Pose of the Week – Gomukhasana

If last’s weeks pose of the week (Virabhadrasana II) was a basic pose, this week, I am going with a killer pose.  Gomukhasana, cow face pose, if you rather (but I don’t).  I generally call it one of the poses in the contortionist series of yoga, but there are so many, so it’s hard to differentiate that way!  So, gomukhsana, it is… I have given you two Yoga Journal articles, the traditional one that shows you how to do it:  YogaJournal-Cow Face Pose.

I have also given you one of many articles on overcoming difficulty with the pose:  Gomukhasana-Mission Possible.  The second article is for me, as there’s got to be a reason this is so hard for me to master!

One instructor I take classes from seems to be a fan of gomukhasana, which is great, because I definitely need repetitions.  In fact, since I’ve been practicing yoga, there’s maybe been one time period where I could band on one side (for all I know this is wishful remembering, but when I was much younger, I think I finally got there).  Regardless, I can say for a fact that it hasn’t happened in at least 10 years – and I like to think I’m pretty flexible!

Gomukhasana is one of those few poses where I am okay using the yoga belt (I’m usually not a fan of props, which is a notion that’s being challenged right now by this instructor, who loves them), but for this pose, I’ve wondered if the belt is keeping me “stuck” and not helping me progress.  I say that because I have a really hard time climbing the belt to bring my hands closer together when behind my back.  Generally, all I accomplish is pulling my hair.

My problem with this pose seems to be my lower arm.  My upper arm does just fine reaching my mid back on both sides.  I guess that makes sense, now that I’m thinking about it, because I’m not so comfortable in paschima namaskarasana (reverse prayer) either; I can do it, but it’s not super comfortable for me.

The second article tells me that “the muscles that limit movement into this position are those that perform external rotation and flexion of the shoulder”.  I would agree that I have limited mobility there.  I can do the bind in extended side angle pose (baddha utthita parsvakonsana) and my limitation is balance (and probably confidence) in bird of paradise (svarga dvijasana).  But, internally rotating my shoulder and extending my lower arm is a challenge.

The suggested advice is to “spend one minute twice a day with your forearms stacked behind your back and your hands reaching toward your elbows.”  I can reach my elbows behind my back, but it’s a challenge to stay there for long.  This is probably great advice for me.  Once I master that, the next step is “to start to work one hand up your back, gradually moving it up between the shoulder blades.”  Finally, “Once you can get your hand up between your blades, you have a shot at catching the fingers with the “up” arm.”  That makes sense and sounds like a plan!!

On a separate note, the advice mentioned spending “one minute twice a day”… That’s probably a good place for me to start.  Last night, I decided to do mat yoga at home, so I could focus on digestion.  In the process, I learned something not so great about myself.   Not wanting to just do yoga on my own (no idea what the mental block is here), I googled yoga for digestion.  I found a 30-minute YIN yoga video for digestion – sounds great, right?

Notsomuch… I’ve never done YIN yoga before and I understand why I have avoided it.  I am terrible when it comes to being still, so holding poses forever is not a talent I have.  I mean, it was bad – not the video, the teacher, or any of that – me!  I was terrible.  I felt like I needed a prescription for Ritalin.  I want to say each pose was held for maybe 5 minutes… it’s not that long!  What is wrong with me that I had to fidget incessantly, check the time frequently, and couldn’t control my thoughts?  I am really embarrassed because I feel like I am fairly experienced in my practice, but yet, I failed miserably at being still.

Always the positive though….  Now, I have a pose that I can hold for one-minute twice a day.  That’s a start.  Once I can do that regularly (consistency is another struggle of mine outside of class), I want to start working on some YIN yoga poses because stillness is a basic tenant of yoga that I need regardless of which style I practice.

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