As a stretching routine, there are few forms of exercise that can match the effectiveness of Yoga. Getting yoga poses right requires near-perfect adjustment of limbs which results in stretching and opening up of muscle groups. With a practiced trainer, Yoga can eventually help you focus on particular sets of muscles.
The Gomukhasana or Cow Face Pose requires you to pay great attention to your upper body, thereby opening up your shoulders and neck area. In addition, it’s recommended as a relaxation tool, when patients are tired, tense or worried.
Sit in an upright position with your legs outstretched in front of you and your hands by the side with palms resting on the floor. Fold Your right leg at the knee and tuck it near your left buttock to the side of your body. Now bring left leg from over the right leg by bending the knee and placing it on the right side. With this pose, your legs will be besides your body on the opposite side.
Now place your right palm on the top knee and your left palm above it. Gaze in front and return to the original position by reversing the process. Once you get enough experience with this pose, swap the positions by beginning with the left leg.
Alternatively you can rest your palms on the leg closest to its side i.e the left on right and right on left.
A variation of the Gomukhasana (pictured on top) requires you to join your hands along the spinal cord and pull in opposite directions. The increased tension in the muscle-tendon joints of your body results in the spinal cord signalling muscles to relax. This releases endorphins which is naturally produced to help muscles relax, and that feeling of relaxation washes over you and lasts for much of the day.
The surprisingly deep hip opener stretches the piriformis and gluteal muscles, as well as the outer legs and IT band. Additionally, the backs of the arms and rotator cuffs also get quite the stretch.
Regular practice of this asana is said to be effective against pain in the hips region as well as the lower body. The upright position of the asana makes it vital in helping you straighten posture and is especially useful if large parts of your day involve sitting on generic chairs. With the increased blood supply to the legs, your limbs will feel more flexible.
As for the stretching properties of this asana, your ankles, thighs, and hips get a thorough stretching, while your knees also get improved agility thanks to this pose. In addition, the bending of the knees and the strengthening of the hip muscles naturally extends upwards towards your shoulders, armpits, triceps and chest. At the final position, be aware of your breathing and make sure your gaze is fixed straight ahead. This will stimulate an increase in your concentration levels, and make you more relaxed due to the conscious breathing.
For those stuck on desk jobs, you must not get much time to get in a round of workouts at work. This sedentary lifestyle can have a major negative impact on your fitness. With the Cow Face Pose, your body is more likely to become flexible, and stronger to prevent back injuries, as well as early onset of chronic illnesses such as arthritis or osteoporosis.
Main Image: Catherine Tingey