In the last article of Twelve Months of Abhaya (fearless) Yoga, we featured gomukhasana. This month we decided to re-feature this posture due to its complicated nature. We’ve added refinement to the instructions and additional pictures to show the side and back views of the posture.
During the cold winter months, we’re likely to spend a lot of time hunching our shoulders, contracting against the cold and trying to keep warm. Even when we’re not feeling cold, we may have the habit of contracting our shoulders–against new or unfamiliar situations, in response to conflict, or just hunching over in front of the computer to read the latest news about what’s happening in Egypt.
Gomukhasana, a.k.a. cow-face posture, is great for opening the shoulders and chest, not to mention the hips, thighs, and ankles! Give it a try and see if you feel a little more open–to cold, warmth, or life in general.
1. Get on all fours, hands and knees. Draw the right knee forward, placing it under the navel in about the center line of the mat, with the right foot on the outside of the opposite knee.
2. Draw the rear knee forward to meet the front knee. Push back with the hands and arms so that the sitz bones meet the earth. Sit with the spine upright, making sure both sitz bones are rooted to the earth. Look for the pelvis to be neutral, not tilted. Placing a folded blanket or pillow under the sitz bones to prop them up may help with evening the pelvis. A neutral pelvis is important in order to support the extension of the spine. Knees are going towards being stacked on top of each other. It’s okay for the knees to come apart as long as both sitz bones are rooted.
3. Extend the left arm (opposite arm from the knee that’s on top) forward, palm down. On an in breath, swing the arm out towards the right side. Then rotate the arm so that the palm faces back and thumb points down towards the earth. On an out breath, hinge at the elbow, reaching the back of the hand up the spine as high as you can.
4. Take a strap in your right hand. At your next in breath, extend the right arm up towards the sky. At the next outbreath, hinge at the elbow, connecting both hands with the strap, or without the strap, connecting the fingers or hands. If using a strap, imagine it as an extension of the arms. Hold it with a firm, yet gentle grip–no straining.
5. Use the in breath to lengthen and extend up through the crown of the head, lengthening the back of the neck. Aim the top elbow up towards the sky. If you feel moved to you can circle the right shoulder (the lower one) to encourage opening. Relax your jaw as much as possible. Gaze forward with the eyes, allowing the gaze to soften so that the vision is blurry. Turn your attention inward so that two-thirds of your attention is focused inward and one-third is focused outward. Continue to breathe deeply. Maintain the posture for 3 to 5 breaths.
6. To come out of the posture, on an out breath allow the lower arm/hand to slide down the spine and then allow the other arm to come back down, reversing the way you entered the posture. Place both hands on the top knee and take a moment before doing the posture on the opposite side.
- Opens the ankles, hips, thighs, shoulders, armpits, triceps, and chest
Contraindications and Cautions
- Serious neck or shoulder problems