(Gomukhasana / Cow Face Pose Anatomy) “Gomukhasana” came from three separate Sanskrit words. “Go” meaning “cow”, mukha” meaning “face” and “asana” meaning “posture”. It is a seated Asana requiring the practitioner to sit erect, the legs crossing each other in such a way that one of the knee is stacked over the other, raising one arm over the head and simultaneously bringing the other arm back and interlocking both hands.
This pose combines lower body and upper body lengthening positions into a single pose. When done on both sides, the Gomukhasana stretches virtually all the muscles of the shoulder and shoulder girdle. All the lateral muscles of the hip get the stretch as well.
People who try this pose often brand it as very easy or very hard. The former usually being naturally flexible people. The ones that struggle, usually are beginners or have little natural flexibility.
The muscles getting stretched are discussed in the next section.
Lower Body Muscles Lengthening
Gluteus Medius is an abductor and extensor of the thigh but while executing Gomukhasana, the thigh flexes and adducts thus this muscle is stretching.
Gluteus Minimus works just as Gluteus Medius so also gets stretched during this move.
Gluteus Maximus is a major extensor and abductor of the leg at hip joint and is lengthening.
This muscle is special as it abducts the thighs when the hip joint is flexed thus gets stretched during Gomukhasana.
Hamstrings are prime extensors of the leg so the flexion of the leg stretches.
Adductor Magnus (Ischial Fibers):
Ischial Fibers of Adductor Magnus also act as extensors of the hip joint so get lengthened.
Upper Body/Lower Arm Muscles Lengthening
Biceps (Long Head):
Long head of Biceps flexes and supinates the arm. These movements are against what we are trying to achieve in the Cow Face Pose.
Anterior Deltoid act by flexing the arm at the shoulder joint. It is also lengthening as the arm is hyperextending.
Serratus Anterior protracts the scapula as well as rotates it upwards. During Gomukhasana, the scapula retracts so this muscle is lengthening.
Trapezius (upper fiber):
Upper fibers of Trapezius elevates and rotates the scapula upwards and is getting lengthened on the side of the lower arm.
Top Arm Muscles Lengthening
Rhomboids help to retract the scapula and on the side of the upper arm, it gets lengthened.
Pectoralis Minor draws the scapula down and medially. On the side of the top arm, it will be lengthened.
Pectoralis Major adducts, flexes and medially rotates the arm. During Gomukhasana, this muscle gets stretched.
Another adductor and medial rotator of the arm, that will be stretched on the side of top arm because the required movement on this side is lateral rotation.
Lats also assist in adduction and medial rotation of the arm so as expected, get stretched.
Posterior Deltoid helps in extending the arm but in the case of the top arm, the arm is being flexed. So, Posterior Deltoid gets stretched.
Subscapularis is a medial rotator of the humerus but to achieve the Cow Face Pose, top arm needs to be laterally rotated.
Upper Body Muscles Contracting to hold the position
Flexors of the finger Gomukhasana / Cow Pose :
The hands need to be interlocked for the pose to be executed in a right way, so flexors of the fingers will contract.
Teres MinoGomukhasana / Cow Pose:
Teres Minor causes lateral rotation of the humerus, thus contracts on the side of the top arm during the execution of this pose.
Infraspinatus Gomukhasana / Cow Pose:
Infraspinatus is an external rotator of the arm and that’s why, the top arm muscle is contracting.
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Subscapularis is a medial rotator of humerus that will be contracting on the side of bottom arm.
Pectoralis Major (sternal):
Sternal head of the Pectoralis Major act as an internal rotator of the arm so gets contracted on the side of bottom arm white executing the Cow Face Pose.
Lower Body Muscles Contracting to hold the position
All the adductors will contract when the abductors are restricting.