Cow Face Pose or Gomukhasana is a beautiful hip opener and shoulder stretch.
This pose, however, is not amazing for everyone. It is so important to be mindful of the knees here. For some, this can really eek the knees. Unlike most other areas of the body, knees have no muscles. They are made up of tendons and ligaments.
Sometimes when we stretch we might feel a tinge of pain, or rather intensity. This is okay when engaging in a muscular stretch. When muscles are tight, they give our brains a ton of feedback when being asked to loosen up.
Spotlight on the Knees
Knees are totally different. Because there are no muscles here, any feedback received from the knees is a strain or stress on the tendons or ligaments there. It is not okay to feel a stretch in the knees. The only acceptable attitude toward knee pain in asana, is NO KNEE PAIN is okay. NO KNEE PAIN.
Gohmukasana is a hip opener so the reason why some feel it in the knees is that when hips are tight, knees can be compromised. Hips are huge muscles that can be quite stubborn. Knees are far smaller so it is easier to move them.
Sometimes when hips are refusing to soften, the knees instead will compensate and twist out of alignment, even slightly. This can eventually lead to pain or damage in the knees. The following are tips and tricks for authentic alignment in the pose.
- Knees should be touching. In perfect alignment, the feet will point right back toward the bum. In reality, most people’s feet will splay out a bit. The bottom leg can even be straight or close to straight.
- Sitting bones should be rooted, back long.
- Heart should be open, collarbones spreading.
- Arm options:
- If you cannot hold the hands behind your back, use a sock or a strap to help.
- If no props are available, just put one hand on the opposite elbow, the other hand between the shoulder blades, and gently press down.
- If the hands are clenched, slide the top elbow behind the head and then slightly lean the head back onto that arm to help increase the stretch.
- If your right leg is crossed on top of your left, your left elbow will be the one in the air, right arm comes around the back. When your left leg is crossed on top of your right, your right elbow will be the one in the air, your left arm comes around the back.
Breathe deeply. MOO!