By Pat Staszak, PT

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Wow, that is a great name.  This pose is excellent for opening the shoulders and chest.  Anyone with shoulder or neck pain will benefit from improving the mobility in this area.  But be careful: if it is not done correctly it can cause harm to your shoulder joints. 

If you experience pain in your shoulders or neck adjust your position or do not go as far into the position.  It is okay if your fingers do not touch each other.  Pain is a problem if it feels sharp, feels too intense or lingers long after coming out of the pose.  Basically you want to feel a gentle, (or not so gentle), stretch through the front of your chest and shoulders with no pain, tightness or numbness at your neck, shoulders or arms.  Don’t be surprised if it easier on one side of your body – most of us have asymmetries in our bodies. 

Start Position:  Sit on a foam pad or box with your legs crossed, or with knees bent and hip distance apart. You can also sit in a chair with your feet hip distance apart and touching the floor.  Your pelvis should be balanced, in neutral and centered directly on your SITS bones. Your ribs cage is balanced over your pelvis and your head and neck centered and balanced between your shoulders.  Gaze forward and visualize a string gently pulling from the top of the back of your head to the ceiling to lengthen the back of your neck. 

Pose:  Clasp your hands behind your back as shown.  To get into position reach your right arm to the ceiling and elevate your right shoulder blade.  Pull your left shoulder blade backwards and down to open your chest as you reach your left arm behind you.  As your right arm reach for your left arm pull your right shoulder blade backwards and try to keep your armpit open.  Stay in this position for 30-60 seconds on each side. 


  • Keep all of your joints lined up in a neutral position.  Notice if you are gripping or holding tension anywhere in your body.  Do not clench your teeth, pull up your shoulders or tighten you butt. 
  • Breathing:  Inhale through your nose and expand your ribs cage laterally.  As you exhale, engage your pelvic floor and deep abdominal stabilizers to gently pull your lower abdominals in toward your spine.  Remember to keep SITS bones wide and continue to focus on neutral through your pelvis, spine and head and neck as you perform the exercise. 
Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

This pose stretches the muscles around your shoulder blades and posterior ribs. It is also an excellent stretch for the shoulders, but again, be careful to avoid shoulder pain; especially pain at the front and top of your shoulders.

Start Position:  As above

Pose:  While keeping your scapula stable, reach your arms forward with elbows bent.  Place your left elbow over your right and wrap your forearms so your palms face each other.  Gently push your hands together and raise elbows as high as you can while keeping scapula stable.  Hold 60 seconds on each side.

Focus:  Breathing and holding neutral joint position as above.   Keep scapula in neutral and avoid tension in your neck as you raise your elbows. 

Works Cited

Rosen, Richard. “Lift On Up.” Yoga Journal Aug. 2011: 70. Print.