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Benefits of Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) and How to Do it By Dr. Himani Bisht

By Dr. Himani Bisht +2 more

Introduction: 

According to scholars, Yoga’s roots have possibly been identified back to the Stone Age. The Vedas have evidence of Vedic Yoga, that contain the oldest yoga teachings followed by the pre-classical period teachings. The pre-classical period was the time when Bhagvad Gita and Upanishads were introduced. The third period is the classical period, when Patanjali, a renowned Hindu scholar and yoga teacher, introduced “yoga sutras”. These Yoga sutras assisted people to practise more defined and classical yoga. The last period is post-classical yoga or modern yoga.  


Modern yoga came into existence when yogis put efforts to spread Eastern Hindu philosophy in the west, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.1 Modern yoga has significant commercial potential and has become the fashion statement for the upper middle class.2 

However, ancient yoga is the art of harmonising body, mind and soul which nourishes and tones the entire body. Various asanas in yoga are involved in improving flexibility and boosting immunity. One such asana is gomukhasana, a seated yoga posture, that stretches the entire body to make it more flexible.  

Did you know?

What is Gomukhasana?  

Gomukhasana is a combination of three words i.e., go-mukh-asana where “go” refers to cow, “mukh” refers to face and “asana” refers to pose. The folded legs form the shape of a cow’s mouth while the elbows resemble a cow’s ears. Therefore, it is commonly referred to as the cow-face pose.3  

The Gheranda Samhita (Sanskrit text of yoga) and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (15th-century yoga manual in Sanskrit), both mentions Gomukhasana (Cow-Face Pose).4 

Gomukhasana is a perfect position for people who spend most of their workweek sitting down. Cow face pose helps in expanding your hips and chest and overcoming the slouch many people acquire while they are sitting. It is a stabilizing and relaxing posture. This posture allows you to stretch your arms, shoulders, back, thighs and ankles. It is a hip-opening posture with legs being together unlike other postures that help in correcting the posture and adjusting the flexibility of one’s body.5 Gomukhasana is simple to perform and relaxes the superficial as well as the deep muscles, which play a crucial role in lower back pain.6 

I have observed that practising Gomukhasana (cow face pose) along with other yoga asanas may show improvement in memory. The combination of physical movement, concentration and relaxation involved in these yoga poses may contribute to enhancing cognitive function and memory retention.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

There are variations of gomukhasana which use the Cow Face Pose as the base.  Although yet to be researched, the variations involve practising cow pose in half and full variations, forward bending, etc. 

Gomukhasana or cow-face pose can be performed in the morning as one is mentally fresh and empty stomach. As you practise, make a few minor adjustments to the posture to make it more comfortable for you before stepping up the difficulty.  

Modifications of cow-face pose involve using props to make it more enjoyable. Some of them are:3,5 

  • Using block: Sit on a block or blanket to provide your legs more room to adjust and to assist in neutralizing the alignment of your lower back. 
  • Using belt or strap: To make gomukhasana easier for those who find it difficult to grasp hands at the back, using strap or belt in the beginning can help you eventually master the pose. 

Also Read: Benefits of Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and How to Do it By Dr. Ankit Sankhe

I have found that practising Gomukhasana (Cow Pose) might be beneficial for strengthening the wrists and hands while also helping to alleviate stiffness in the shoulders. The pose involves specific movements and stretches that target these areas, promoting increased flexibility and improved muscle strength. Regular practice of Gomukhasana, under proper guidance, can contribute to better wrist and hand function and increased range of motion in the shoulders.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

How to do it? 

Cow-face pose must be done using proper techniques to obtain maximum benefits in flexibility and strength.  Before entering the gomukhasana, some of the preparatory poses like Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Garudasana (Eagle Pose), Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose), can be performed to warm up the body.3 

