The cow face yoga pose first appears in the ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ an ancient Sanskrit text on the principles and practices of Hatha yoga. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced practitioner, this pose is for all and can be practiced during the day or even in the evening.
On a pranic level, the cow face pose directs the prana (vital life force) towards the Muladhara (root) chakra, creating a complete energy circuit flowing in the spinal region. The arms form the figure ‘8’, which represents infinity.
The cow face pose is not only relaxing but is often used as a meditative posture since one is grounded and can concentrate on their practice.
Here, we take a look at the basics of the pose and how to deepen and improve your practice of it:
The Basics of Cow Face Pose:
This pose is known as ‘Gomukhasana’ in Sanskrit because when the body is in the final position while practicing the pose, it resembles the face of a cow. It is ideal for beginners and can be practiced by most, regardless of their expertise in yoga.
The pose targets the lower back as well as the legs, shoulder joints, and arms. If you have stiff shoulder joints, then it is advisable that you practice some shoulder-opening poses before you attempt this one. This will help you not only hold the pose for a longer period of time but will also make it more comfortable.
When practicing the cow face pose, make sure you are seated on a comfortable mat and that the ground is a flat surface. For those who are unable to sit on hard surfaces for a long time, you may place a cushion or folded blanket under your buttocks.
The Benefits of Cow Face Pose:
This is an excellent pose for inducing relaxation. When practiced for ten minutes or more, it alleviates anxiety, tension, and tiredness. Practitioners also experience relief from backache, sciatica, rheumatism, and general stiffness in the shoulders and neck. It can help with cramps in the leg and make the leg muscles more supple.
It tones the muscles and nerves around the shoulders and cardiac plexus. Since the legs are squeezed and connected, the Nadis (streams) connected with the reproductive organs are also affected. Thus, it regulates the reproductive organs and glands.
How To Practice Cow Face Pose:
- Sit on the floor with your knees resting on the ground and your spine erect.
- Bend your right knee and place the right foot so that the left heel touches the side of the left buttock.
- Bend your left leg over the right thigh so the heel is placed close to the right buttock. This thus resembles a cow’s face.
- Join your hands behind the back.
- Stretch your left arm up in the air and bring it down behind your head and back.
- Stretch your right arm downwards and bring it up the back.
- Clasp your hands together.
- Hold this pose for a few minutes, release your arms, and then your legs.
- Repeat the pose by alternating the limb placement.
- Release the pose and relax. If you are practicing this pose towards the end of your practice, you may follow it up with a resting pose such as the child’s pose.
Common Mistakes During Practice:
It is important to keep your spine erect when practicing the cow face pose. You should not bend forward or backward. When you are in this pose, you can resume normal breathing. Since the chest is already expanded, there is no need to take deep breaths.
Like all other yoga poses, it is crucial that you are comfortable and do not exert yourself. Hold it for as long as you don’t feel any physical strain. In order to balance your body, remember to practice this pose using both sets of limbs. Do not focus on just one side. This will help restore imbalances and prevent any injury.
If you are unable to clasp your hands at the back, you can also fold them in a ‘namaskara’ mudra behind your back. Alternatively, you may also hold your elbows using the opposite wrists.
The most important aspect of the pose is concentration and so slight modifications will yield the same benefits as you will be able to hold the pose for a long period of time.
For absolute beginners, stay in the pose for up to 2 minutes and gradually increase the duration as you start to feel more comfortable in your body.
Cautions For Practicing Cow Face Pose:
While those with extremely stiff shoulders should be gentle and mindful when practicing this pose, it is always advisable to practice a shoulder-opening sequence before one attempt this.
Since pressure is applied to the sciatic nerves, those with severe back problems practice it with caution and under the guided supervision of a teacher.
Avoid this pose if you have any hip, knee, or shoulder injury or are recovering from surgery.
Those who are pregnant should completely avoid this pose because the pressure created in the lower abdomen by the closing of the thighs can be harmful and dangerous.
Variations Of the Cow Face Pose:
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika mentions a modification of the arm placement for the cow face pose. In this variation, you may place your hands on the upper knee and place them on top of each other.
In this position, you can either keep your eyes open or keep them closed. You can also perform the Shambhavi mudra.
While the cow face pose is not a meditative posture, the longer you hold the pose the better. If you are unable to concentrate for a long time with your eyes closed, you may fix your gaze at a point in front of you and practice your Bandhas or a Pranayama (yogic breathing) such as Ujjayi or Sheetali which does not require the use of your fingers.