(go-moo-KAHS-anna) go = cow (Sanskrit go is a distant relative of the English word “cow”) mukha = face
Step by Step
Contraindications and Cautions
Serious neck or shoulder problems
Modifications and Props
Gomukhasana is a notoriously difficult pose for tight-shouldered people, who aren't able to hook their fingers together. The simple solution to this dilemma is to hold a strap between the hands. Begin the pose with a strap draped over the shoulder of the bottom arm. In step 2, as you swing the bottom arm behind your back, slide the forearm as high on the back torso as possible (Remember to keep the elbow close to your side), then grab the bottom end of the strap. In step 3, stretch the other arm overhead and then reach down the back for the other end of the strap. Pull with the top arm. See if you can draw the bottom arm higher onto the back. You're trying to work the hands toward each other and eventually clasp them. Be aware too that you may be able to clasp the hands on one side, but not the other.
Deepen the Pose
You can increase the stretch in this pose if you're a little more flexible in the shoulders and armpits by moving your hands away from the back of your torso.
Beginners often have a difficult time getting both sitting bones to rest evenly on the floor, which can make it difficult for the knees to stack on top of each other evenly. When the pelvis is tilted, the spine can't properly extend. Use a folded blanket or bolster to lift the sitting bones off the floor and support them evenly.
Stretches the ankles, hips and thighs, shoulders, armpits and triceps, and chest
A partner can help you increase the stretch in the back of the top arm. Have her stand behind you as you perform the pose (in this example the left arm is high). She should take her left hand on the back of your upper left arm and gently pull it back and up, as she presses her right hand forward against your left shoulder blade.
From the full pose, lean forward and lay the front torso down on the inner top thigh. Stay for 20 seconds, then inhale and come up.