Gomukhasana Benefits and Steps to do Cow Face Pose

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Did you know that one of the traits that contributes to success in personal and professional life is one’s ability to recollect the necessary details residing somewhere inside the individual’s mind at just the right time? Just think about it. You need to have all the facts on the tip of your tongue if you want to ace in the boardroom as well as you are required to remember important dates in a relationship. But, every now and then, life throws us off our game and we become forgetful, and that can lead to serious consequences.

Fortunately, there is a Yoga pose that can help you combat your forgetfulness. Let us now take a dive into the Hatha yoga posture that is centre focus of this piece, the Gomukhasana, exploring the benefits of Gomukhasana, unraveling a step-by-step guide on how to perform the Cow Face Pose, delving into the anatomy of Gomukhasana and finally, addressing common questions and doubts that may arise about Gomukhasana.

What is Gomukhasana

Gomukhasana is a simple Yoga asana that stretches several parts of the body. The original name of the pose is of Sanskrit origin. It literally translates to the term “Cow Face Pose” since the shape of the student begins to resemble that of a cow’s face once he/she enters the final position. If you are wondering as to what happens to the hands in such a scenario, they take the shape of the cow’s ears. For those who are looking to have a clearer picture of what this asana looks like, this position fundamentally requires the practitioner to sit on the lower posterior side of their legs while simultaneously clasping their hands behind their back.

The very first descriptions of this position were found in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a Sanskrit text about Hatha Yoga positions which was authored in the 15th century and the Gheranda Samitha (Considered to be the definitive Sanskrit text on yoga).

This pose also has ties to Indian mythology as well, since it is believed that Lord Shiva himself practised and taught the Gomukhasana along with 83 other Yoga positions to his followers for their physical and mental well-being.

What Are The Benefits Of Gomukhasana

Even though the Gomukhasana is a fairly uncomplicated pose, it has provided a myriad of benefits to those who practise it regularly. It is this very virtue of the asana that makes it so brilliant.

Some of the reported upsides of doing the Gomukhasana and making it a part of one’s daily Yoga routine are:

Gomukhasana Makes Your Memory Sharper: If you think that you are getting a little forgetful with time or work in an industry where it is very important for you to remember a lot of things and recollect them on command, the Gomukhasana is for you. Yes, you read that right. This position enhances your memory by nearly optimising brain function, which it achieves by simultaneously promoting and inhibiting the secretion of certain chemicals in the brain. The chemicals that it promotes the secretion of are serotonin and dopamine, which are required for healthy brain function, whereas it tries to halt the production of a chemical called cortisol, which gets produced by the brain as a response to distress. An additional side benefit of the same is enhanced cognitive function as well.

Gomukhasana Keeps Your Legs In Shape: It is observed that people who live a sedentary lifestyle progressively tend to indulge in physical activities in a lesser capacity over time. The main reason for the same is the leg’s inability to support the body for long periods. This is one of the main side effects of having a desk job. This is where the Gomukhasana can come to your rescue, since it strengthens some of the key leg muscles such as the quadriceps (the upper thighs), the glutes (your buttocks), calves and the hamstrings. This is all to say that even if you spend most of your day sitting on a desk, doing the Gomukhasana can help you retain most of your leg’s strength and make them stronger over time.

Gomukhasana Helps You Get A Wider Body Frame: One of the main focus of the Gomukhasana is the back, which is constantly stretched and contracted while the student practises the position. These seemingly incessant stretching and contracting causes little microtears in the back muscles, which will help it only emerge stronger if the student’s diet has enough protein and fibre in it. The strengthening of the back muscles will eventually cause the body part to widen and therefore help the student attain that desirable wide body frame.

Gomukhasana Enhances The Health Of Your Reproductive Organs: If you are doing the Gomukhasana, at some point in time, you will allow for more blood to flow to your pelvic area, which is a very welcome perk. Increase of blood flow to your reproductive organs keeps ailments such as erectile dysfunction and maybe even prostate cancer at a distance. Not to mention that a healthy set of genitals usually translates to a healthy love life as well.