 The steps to do the cow-face yoga pose are as follows: 3,5,7 

  • Start with dandasana or staff pose with your legs parallel to the ground and your upper body in a vertical position. 
  • Cross your legs like padmasana, for a start. 
  • Keep the right knee above the left knee in a line. 
  • Slide your right heel to the side of your left hip. 
  • Similarly, bring your left heel to the side of your right hip. Stack knees on one another and press down to sit. 
  • Elongate your spine, lifting out the lower back.  
  • Inhale and bring your right arm in the vertical position towards the ceiling. 
  • Exhale and bend your elbow facing upwards and bring the right hand to the back. 
  • Take the help of your left hand to align the right elbow in the middle. 
  • Lift the left arm to the left side, and gently bend your elbow facing towards the ground with your left hand touching the center of the back. 
  • Try to hold your hands together and clasp the fingers if possible. 
  • Use strap or belt as a prop if it is difficult to hold the hands. 
  • Keep your spine in a vertical position and do not allow your head to bend forward. 
  • Hold the position for 2 minutes at least. 
  • Exit the pose slowly by bringing both hands sideways and returning to dandasana. 
  • Repeat the steps with the left knee above the right knee and the left arm above the shoulders. 

Do You Know? 

It is interesting to know that gomukhasana is one of the 84 hatha yoga asanas handpicked by lord Shiva. According to the 17th-century Haṭharatnāvalī, a Sanskrit book on asanas written by Srinivasa, Lord Shiva taught gomukhasana along with 83 other asanas to humans to introduce physical health and well-being. 

Gheraṇḍa-sahitā, a Sanskrit encyclopaedia, mentions gomukhasana as one of the important 32 asanas among 84 lakhs asanas mentioned by Lord Shiva. This text describes these 32 asanas as enough if practised in this mortal world.8

Also Read: Benefits of Bhastrika Pranayama and How to Do it By Dr. Ankit Sankhe 

Benefits of Gomukhasana 

Gomukhasana offers several benefits to the physical and mental health of an individual. Some of them are: 

1. Benefits of Gomukhasana in Diabetes Management 

Ali et al. 2021, mentioned that diabetic patients (increased glucose level) practised gomukhasana during a session. Ali observed the decrease in glucose levels and increase in insulin levels.  The stimulation of kidneys may also help in the management of diabetes.7 

2. Benefits of Gomukhasana in Sciatica 

Dr. Ravindra et al. 2018, evaluated the effect of gomukhasana in management of gurdhasi (sciatica nerve pain), in patients with complaints of sciatica nerve pain. His team concluded that cow-face yoga may help relieve the pain from muscles and joints involved in sciatica. They also revealed that post- treatment with gomukhasana, there were no recurrences.6 

3. Benefits of Gomukhasana in Non-Alcoholic fatty liver disease 

Kumar, P.A., et al., 2021 presented a case study to evaluate the role of yoga including gomukhasana in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease patients without medication. This study showed that asanas including gomukhasana are beneficial when practised for 20 minutes daily.  It may also help in reducing blood sugar, blood lipids and elevated lipid enzymes. 4 

4. Benefits of Gomukhasana in relieving tension 

Gomukhasana may help in persuading relaxation. It may help in easing tiredness, tension and anxiety if practised for more than 10 minutes daily. It may also help in calming and centering the body.5,7 

5. Benefits of Gomukhasana in improving posture 

Gomukhasana or cow-face pose may counteract the slouch, especially faced by individuals working on computers for the major part of the week.5 It may decrease the general stiffness in the arms and shoulder and can also help in correcting posture by opening the chest area.7 

6. Other benefits of Gomukhasana: 

  • It may help in relieving backache as it stretches back muscles to relieve tiredness.7 
  • It may help in easing leg cramps as this posture helps in stretching hamstring and gluteal muscles making legs feel relaxed.7 
  • It may increase flexibility of the body as it stretches shoulders, upper arms, chest, hips and thighs.7 
  • It may help in elongating the spine as the whole body is stretched allowing good flow of oxygen from base of the spine to the head. Stretching in gomukhasana decongests the entire abdominal region which massages the kidney, liver and pancreas.4 

Also Read: Benefits of Sukhasana (Easy Pose) and How to Do it By Dr. Himani Bisht

Risks of Exercise 

There are several contraindications and risks to be considered while performing Gomukhasana. Some of them are:4,5 

  • Those with injuries in the hips, arms, and shoulders should avoid doing cow face yoga. 
  • Avoid this asana in case of knee injury or modify the pose by straightening the legs or simply crossing the legs like sukhasana.  
  • Avoid gomukhasana in case of tissue, ligament and tendon injury.9 
  • Do not perform cow face yoga if you have bleeding piles as it may exaggerate the problem.9 
  • Gomukhasana should be performed carefully using props like strap or belt if you are suffering from spondylitis, as it can help in decreasing extra strain on neck during stretching. 9 

Also Read: Yoga Asanas for Hair Growth: A Comprehensive Research-Based Guide

Conclusion 

Gomukhasana is one of the easiest forms of stretching yoga which helps in rejuvenating and relaxing the whole body. It helps in relieving the pain by relaxing the deep muscles. The cow-face pose allows you to explore different symmetries of the body. Beginners can use modifications like blankets or blocks to achieve more flexibility and stability. Conclusively, asanas or postures can be of potential benefit in many chronic conditions that persist despite pharmacotherapy.  

