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Cow face pose (gomukasana in Sanskrit) is a wonderful posture that opens the shoulders and glutes. If this seated pose asks more than your knees and hips can fully deliver, the upper-body portion of the pose is still an amazing stretch that can be practiced anywhere from a hot shower (the warm water helps prepare and warm up the deltoids and triceps) to the waiting area of an airport, especially before a long flight.
Gomukasana is an amazing physical antidote to how much time the spine spends in constant flexion, be it hunched over a computer, looking down at a phone, or seated behind the wheel. Whether we realize it or not, life is a forward bend. If you take on this pose and consider it a daily vitamin for your shoulders, you can create mobility and freedom in your chest and upper back in equal measure.
How to Do Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana) With Proper Form
- Start in tabletop position: Get on all fours, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
- Cross your right knee over your left knee, and sit your hips back on to the floor, evenly distributing your weight on both butt bones. The sides of your feet should be on the floor, equidistant to either side of your pelvis.
- Reach your left arm out to the side and internally rotate it so your palm faces behind you, then bend your left elbow and work your left hand up your back without pulling your left shoulder down lower than the right. Your left fingers should point up toward your neck, palm still facing behind you.
- Extend your right arm toward the ceiling, and keep your biceps close to your ear as you bend your right elbow and reach down your back toward your left hand. Clasp them if possible.
- Hold for a minute, then gently reverse the pose and switch sides.
Beginner Tips for Doing Cow Face Pose
- Brent Laffoon, one of the instructors in Openfit’s Yoga52 says, “Don’t worry if your hands don’t come together. Instead, focus on reaching your arms in opposite directions to activate your upper chest.” With time and practice your hands may eventually move closer to each other.
- Once in the pose, challenge yourself to create and maintain a level pelvis both side to side and front to back. Ideally both sides of your waist are evenly long and your shoulders are level.
- Use a yoga strap as an arm lengthener. If your hands don’t touch somewhat effortlessly, then toss the strap over one shoulder. Once your arms have moved as close to one another as they can without forcing it, grasp the strap in each hand and work them toward one another.
- No strap? No problem. Laffoon says, “You can still get a good stretch and really feel the difference between your active and passive range of motion.”
How to Make Cow Face Pose Easier
The classic pose is quite challenging in terms of balance and flexibility, but there are a few ways to modify it to make the posture accessible for every body.
- What makes this pose so challenging is how much flexibility is required in both the shoulder girdle and the outer hips simultaneously. Consider working on your upper and lower body separately before doing the full pose.
- If your butt bones are uneven on the floor, sit on a blanket or a block. You are trying to make a pose that is intrinsically asymmetrical, symmetrical.
How to Deepen Cow Face Pose
- In the classic pose the hips aren’t actually on the floor. To make cow face more of a challenge in terms of balance, bring your feet together underneath you and try balancing on your heels.