Gomukhasana, Cow Face Pose to Exercise all the Joints

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Techniques of Yoga articles

Gomukhasana gets its name

from its resemblance,

to the face of a cow when seen

from the front;

the elbows represent the ears,

and the placement of the knees

over each other,.

outline the lips of the cow’s mouth. 

“Go” a Sanskrit word means gai in Hindi

and cow in English.  Similarly “Mukha” means face.  Interestingly, light is another synonym of the term “Go”  which imparts another interpretation to Gomukhasana – the face of light.

Gomukhasana is a boon to the joints in bodies which lack regular exercise or for the persons of the middle age group for whom the joints in the body have been rendered stiff due to lack of mobility over a period of time. Joints are meant to be moving, joints which remain immobile for long are easy targets for arthritis.  In arthritis, joints get inflamed and the mobility is further restricted. In fact, Yoga fulfills most of the requirements of keeping the joints healthy.

Joints of sportspersons remain under high stress, wear, and tear which can damage them beyond repair if corrective actions related to the same are not taken on time. Gomukhasana is one Yoga posture which takes care of almost all the major joints in the body: knees. hips, ankles, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. 

Preparatory Postures for  Gomukhasana

  • Badh konasana
  • Supta Virasana
  • Upavishtha Konasana
  • Suptapadangustha asana – all variations
  • Vrs Asana

How to do Gomukhasana step by step​​

  1. Sit on the yoga mat with both the legs stretched in front of you, back is straight and the pelvis is tilted forward, in case the pelvis is tilted backward, place the palms beside the hips, raise your hips up, slide the legs back, and place the hips down on the mat again making sure the pelvis is tilted forward
  2. Exhale and bend the knees and put both the feet soles down on the mat nearer to the pelvis, exhaling slide the right foot from under the left knee till it reaches on the outside of the left hip,  or right hip adduction, keep the right foot away from the left hip, Now again exhale and slide the left foot from over the right knee, or left hip adduction, and place it on the outside of the right hip, the  right hip should not be touching the left foot
  3. Make sure that both the hips are equally pressed on the yoga mat, adjust both the legs so that both the knees are exactly over each other, the ideal position would be if both the knees are resting over each other, now inhale and lengthen the spine upward, keep the arms and the hands on the respective sides of the body, this forms the lips of the Mukha, or face of the cow
  4. The next of the Gomukhasna steps would be to inhale and raise the right hand stretched  out on to the right side till it comes shoulder high, and parallel to the ground, now exhaling rotate the right arm inward, the thumb draws a circle from front to under and then facing backward with the palm open towards the ceiling,  the right shoulder  must rotate slightly forward and the spine will arch out  a bit with this movement of the right hand
  5. Exhale, bend the elbow of the right arm and place the lower arm across  the lower back with the upper arm tucked along the right side of the torso, again take a short inhalation and straighten the curves spine by lifting the chest up, Now exhaling roll the right shoulder back and slowly move the forearm up the lower back till the entire length of the forearm gets stacked against the length of the lower spine, Th elbow must stay within the right side of the torso and the back of the palms must rest between the shoulder blades
  6. Now stretch the left arm out and lift it up till it stands erect over the left shoulder with the fingers pointed to the ceiling and the palm facing behind, keep the left arm stretched up,  now exhaling bend it at the elbow and take the left hand to the right hand already placed between the shoulder blades, hook the fingers of both the arms into each other, keep the left elbow  actively stretched up and the right elbow pulled down, inhale and lift the chest up to straighten the back, possibly keep the left elbow along, but away from the left side of the face, this position of the arms is known as Gomukhasana arms, stay in the pose till comfortable or a minimum of 15 seconds to  1 minute
  7. Release the pose while inhaling by first releasing the hands and the arms and then unraveling the legs, repeat the posture by interchanging the position of the legs and the subsequent arms and hands on the other side

 The rule is that the leg which is up, the same side arm stays lower.


Alignment essentials and Modifications – Gomukhasana

  • Do not sit on both or either fo the feet, place the feet on the sides of the hips without touching them
  • Maintain the spine erect even if the hands are not able to interlock, grab a yoga belt at two places with  both the hands at the nearest distance possible to each other, once the pose is stabilized slowly slide the hands further toward each other till the flexibility of the shoulders permits
  • Make sure that the lower shoulder is not overstressed as owing to its delicate position there is a high chance that the ligaments around the shoulder joint will get stretched instead of the muscles 
  • In case the shoulders and the back are flexible enough taking the hands away from the back, and the upper elbow away from the head further deepens the pose
  • Make sure that both the hips, sitting bones, equally pressed onto the mat throughout the duration of the posture of Gomukhasana, In case  the placement of both the  hips on the mat is not possible due to stiffness in them place a blanket under the hips to balance their height above the mat as the imbalanced hips will not allow the knees to be placed over each other
  • Imbalance in the hips will also not permit the spine to stay erect
  • Pulling the shoulders back helps the hands in reaching each other and interlocking the fingers
  • keeping the spine erect helps to increase the flexion of the upper shoulder so that the upper arm and hand can easily reach the lower hand
  • Under ideal alignment conditions, the stretch must be felt on the outside of the hips and not in the center of the buttocks

