Gomukasana or Head of a Cow pose can be a tricky one to get right, so I thought it would be a good idea to show you 3 tips that will help you get the most out of it. If you nail these tips, Gomukasana is great for:
- Opening out your posture (it is an effective chest opener) and mid-back strengthener.
- Boosting your shoulder health (increase shoulder mobility and strength).
- Helping to soothe sciatica (if you do the legs as well).
- Strengthening the hips, calves, and ankles.
- Giving the pelvic organs a very good massage and MOT.
- Reducing stress and anxiety because firstly, you are holding a shape that requires some physical effort. Focusing on the breath helps you to do so and this is a soothing tonic for the mind. Secondly, opening the front body helps to stimulate your rest and repair response and shut down the fight and flight.
I love doing this pose as a way of reversing the effects of my time slumping forward (i.e., after working at a computer or driving).
Let’s get onto my 3 tips for getting the most out of the Gomukasana.
Tip 1: Avoid Going into Gomukasana ‘Cold’
Might sound obvious but when we are in a hurry many of us do this in an effort to save time. Like any strong movement or stretch it is not a good idea to go into it ‘cold.’ You don’t need to do much in preparation. Try the following to help you warm up the hips and shoulders:
- Hip circles either on all fours or standing.
- Cat cow.
- Supine knee circles.
- Neck movements (yes and no and ear to shoulder).
- Shoulder rolls.
- Swimming arms or similar just to get the shoulder joint moving.
Once you feel warm enough then you can move into the pose without any fear of injuring yourself.
Tip 2: Use Yoga Props To Get The Most out of Gomukasana
In classes, I see many people struggle with getting into the pose. Often, they will force themselves, which puts their bodies in a shape that is opposite to what the pose is trying to achieve – chest slumps forward, chin drops down, neck and jaw area is tense.
On top of that if you add the legs and the hips are tight, then your lower half is going to be skewed as well. This is a recipe for disaster and will lead you to develop a strain or injury. If you know that this, is you, please learn to love your props and try doing this pose with a block under the hips and a strap between the hands.
No yoga strap or block? Grab a sock, belt or scarf and a pillow or two.
Tip 3: Do Gomukasana in front of a mirror
It is often hard to see what we do with our limbs when we are in a pose so one of my tips for getting the most out of Gomukasana is to do it in front of a mirror. Ideally, we want to see the following:
- Chin is parallel to the floor.
- The neck is relaxed.
- Shoulders are softening away from the ears.
- The top elbow is pointing directly up towards the ceiling.
- The chest is open, and the collar bones are long, wide and ‘smiling.’
- The shoulders are not rounding forward.
- The spine is aligned rather than twisted. You should have a straight line from the top of your head to your tailbone. Also, watch for twisting as you join your hands.
- While you are holding the pose, try not to flare out the ribs. Think about softening them inwards towards the back ribs.
- Drop the tailbone and root the sit bones. Gently squeeze the inner thighs together.
A Little Note on Working with a Shoulder Injury
Go back to my tip on using yoga props. This pose, if practised with mindfulness and self-awareness, can heal shoulder and hip issues if you listen to your body and move in and out of the shape with careful attention to what your body is doing.
We all develop compensatory patterns when we are dealing with pain or injury. The body is trying to protect the area from further damage but sometimes these patterns can contribute further to a lack of mobility of functionality in the area.
Rather than focusing on trying to get the perfect pose (which does not exist by the way), think about how it feels. Are you feeling the stretch across the chest? Do the shoulders feel mobile and is your neck free from tension? You should be working the mid back area – can you feel this?
Use whatever assists you need (i.e., props) to help you feel the pose. Once you have all the dots in place then you will notice improvements with regular practice.
If you practice without self-awareness and a good connection to what you are doing, you will never change your body – just a friendly reminder.
Want to practice? Follow this video to learn how to do Gomukasana. It is a short video that includes a warmup.