Also Read: Benefits of Sudarshan Kriya and How to Do it By Dr. Ankit Sankhe

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is Gomukhasana? 

Gomukhasana is a hip-opening posture stretching the shoulder, arms, knees, and ankles. It is  
hatha yoga also known as cow-face yoga. It is one of the best asanas for people suffering from a slouch and improper posture due to a hectic workweek.5   

Who should not do Gomukhasana? 

People suffering from shoulder, knee, arm and hip injuries should avoid doing gomukhasana.4,5 

What are the benefits of Gomukhasana? 

Gomukhasana may help relieve stress and anxiety and may stimulate kidney, liver and pancreas. Some pieces of literature have shown that Gomukhasana may help in managing diabetes and sciatica nerve pain.4,6,7 

What are the modifications of Gomukhasana? 

Gomukhasana or cow-face pose can be performed with the help of a block or blank below the hips to neutralize the alignment of lower back. One can also use a strap in case of inability to clasp hands at the back.3,5   

Why is Gomukhasana also known as cow-face yoga? 

The folded legs in Gomukhasana resemble the face of a cow while the hand bent backward resembles the ear of the cow. In Sanskrit, “Go” pronounced as “Gau” refers to the cow while “Mukh” refers to the face.3

References: 

  1. Hutton, C., Rogers, R. and Doan, J. Benefits of yoga pranayama, asana, and meditation techniques for classically trained singers and voice educators (Doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University), 2014. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/79572695.pdf  
  1. Halder DK. Part 1: Concept of ustrasana according to Yoga and Spiritual Lore. Part 2: Energy Expenditure During ustrasana; A Yogic Back Bending Posture (M.Sc. dissertation), 2006. http://www.libraryofyoga.com:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/487/1/D.Ms.2006.03.pdf  
  1. YJ Editors. Camel Pose: How to Practice gomukhasana – Yoga Journal. October 29, 2021. https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/cow face-pose/  
  1. Kumar PA, Deepti P, Kumar MR, Swain SD, Shree P. Effectiveness of Yogic Intervention in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Case Series. Int J Cur Res Rev| Vol. 2021 Oct;13(19):5.https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ashok-Panda 5/publication/355277710_ Effectiveness_of_Yogic_Intervention_in_NonAlcoholic_Fatty_Liver_Disease_Case_Series/links/619360983068c54fa5edeb6e/Effectiveness-of-Yogic-Intervention-in-Non-Alcoholic-Fatty-Liver-Disease-Case-Series.pdf  
  1. Pizer, A. How to Do cow face pose (gomukhasana) in Yoga Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes, Aug, 2020. https://www.verywellfit.com/cow-face-pose-gomukhasana-3567069
  1. Ravindra P, Arora M, Sontakke S. Evaluation of gomukhasana and shashankasana in the management of grudhrasi with special reference to sciatica. 2018 7(6): 957-966. https://wjpr.s3.ap-south-1.amazonaws.com/article_issue/1521165066.pdf
  1. Aili S. Role of Yoga in Preventing and Controlling of Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of Advanced Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacology Interventions. 2021 Sep 23;4(1):1-9. http://www.medicaljournalshouse.com/index.php/PharmaceuticalSciPharmacology/article/view/665
  1.  Gomukhasana, Gomukha-asana, Gomukhāsana: 4 definitions, Wisdom library. [Internet] Last updated: 09 June, 2022. [Cited: 2022 Sep 08] Available from:  https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/gomukhasana  
  1. Gomukhasana (Cow face yoga). Art of living. [Internet] [Cited: 2022 Sep 08] Available from:   https://www.artofliving.org/in-en/yoga/yoga-poses/gomukhasana-cow-pose  

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