Gomukhasana Makes You A Better Runner: Since the Cow Face pose almost directly makes your leg stronger, you will be able to endure the track for much longer and sprint faster as a runner. The position also strengthens your knees and the muscles and ligaments around it, which prepares them for several kinds of unfortunate incidents that can happen on a track too.

How To Do Gomukhasana

To execute the Gomukhasana with near perfection, follow the below step-by-step guide to perform the same to the tee. It is as follows:

Gomukhasana Step 1: Sit down on your mat in Vajrasana, which essentially requires you to sit back on your legs with your knees bent.

Gomukhasana Step 2: Lift your hips and then gently relocate your torso to your left side.

Gomukhasana Step 3: Take your right leg and cross it over to your left side in such a manner that your right knee is perfectly stacked on top of your left one. Avoid sitting on either of your feet.

Gomukhasana Step 4: Fold your left hand in such a way that it crosses over to your back from below and your palm is facing outwards.

Gomukhasana Step 5: Bright your right palm to your left one by crossing your right hand over from the top and trying to reach out for your left palm. Once you do so, clasp your fingers behind your back.

Gomukhasana Step 6: Maintain that pose for as long as you are comfortable. Feel and take note of the stretching sensation in your back.

Gomukhasana Step 7: Transition out of the position by first unclasping your hands and then unfolding them to get them to their original position. Next, you gently bring your right leg over to its original position and then slowly go back into Vajrasana. At this point, you would have completed a half repetition of the Gomukhasana.

To complete the repetition, repeat Steps 1 to 7, but do the complete opposite of them in terms of sides. For example, instead of relocating your torso to the left, you move it to the right and instead of your right leg, you must cross your left leg over, and so on.

When To Practise Gomukhasana

You should ideally do the Gomukhasana in the morning as soon as you wake up since around that time, you will most likely have an empty stomach and an empty bladder. Since this is a fairly simple pose to do, you can practise the Cow Face pose either in the beginning, middle or the end of the yoga session. If you are unable to get it done during sunrise time, you can always do the Gomukhasana in the evening as long as your stomach and bladder have been empty for anywhere between 4-6 hours.

As far as the time duration is concerned, Ideally, you should stay in the Gomukhasana for up to 2 minutes, but the ideal time for you can differ, hence we would recommend you to do this asana under the supervision and with the guidance of a trained Yoga professional. 

Gomukhasana Contraindications

There are certain circumstances under which one should ideally stay away from practising the Gomukhasana. However, the severity of the circumstances can vary from person to person, so even if you see your condition in the list below, we would recommend you to not to jump to any conclusions and get a second opinion from your doctor or respective health professional.

Those circumstances are as follows:

  • Avoid Gomukhasana if you have injured your shoulders or any muscles/ligaments around it.
  • Stay clear of Gomukhasana if you have injured your knees or any ligaments around it in the recent past.
  • Stay away from the Gomukhasana if you have injured your spine or any of your back muscles, as most of them will come into use while doing the pose.
  • If you have injured your thighs, calves, glutes or hamstrings, do not do the Gomukhasana.
  • If you have sustained mild to severe elbow injury, avoid the Gomukhasana as much as you can.

Anatomy of Gomukhasana

One can only appreciate the elegance and brilliance of the Gomukhasana after having a clearer picture of how it works its magic on the human body, which can only be provided through an anatomical exploration of the Yoga asana. You will find the same in the following paragraphs.

When going into Vajrasana, you are already putting your hip flexors and ligaments around it as well as the ones found in the knee area to use. Transitioning into the starting pose also works wonders on your hips. Next, you will feel a stretching sensation along both of your upper thighs. You may also feel a mild pull around your knees.

you are already putting a certain amount of pressure on the muscles found in the lower half of your body, starting with your upper thighs, and then your knees and calves. Your gluteus muscles will be the last one to get engaged by the position as it comes into play at the very last.

Now, you will transition into the pose, starting with your torso, which needs to move to your left with the help of your hips. This momentarily releases the tension built up during the few seconds you were in Vajrasana and opens up your hip flexors a little bit more at the same time. Not to mention that you will be working your triceps to a certain extent as well since you will be using them as well to lift your body so that it can be relocated.

