Gomukhasana, or cow face pose, is one of the 15 poses described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the classic 15-century Sanskrit manual on hatha yoga. In this yoga pose, the feet (or elbows) represent the cow’s ears and the knees stacked on top of each other represent the cow’s mouth.
The cow face pose stretches the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) for increased lung capacity and enhanced abdominal and diaphragmatic breathing capabilities. It also improves flexibility in stiff shoulders and stretches the muscles of the upper back, upper arms, hips, and thighs. Cow face pose is a challenging pose and may be difficult for beginners. Have a yoga block or rolled towel plus a small towel or strap on hand to assist with the stretch, if necessary.
1. While on hands and knees, cross your right knee over the left, stacking one on top of the other.
2. Sit your bottom down between your legs with both seat bones on the mat. If one seat bone is higher than the other, rest on a block or blanket.
3. Inhaling, reach your right arm out to the side, then rotate the arm inwardly so the thumb faces the ground.
4. Exhaling, bend at the elbow while placing your arm behind your back. Work your hand up towards your neck. Roll your right shoulder back and down.
5. Inhaling, reach your left arm forward, palm up, and raise your arm toward the sky.
6. Exhaling, bend your left arm at the elbow, reach behind your back to grasp the fingers of the right hand. Use a strap or towel if the fingers do not yet clasp.
7. Hold the pose for several breaths, making sure to lengthen in your spine and keep your chest open.
8. To release, exhale while extending your right arm back down toward the floor and to your right side with palm forward. Inhale and extend your left arm up to the ceiling, exhale and lower your left arm to your side. Stretch legs out straight and repeat the pose on the opposite side.