Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

Cow face pose diagram
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The Cow Face Pose, also known as Gomukhasana, is a seated yoga pose. In this pose, you are in a seated position with your legs cross over each other so that your knees are stacked atop one another. You arms are also crossed behind your back, with one arm reaching downwards and the other upwards, clasping your hands together.

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  • Position: Seated.
  • Stretched body parts: This pose stretches your hip, thighs, shoulders, chest and triceps.
  • Benefits: In addition to stretching multiple muscle groups, The Cow Face Pose also enhances your flexibility and can alleviate tension. The pose also opens and stretches your chest.
  • Symbolism: The pose is said to resemble the face of a cow. In Hindu philosophy, the cow is associated with life and sustenance.
  • Similar poses: Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana), Lotus Pose (Padmasana), Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi I (Marichyasana)
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Meaning of Gomukhasana

The name “Gomukhasana” is derived from three Sanskrit words:

  • Go” means “cow”;
  • Mukha” means “face”; and
  • Asana” means “pose”.

Together, we get the name “Gomukhasana” which translates literally to “cow face pose”.

The pose gets its name because it is said to resemble the face of a cow. Your bent legs mimic the cow’s snout, while your arms, stretched across your back, represent the ears.

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In Hindu philosophy, the cow is associated with life and sustenance. They are considered the manifestation of a Mother. Cows provide sustenance (milk), farm labor, medicine and fertilizer. Their gentle nature has made them icons of non-violence, a core principle in Hinduism.

How to do The Cow Face Pose

Woman doing the cow face pose
  1. Start by sitting on your yoga mat with your legs extended out in front of you.
  2. Bend your left knee and pull it under your right leg, placing your left foot by your hip.
  3. Now bend your right knee and place your right foot over your left leg. Your knees should be stacked one atop the other.
  4. Extend your right arm up past your head and bend at your elbow, reaching along your back.
  5. Now, with your left arm pointing down, reach behind your back and clasp your right hand.
  6. Keep your back straight and your head level, with your gaze directly forwards.
  7. Hold this position for a few breaths, then release your hands and uncross your legs. Repeat for the opposite side.
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Variations

  • Easier variation: If it’s difficult to clasp your hands behind your back, use a yoga strap or towel between your hands.
  • Half Cow Face Pose: In this variation, only one leg is bent while the other leg remains straight.
  • More challenging: For a deeper stretch, once you’ve in the pose position, hinge at your hips and fold your body forwards slightly, brining your chest inline with your thighs.
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Tips

  • Warm up with some shoulder and hip-opening stretches before you attempt The Cow Face Pose.
  • Ensure your spine remains straight throughout the pose, particularly as you reach your arms behind your back to clasp your hands together.
  • Breathe deeply and evenly while holding the pose. Do not be tempted to hold your breath.

Prep poses

  • Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) – This pose helps to open up and stretch your hips and thighs. These are key muscles that you will use in The Cow Face Pose.
  • Bharadvaja’s Twist (Bharadvajasana) – Bharadvaja’s Twist sees you sitting on the floor with your legs to one side, twisting your upper body in the opposite direction. It is a pose that stretches your hips, spine and abs.
  • Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana) – The Reclining Hero pose stretches your thighs, abs and chest. It also stretches your ankles and hip flexor muscles. Improved flexibility in these areas will help when performing The Cow Face Pose.

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