Deeper meaning of Gomukhasana (Cow-face Pose)

cowfacepose
Goumukhasan or Cow pose by Katrine Naled 

Gomukhasanaगोमुखासन (Cow-face Pose)

Why would we want to twist our body into the shape of a cow’s face? Sometimes the Sanskrit name of a pose can reveal a hidden intention or unexpected aspect of the posture. Gomukhasana translates literally as “cow’s face pose.” Go is a root word that refers to the senses, because they nourish the conscious mind, just as cow’s milk nourishes our body. Mukha means passageway or an aspect of something. Combining the two words we see that gomukha refers to the art of working with the senses as a gateway to a deeper aspect of the mind.

 

Translation:  The name comes from the Sanskrit words Gow (गो, Go) meaning “cow”, Mukha(मुख, mukha) meaning “face” or “mouth”, and Asana (आसन, Āsana) meaning “posture” or “seat”.

Step-by-Step:

    1. Start in a cross-legged sitting posture
    2. Bring the right foot on the outside of the left thing and slide the foot close to the left hip
    3. Bring the left ankle by the side of the right hip. Try to make sure that both the knees are one over the other.
    4. Make the effort to slide both the feet as far back as comfortable
    5. Try to keep the spine straight and vertical and the head facing forward
    6. Raise the right arm and bring the hand over the shoulder
    7. Wrap the left arm behind the back. Try to grasp the left hand with the right hand behind the back, joining the fingers of the two hands together.
    8. In the beginning you may find it difficult to hold the two hands together; however, with practice, you should gradually be able to do so. In case you are unable to hold the hands, you may like to use a strap holding it with the two hands and trying to close the gap between the two hands.

 

  1. Stay in the final pose for about 10-12 breaths.
  2. Release the hands and stretch the legs straight, bounce the knees a few times.
  3. Repeat the asana in the other direction, this time folding the left leg and placing the left foot on the outside of the right thigh.
  4. Bring the right ankle by the side of the left hip. Make sure that the knees are above each other. Try to slide the feet as far back as comfortable.
  5. Raise the left arm and place the hand over the left shoulder
  6. Wrap the right arm behind the back. Try to grasp the left hand with the right hand behind the back, joining the fingers of the two hands together.
  7. Straighten the back and hold the head upright and facing the front
  8. Remain in the final pose for about 10-12 breaths
  9. Finally release the post and relax in a comfortable cross-legged sitting posture

Variations:

  1. In the final pose, you may bend forward and try to bring the chest close to the knees
  2. In a slightly different variation, you may keep the position of the knees the same, stretch the arms overhead and then bend forward bringing the forearms on the floor and chest close to the knees
  3. Stay in the forward bend for about 4-5 breaths

Benefits:

  • Gomukhasana helps induce relaxation.When you feel tired, tense or worried, practicing this asana can help release the tension.
  • Stimulates the kidneys
  • Helpful in relieving ailments like diabetes, high blood pressure, and sexual malfunction
  • Helps remove stiffness in the spine, neck and shoulders.
  • Develops the chest and improves breathing
  • Stretches the muscles of the lower back, buttocks and the knees and helps with backache, sciatica and rheumatism

**Cautions and Contra-indications:
If you have sciatica, be cautious and use a bolster as it could make it worse.

If sciatica or lower back problems exist, do not fold forward;

Don’t do the pose if you have any serious neck or shoulder problems

Pregnant women should not fold forward after the first trimester as it may put pressure on the belly and the baby.

If there are knee issues or pain, try keeping the lower leg straight. If that is still too difficult, sit cross-legged and fold forward.

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