Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

Cow face
Ben Goldstein

When we talk about hip openers in yoga, we most often picture poses where the legs are positioned wide apart. But poses like cow face, where legs are brought together, are also hip stretches, albeit working in a different way on the musculature surrounding the pelvis.

Gomukhasana pretty reliably demonstrates how different the two sides of most people's bodies are. You may feel this in the legs but it's most clear in the arms. Often it's much easier to bring your hands to meet behind your back on one side than the other. Though it's tempting (and possibly unavoidable) to call the more open side your "good side," try to avoid this kind of labeling (or at least be aware that it's occurring). Just notice that your two sides are different without attaching any value to one or the other. It's may seem like a stretch (sorry!), but getting into the habit of avoiding being judgmental on your mat really does carry over into your life off the mat.

Type of pose: Seated

Benefits: Stretches the hips, ankles, shoulders, arms, and chest.


  1. Begin in a seated cross-legged position. Half lotus or fire log pose work well since your legs are stacked in them. 
  2. Slide your knees toward your center line, stacking the right knee directly over the left. It may be helpful to come forward onto your hands and knees to do this. The right knee will be just in front of the left knee. Then separate your feet and come back to sit between them.
  3. Bring your left arm straight up towards the ceiling,
  4. Bend the left elbow, bringing the left hand to the back of your neck. You can use your right hand to gently shift the left elbow toward your midline.
  5. Lift the right arm out to the right side, bend the elbow and bring the right arm up the center of the back.
  6. Clasp hands behind your back.
  7. Draw both elbows toward the center and keep your head from tilting forward by pressing the back of your head into your left arm.
  8. Release your arms and try the pose with the left leg and right arm on top.

Beginners' Tips

  • Bring a blanket, block, or bolster under your butt if that makes the pose more comfortable. Use the props to level out your seat if it's uneven (one side of your butt higher than the other).  
  • Be especially aware of how this pose feels on your knees and prop accordingly or skip it if you can't find a position that doesn't cause you knee pain.
  • If your hands do not meet behind your back, use a strap between them. Over time, work on moving your hands toward each other along the strap.

Advanced Tips

  • Keeping the spine long and hands joined, come into a forward bend.
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