How to Do a Cow Face Yoga Pose

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on July 21, 2022
4 min read

Gomukhasana, or cow face yoga pose, is one of the postures in Hatha yoga. Learn the correct way to do the pose, the contraindications, and its benefits.

Gomukhasana (pronounced go-mu-kha-suh-naa) in Sanskrit means cow face pose (go — cow, mukha — face, asana — pose). This posture is one out of the 15 poses detailed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the early 14th-century classic Sanskrit manual on Hatha yoga. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is one of the three primary texts on Hatha Yoga.

Why is it called the cow face pose? Because in this pose, the elbows behind your back look like a cow’s ears, while your knees, which are placed one above the other, resemble the cow’s mouth.

As a general practice, have a gap of at least four to five hours after a meal before you do any yoga pose. That’s why early morning is the best time to do yoga. If you’re unable to do it in the early morning, you can do it in the evening.

The cow face yoga pose can be done along with other asanas in a seated position as part of a regular yoga routine. There are a few yoga poses, like the staff pose (Dandasana) and butterfly pose (Baddha Konasana), that can help you ease into the cow face yoga pose.

You can do the cow face yoga pose by following these steps.

Step 1. Sit with your spine erect and your legs fully stretched in front of you. You can sit either on the floor or on a yoga mat. Place your legs and feet together such that your big toes on each foot touch each other, and make sure that your legs are completely touching the floor (no part of your legs should be in the air). Now place your palms face down on the floor on either side of your hips.

Step 2. Next, lift your left leg and bend your right leg under the left leg.

Step 3. After this, bend your left leg and bring it over your right knee and place it beside your right hip. At this point, both your legs are bent, and your left leg is stacked above your right leg.

Step 4. Lift your left arm over your head. Now bend your elbow and take your left palm behind you to place it between your shoulder blades. Now bring your right arm in a downward motion behind your back, and then raise it upward and place it between your shoulder blades.

Step 5. At this point, your left elbow is behind your head pointing upward, and your right elbow is pointing down behind you. Your left palm is closed (touching your spine), while your right palm is open (facing outward).

Step 6. Bring your palms as close to each other as possible. To achieve the perfect pose, interlace the fingers of both hands behind you.

Step 7. Keep your spine and neck erect while your palms are interlaced or as close to each other as possible. Take long, deep breaths while maintaining this pose. To know the ideal position for you, notice the point where your spine and neck are straight and you’re able to breathe easily while maintaining the posture.

Step 8. Stay in the pose for as long as possible. As you breathe out, release your palms.

Step 9. Now, unstack your legs, lift your right leg, and bend your left leg under your right. Then bend your right leg above your left knee and place your right foot beside your left hip. At this point, your right leg is stacked above your left leg.

Step 10. Now take your right arm behind you above your shoulder and your left arm coming from below behind your shoulder. Interlock both the palms behind you as explained in step 5, with the position of your hands reversed.

Step 11. Take long breaths while remaining comfortable in this pose. Hold the pose for as long as possible.

Step 12. Release your arms as you breathe out.

If you’ve just started practicing yoga and wish to do the cow face pose, you may find it difficult to get both your palms together behind you. Even if this is the case, don’t worry.

Don’t try to force your hands to reach farther. You’ll be able to get both your hands together with regular practice, after which you’ll even be able to hold the position for a while.

You should avoid doing the cow face pose in the following scenarios:

  • If you’ve injured your soft tissues, like muscles, ligaments, or tendons
  • If you have a muscle tear in either thigh
  • If you have piles (also known as bleeding hemorrhoids)
  • If you’re diagnosed with spondylitis (also known as arthritis in the spine)
  • If you have any discomfort or pain in your shoulders, or if you have a frozen shoulder 
  • If you have any knee issues

Doing the cow face pose regularly has many health benefits:

  • Straightens your spine and improves your overall body posture
  • Extends your intercostal muscles that lead to increased lung capacity
  • Improves abdominal and diaphragmatic breathing capabilities
  • Enhances flexibility in stiff shoulders
  • Strengthens the muscles in your chest, hips, thighs, triceps, shoulder joints, ankles, and spine

The main muscles involved in the cow face pose are the rotator cuff muscles (in your shoulders), forearms, wrist extensors, thigh abductors, and the muscles in your groin.

If you’re unable to touch your palms behind your back, you can hold on to a strap using both hands to get some resistance while you do the pose.

If you’re unable to sit on the floor or the yoga mat, you can keep a cushion below your buttocks. You can follow up the cow face pose with these asanas:

  • Lotus pose (Padmasana)
  • Sitting half spinal twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
  • Sitting forward bend (Paschimottanasana)