Monday, February 12, 2007

Cow’s Head or Cow’s Face Pose

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones in southern climes, you will agree that this past week has been rather challenging weather-wise. Here in Wisconsin we are getting “highs” of -2 and -4. I think there should be a rule about what meteorologists can call high…anything under 5 is not. We’ve been bundled up to the eyes so as not to expose skin to instant-frostbite and even in class we’re shuffling around with long johns and sweatshirt to stay warm. Nuts, I say.

All this shuffling and bundling is usually paired with hunching over. It’s warmer and there is less of you to catch a passing arctic blast. But it also leads to a sore neck and upper shoulders and throws the spine out of whack. A cure-all for this February Hunch is the pose Gomukhasana or Cow’s Head Pose. The full pose is very twisty and yoga looking, but if you want to skip the legs because of tight hips or knees, the arms are accessible to almost everyone if you have a belt.

Like Trikonasana (Triangle), there is a lot going on in all the joints and each side twists a slightly different way from the other. This means the synovial fluid in the joints is getting squeezed all around its cavity and blood flow is increased in the area to aid in the lubrication of the muscles. It’s not a particularly relaxing pose, or even all that comfortable, but it is very, very beneficial. Give it a try after you get unwrapped.

Gomukhasana (Cow’s Head Pose)
1. If you are doing the whole pose, start with the legs. Make sure you have a folded blanket to sit on, to lift the hips off the floor and sit with the sitbones on the blanket and backs of the thighs off. Come to Dandasana (Staff Pose), with the legs straight in front of you. Then bend the left knee and draw the left heel towards the right hip. Bend the right knee and cross that leg over the left so the right heel is at the left hip. Line the knees up with each other and then with the center of the torso. If you need to loosen the cross a bit, the heels can come a bit forward and the knees don’t have to stack.
-However, no matter what you do with your legs, make sure you can align and lengthen the spine. If your back is hunched over or rounded, come to Sukhasana (Easy Pose) so that your hips and lower back can release.

2. Place your belt over your right shoulder. Now stretch the right hand toward the ceiling and rotate it in the socket so your elbow is facing forwards. Bend the right arm and reach that hand towards your shoulder blades. Give the right triceps a gentle stretch by pressing on the right elbow with your left hand. Take hold of the belt with your right hand.

3. Bend the left elbow along side the body and reach up the back to take hold of the belt, or, if you have flexible shoulders, the right hand. When you adjust the hands, make sure they are lined up with your spine. Then check the alignment of the spine; its easy to start slouching when your are focusing so much on the upper body.

4. As you hold the pose, try to relax the shoulder and hip joints. Keep the spine long. Try to gently press the elbows back and slightly closer to the center. Breathe deeply and evenly. Then carefully release and uncross the limbs and repeat to the other side. If you do this in front of a mirror, you will see the cow’s head: your crossed knees are the lips, your chest the eyes and your elbows a couple of flopped ears. Mooo! ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.

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