How To Do Cow Yoga Pose

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on July 21, 2022
4 min read

Cow yoga pose is a gentle, versatile pose that can warm you up for a more intense practice or can stand alone to help you calm down and relax. Cow is traditionally done as part of cat-cow pose, but it can warm up your spine, shoulders, and hips when done on its own. 

Cow pose gets its name from the fact that it resembles a cow stretching. The Sanskrit name of the pose is bitilasana, which translates to "cow pose." The convex position of cow pose stretches the muscles of your neck, spine, and hips. It belongs to the back-bending family of yoga poses and targets your core. 

Cow yoga pose stretches and warms up the following muscles: 

Hip flexors. Cow pose stretches your hip flexors, making them longer and less prone to injury. There are five muscles involved in flexing your hips: the iliacus, psoas, pectineus, rectus femoris, and sartorius. Your hip flexors are used every time you take a step, since they're the muscles involved in bringing your knee closer to your chest. 

Trapezius muscle. Your trapezius muscle is a flat, triangular muscle that runs over the back of your neck and shoulder. The trapezius muscle is important to maintaining good posture and stabilizing your spine. It helps you move your head, neck, arms, shoulders, and torso.

Erector spinae. These long muscles run the vertical length of your back, starting near your tailbone. They include the iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis. The erector spinae help you straighten and turn your back. 

Here's how to do cow yoga pose: 

  • Begin on your yoga mat on your hands and knees. Your knees should be under your hips, and your hands should be slightly ahead of your shoulders, shoulder distance apart. 
  • Press down on your hands firmly.
  • On an inhale, lower your stomach to arch your back, broaden your chest, and lift your chin and chest. 
  • Focus on elongating the back of your neck and keeping your abdominal muscles engaged to stretch your upper back. 
  • Hold for several breaths. 
  • When you're ready to come out of the pose, return your spine to a neutral position. 

If you have pain in your wrists, you can do cow pose with blocks. Perform it as above, but put your forearms on blocks to take pressure off of your hands and wrists. 

If you have pain or an injury in your knees, you can do cow pose with a cushion or folded blanket under your knees. 

Cow pose is frequently combined with cat pose to increase its benefits. Here's how to do cat-cow pose: 

  • Begin on your yoga mat on your hands and knees. Your knees should be under your hips, and your hands should be slightly ahead of your shoulders, shoulder distance apart. 
  • As you breathe in, move into cow pose as above. 
  • As you breathe out, lift your belly button up toward your spine, tuck your tailbone under, lower your head, and lengthen the back of your neck. 
  • On each inhalation, move into cow pose. 
  • On each exhalation, move into cat pose. 
  • Move fluidly between the two poses with your breath for 10 inhalations and exhalations. 

Cow yoga pose and cat-cow yoga pose provide the following benefits: 

  • Increased mobility of the spine, neck, shoulders, and pelvis
  • Increased awareness of your spine 
  • Increased relaxation from learning to move with your breath

When cow pose is part of your yoga routine, it provides the following benefits: 

Stress reduction. Yoga can improve your overall mood and enhance feelings of well-being. It can also help you manage negative emotions such as symptoms of depression and anxiety. Yoga has been shown in studies to reduce stress by promoting your relaxation response.   

Helps manage chronic conditions. Yoga can help reduce some factors associated with chronic diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease. It may also help manage menopause symptoms, low back pain, and neck pain. Yoga may also help relieve some symptoms associated with chronic diseases such as:

  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis

Back pain relief. The American College of Physicians recommends yoga as the first treatment for chronic low back pain. It helps ease pain and improve mobility. 

Supportive community. Yoga can connect you with a supportive community, which can help with feelings of loneliness. Many yoga classes provide an environment of group healing and support. 

Better sleep. Untreated insomnia can put you at an increased risk of accidents, falls, and a lower quality of life. A study of older adults showed that those who participated in twice-weekly yoga classes and additional classes at home experienced significant improvements in sleep quality, sleep duration, and sleep efficiency. Many other studies have also shown that yoga improves sleep.

When you're doing cow pose, watch out for the following issues: 

Protect your neck. Avoid stressing your neck by broadening your shoulder blades and pulling your shoulders down so they go away from your ears. 

Avoid overarching. When you're doing cow pose, avoid overarching your neck and lower spine. These are the most flexible parts of your spine and are most prone to injury. Instead, focus on elongating your spine from your neck to your tailbone. 

Contraindications. Yoga is generally considered safe, but you should talk to your doctor if you have any of the following conditions: 

  • Risk of blood clots
  • Herniated disk
  • Severe balance problems
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Eye conditions such as glaucoma 
  • Pregnancy — although yoga is usually safe, there may be some poses you should avoid