pose can also help to relieve tension and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, which can be caused by poor posture, stress, or long periods of sitting or standing.
- Reduces back pain: By stretching the back and hips, Gomukhasana can help to reduce pain and discomfort in the lower back. This can be particularly beneficial for those who spend a lot of time sitting or have a sedentary lifestyle.
- Enhances lung capacity: The pose can also help to enhance lung capacity by stretching the chest and ribcage, allowing for deeper and more efficient breathing.
- Improves circulation: Gomukhasana can help to improve circulation throughout the body, which can help to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and organs more effectively.
- Enhances focus and concentration: By promoting relaxation and reducing stress, Gomukhasana can help to enhance focus and concentration, making it a great pose to practice before meditation or mental work.
- Remember to always listen to your body and practice at your own pace. If you have any concerns or questions about practicing Gomukhasana, consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor.
- Helps to alleviate menstrual discomfort: The pose can help to relieve menstrual cramps and discomfort by stretching the hips and lower back.
- Improves digestion: Gomukhasana can help to stimulate the digestive system, improving digestion and reducing digestive issues like bloating and constipation.
- Reduces tension headaches: The pose can help to reduce tension headaches by stretching the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
- Strengthens the spine: The pose can help to strengthen the muscles of the spine, improving spinal stability and reducing the risk of injury.
- Relieves symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome: Gomukhasana can help to alleviate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome by stretching the wrists, hands, and forearms.
- Improves balance and stability: By engaging the core muscles, Gomukhasana can help to improve balance and stability, making it a great pose for athletes and older adults.
Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQ) on Gomukhasana:
Q: Who can practice Gomukhasana?
Gomukhasana can be practiced by people of all ages and fitness levels, with some modifications or adjustments to suit individual needs. However, if you have any medical conditions or injuries, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor before practicing this pose.
Q: What are the variations of Gomukhasana?
There are several variations of Gomukhasana, including the seated, reclined, and standing variations. Additionally, the pose can be modified using props like blocks or straps to make it more accessible or comfortable for beginners or those with limited flexibility.
Q: How long should I hold Gomukhasana?
It is recommended to hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side, gradually increasing the duration as your flexibility and comfort level improves.
Q: Can Gomukhasana help with back pain?
Yes, Gomukhasana can help to alleviate back pain by stretching the back and hips, improving spinal flexibility and stability, and reducing muscle tension and discomfort.
Q: How often should I practice Gomukhasana?
You can practice Gomukhasana as often as you like, but it is recommended to include it as part of a regular yoga practice or fitness routine for best results. However, it is important to listen to your body and avoid overdoing it, especially if you are new to the pose or have any injuries or medical conditions.
Q: What are the benefits of practicing Gomukhasana regularly?
Regular practice of Gomukhasana can help to improve posture, reduce back pain, relieve tension in the neck and shoulders, enhance lung capacity, improve digestion, and enhance focus and concentration. It can also help to alleviate menstrual discomfort, reduce tension headaches, strengthen the spine, and improve balance and stability.
Q: Is Gomukhasana safe during pregnancy?
Gomukhasana can be safe for pregnant women, but it is important to modify the pose to suit your changing body and avoid any discomfort or strain. It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor before practicing Gomukhasana or any other yoga pose during pregnancy.
Q: Can Gomukhasana help with stress and anxiety?
Yes, Gomukhasana can help to reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation, reducing tension and stiffness in the body, and enhancing focus and concentration. It is a great pose to practice before meditation or as part of a stress-reducing routine.
Q: Can Gomukhasana be practiced by beginners?
Yes, Gomukhasana can be practiced by beginners, but it is important to start slowly, listen to your body, and avoid overdoing it. It is recommended to practice with a qualified yoga instructor to ensure proper alignment and technique.
Q: What are some common mistakes to avoid in Gomukhasana?
Common mistakes in Gomukhasana include rounding the back, allowing the knee to lift off the floor, and overstretching or straining the shoulders. It is important to maintain proper alignment, use props if needed, and avoid pushing yourself beyond your comfort level.
Q: Can Gomukhasana help with sciatica pain?
Yes, Gomukhasana can help to alleviate sciatica pain by stretching the hips, glutes, and lower back, improving circulation, and reducing compression on the sciatic nerve. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor to ensure proper technique and avoid any aggravation of the condition.
Q: Can Gomukhasana be practiced by people with knee injuries?
Gomukhasana can be modified to accommodate knee injuries by using props like blocks or blankets to support the knee or by avoiding deep knee bends. However, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor before practicing the pose to ensure proper modification and avoid any discomfort or strain.
Q: How does Gomukhasana benefit the respiratory system?
Gomukhasana can help to enhance lung capacity by stretching the chest and lungs, improving circulation, and promoting deep breathing. It can also help to reduce tension in the neck and shoulders, which can interfere with proper breathing.
Q: Can Gomukhasana help with shoulder pain?
Yes, Gomukhasana can help to alleviate shoulder pain by stretching the shoulders, upper back, and neck, improving posture, and reducing tension and stiffness in the muscles. However, it is important to listen to your body and avoid overstretching or straining the shoulders, especially if you have any existing shoulder injuries or medical conditions.
Q: What are some preparatory poses for Gomukhasana?
Some preparatory poses for Gomukhasana include seated forward folds, hip openers like Pigeon Pose, and shoulder stretches like Eagle Arms. It is also helpful to warm up the body with some gentle stretches or Sun Salutations before attempting the pose.