Now, we start going into the Gomukhasana by crossing our right leg over to the left side and bringing the right knee atop the left one. As you can imagine, several muscles, whether large or small, are working together to make the position a reality. Right off the bat, you will start stretching your right hamstring, glute, quadricep and even your right butt cheek to an extent. You may feel the stretching sensation reach the groyne area a little bit as well. Keep in mind that it is very normal for that to happen.

Now, you will work your upper body by clasping your fingers behind your back. As and when you begin to do the final set of manoeuvres, you will begin to feel your left triceps being pulled, your left shoulder blade opening up, your left latissimus dorsi muscles to compress and most importantly, your spine correcting its shape. When you begin to reach out for the fingers of your left hand with that of your right as instructed, you will start engaging your right shoulder and the right side of your trapezius muscles in that order. They will be followed by the right side of your middle and lower back muscles and then finally, you will begin to feel your spine straightening a little bit more.

When clasping, your forearm muscles will join the party as well.

After achieving the final position, you will begin to feel the intensity of all the sensations you had been feeling thus far magnify, but depending on your level of proficiency, the pain can either become unbearable or you may begin to feel like you have come to a plateau in terms of intensity. If you think you are unable to bear the pain, do the Gomukhasana for a shorter period of time and/or consult a medical professional. If you are one of those who feels like they have hit a plateau, we would recommend trying out more challenging Gomukhasana variations to get the most out of this asana.

Note: If you are finding the act of sitting with your knees bent to be challenging, you can use a bolster to make the task easier for you. If sitting in such a manner feels way out of your comfort zone, you might want to get your knees checked if you haven’t already.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gomukhasana

Why Is It Called Gomukhasana?

Gomukhasana is a Sanskrit term which has three parts; while “Go” means “Cow”, “Mukha” means “Face” and “Asana” means pose. This position has been named as such because after successfully transitioning into the final form, the shape of the Yogi begins to resemble that of a cow’s head complete with ears, which the elbows of the yogi bear a likeness to while in position.

Due to the literal translation of the name, this Yoga asana is more popularly known as the “Cow Face Pose” in the West.

What are the techniques of Gomukhasana?

Some of the alternative techniques of the Gomukhasana are:

Cow Face Pose With A Block And A Strap: As the name suggests, this variation allows the use of a strap and a box. While the former is grabbed onto by both hands in case the student finds it hard to clasp both of their hands together, the latter goes under the yogi’s rear end in case the student is unable to sit on the ground as prescribed due to any reason.

Seated Cow Pose: Here, the Yogi is doing half of the Gomukhasana since he/she is required to sit on a chair and do the hand gestures only. This variation is done by only those Yogis who have severe issues in the lower half of the body or are simply and solely looking to work on the upper body muscles that the asana targets. Due to this reason, perhaps this position can also be called the Ardha Gomukhasana or the half Cow Face Pose.

Tricep-Focused Cow Face Pose: In this variation, the student simply sits on a chair comfortably and put their triceps to work. Here, while one hand is crossed over to the back from the shoulder side, the other hand comes to serve the folded hand by squeezing the triceps even further.

The Shoelace Pose: This version of the Cow Face Pose only engages the lower half of the student’s body. This variation sees the student fold their legs forward and then instead of clasping their fingers together behind their back, the student rests their palms on their feet. Perhaps this variation can also be known as a form of the Ardha Gomukhasana as well.

Cow Face Pose With Eagle Arms: In this variation of the Gomukhasana, instead of clasping their fingers together behind their back, the student wraps their forearms around each other in front of them, which engages the chest, the obliques and the abdominal muscles even more.

How Can One Get Better At Gomukhasana

You can get better at the Gomukhasana with practice, patience and perseverance. If you think that you have perfected the main Gomukhasana, you can always increase your proficiency in it by trying out more challenging versions of this Yoga pose. If you think that you are making a mistake and feel the need of a revision, you can always come back to this page and glance through the “How To Do Gomukhasana” section of the same.

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