Go = Cow;
Mukha = face
This is the goal (top left) shown by Eugenia with her legs in the left image. That is the cowface posture. In this variation, Eugenia stretches her arms, shoulders and hands while in the Cowface position with her legs. She also shows how to hold your hands (above right), and an easier position with the legs for beginners (before sitting in cowface). Here she grasps her left hand with her right hand behind her back. Even if you cannot reach with your hands in this way, it doesn't take that long with practice. Detailed preliminary instructions follow below. According to B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga, Gomukha is defined as a “a kind of musical instrument, narrow at one end and broad at the other like the face of a cow.” This is one of those Yoga postures that looks convoluted and difficult at first, but after you have practiced it for a while, it no longer seems that way. The stretch for the legs is significant, but in this variation (with the arms added), It is not very easy if you are stiff in your upper body and arms. Then it will take you more time to achieve the goal, as shown above.
Detailed Instructions for Shoulder-Arm-Hand StretchFirst try to just get the hands right before you do anything else. Look at this image (left). It is meant to be a view of the spine and the right elbow is up with the right hand reaching behind to grasp the left hand. There are many ways to stretch your arms and hands to finally get them to reach. But remember, if you have never done such stretches, this will be more difficult. Just don't despair and think you will never be able to do it. Once your body keeps doing something repeatedly, it remembers and then loosens up more each time. Intention with stretching is everything.
- If you don't even come close, start by trying to first lift your right elbow up and place your right hand behind you (as shown, left). You can use your left hand to push the right elbow back. Again, there is no need to rush. Take your time and don't allow it be painful.
- This is a great exercise to stretch the arms and the chest. If the above stretch is still too hard for you, start doing this one every day instead. The more you stretch back and let your chest look like a rooster, the more your upper body will be able to move more freely. Keep your elbows straight and only lift as high as you can without any pain. And now, once you have worked the arms, let's get to the feet and legs.
- Kneel down on a floor. Place your right thigh over your left thigh as Eugenia does in the large image at the beginning of this article.
- If that is too uncomfortable, sit on the soles of your feet (as Eugenia does here). This can make it much easier for a beginner. If you cannot sit on the soles of your feet, just sit with your legs crossed for now. Keep in mind that if you are not sitting with your legs as the image (left, top), you are not doing the Cowface Posture.
- In the beginning it will be enough to place your right ankle on the left side of you and your left ankle on the right side of you. Sit between your feet, or sit on your left foot (heel). Sort of like sitting cross-legged with one knee resting on the floor under you by the time you get it right.
- You will eventually be sitting with your buttocks on the heel of your foot, but that will perhaps take some time. Practice daily. It will come.
- To be able to accomplish that, you must first be able to lift your buttocks off the floor by pushing up with the palms of your hands on the floor.
- When you can do this, then you can take your bent left knee and basically just sit down with it on the top of your left foot (on the heel).
- Now use your hands to move your right thigh over your left thigh. It sort of looks like you are being a contortionist, but it really isn't as difficult as it seems (as you can see in the image above). Now you are cross-legged completely.
- Goal: Raise your buttocks and use your hands to get your ankles and heels together until they are actually touching and can feel one another. Relax as much as possible in this position. This is the goal, not something to try to do now (unless it is easy for you).
- Sit in this position and then lift your left arm up above your head and stretch it, lift it up as high as you can, relaxed. Bend your left elbow and stretch the palm of that hand below the back of your neck (right about at the shoulder blades). You are now in the position to begin to stretch for the hands to grasp.
- Coordinate your breath with the stretching of your arms until you are able to grasp your left hand with your right hand.
- Once you can grasp your left hand with your right hand behind your back, begin to practice rhythmic breathing as you begin to stretch your arms back and forth. Short inhalations, long exhalations.
- Inhale as you stretch your right elbow up and exhale as you pull your left elbow down. Up and down, up and down with exhalation and stretching at the same time.
Cowface Posture: Knees, Feet and Legs
Plough (together with Shoulder Stand, next)