How to Do Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Cow face
Ben Goldstein

Targets: Hips, ankles, shoulders, arms, chest

Level: Beginner

When you talk about hip openers in yoga, you most often picture poses where the legs are positioned wide apart. But poses like Cow Face (Gomukhasana), where legs are brought together, are also hip stretches, albeit working in a different way on the musculature surrounding the pelvis.

Benefits

Cow Face Pose stretches the hips, ankles, shoulders, arms, and chest—almost every part of your body. It demonstrates how different the two sides of most people's bodies are—often it's much easier to bring your hands to meet behind your back on one side than the other. This pose may help you correct your posture and begin to equalize your flexibility. It's a great pose for those who sit most of the day at work as it will open your hips and chest, counteracting the slump many people adopt while sitting. It is a calming and centering pose.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin in a seated cross-legged position. Half Lotus or Fire Log Pose work well since your legs are stacked in them. 

  1. 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.
  2. Bring your left arm straight up toward the ceiling,
  3. 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.
  4. Lift the right arm out to the right side, bend the elbow and bring the right arm up the center of the back.
  5. Clasp hands behind your back.
  6. Draw both elbows toward the center and keep your head from tilting forward by pressing the back of your head into your left arm. Breath smoothly.
  7. Release your arms on an inhale and try the pose with the left leg and right arm on top.

Common Mistakes

Be sure to keep your spine aligned rather than twisted. You should have a straight line from the top of your head to your tailbone. If you are twisting in order to try to join your hands, use a strap rather than force them to join.

While your hands are clasped, do not stick your ribs out. Try to drop your tailbone to the floor and broaden your lower back instead. Also resist rounding your back and curving your chest inward. Spread your collarbones instead.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

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). 

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.

Up for a Challenge?

To deepen the pose, come into a forward bend while keeping the spine long and hands joined.

You will deepen the hip opening by moving your feet further from your hips.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this pose if you have a shoulder, neck, or knee injury. 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.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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