Knowledge of the general principles of alignment  and the role correct action, attitude, and alignment play in perfecting one’s yoga asana practice can endow additional advantages to the practitioner.

Focal Movements – Gomukhasana Anatomy

In Gomukhasana the hips remain in adduction and external rotation.  Knees and upper shoulder and the upper elbow are also in flexion, The lower shoulder is in extension and internal rotation.

Gomukhasana Follow up Poses

  • Ardhmatsyendrasana
  • Garudasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Marichyasana
  • Bhardvajasana

Contraindications – When not to do Gomukhasana

  • Avoid doing Gomukhasana in case suffering from a serious shoulder injury, In case the injury is not very severe or less painful try doing the cow face pose under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher
  • Persons suffering from any degree of pain in the neck or the knees must wait till these body parts are properly healed before attempting this asana
  • Any strain or sprain ( tendons, ligaments) in the lower extremities must be spared the intense stretching of this posture
  • Do not do Gomukhasana steps in case suffering from piles which are bleeding 
  • Attempting  this posture if afflicted with  spondylitis will aggravate the condition 

Advantages- Benefits of Gomukhasana 

Gomukhasana benefits almost all the major body joints of the body by helping them attain their maximum range of motion which doesn’t happen in normal day to day living.  Practicing cow face pose benefits by relieving the tension in the hips and the shoulders.

Some of the other benefits of Gomukhasana are –

  • It relieves and cures the sciatica pain
  • The relaxation response generated in the body helps reduce the blood pressure, Gumukhasana fits well into the yoga procedures for controlling hypertension
  • It tones and massages the organs in the lower abdomen, pelvis like the reproductive organs improving their overall health, it’s a good mix to the yoga for healthy reproductive organs.
  • Blood circulation within the spine is increased as the spine is required to be held in an erect position while attempting this posture
  • Any pressure on the spinal nerves is taken off as the upward extension of the spine creates space between the vertebrae
  • Gomukhasana helps correct postural defects by expanding the chest to the maximum and is thus irreplaceable  from among the yoga for the right posture
  • If practiced for longer it reduces tension, fatigue, and anxiety
  • It alleviates the mature onset diabetes and rheumatism
  • Gomukhasana increases the strength of the muscle of the entire back, reduces any backache if present, and makes the back more flexible
  • It exercises the kidneys enhancing their function in the process
  • Muscles of the ankles, chest, inner armpits, shoulders (deltoid Muscle), arms, hips and thighs are strengthened
  • The churning of the lower abdomen it provides help relieve constipation
  • Gomukhasana benefits by alleviating the cramps in the legs, and increases the suppleness of the muscles of the leg, thus it always forms the part of the plan for the yoga for healthy legs
  • Practicing Cow face pose regularly have also been found to increase the endurance of the cardiovascular system

Body Reading for Gomukhasana

In case the practitioner of Gomukhasana asana is unable to evenly place both the hips on the yoga mat it indicates tightness in the gluteus maximum or abductor muscles of the hips. The tightness in the hip abductors, or external hip rotators,  will not allow crossing the legs in a knee over knee position.  In case of shortness in the triceps, pectorals, or the latissimus muscles is present the upper arm would be unable to align along the ear. 

Any stiffness in the internal rotators or biceps brachii of the shoulder of the lower hand will impede any attempt at sliding this hand up the spine. This pose can treat sciatica pain only if the hip abductors are free of any stiffness. In case the abductors are not free, placing the knees over each other will not be possible which indicates that the sciatic nerve isn’t free enough to benefit from Gomukhasana. Thus patients of Sciatica pain who cannot get both the knees directly over each other would aggravate their condition.

Gomukhasana – How does it work on the Body​

When the hands in the Gomukhasana arms position are stretched, pulled in the opposite directions the tension in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the joints of the body get enhanced.  As a natural response to this muscular stretch, the nerves in the spinal cord sends the signal to release endorphins in the bloodstream for inducing relaxation. Thus Gomukhasana induces relaxation into the body.