How to Do Cow Pose in Yoga (Guide to Bitilasana)

Cow pose is a gentle method to warm up the spine and the back at the beginning of a yoga practice. It is a backbend, most commonly done in a tabletop position, although you can also mimic the movement in a seated position.

Since it is typically practiced for warm-up, the Cow pose is often paired with Cat pose. This combination is an ideal flow at the beginning of the practice, not only because it warms up your back but also because it teaches you to connect movement to breath.

You can also do Cow pose on its own. You can use it to take a break from work and remove tension from your upper body. It’s particularly helpful for pain and discomfort in your back, shoulders, and neck. With time, Cow pose can help you increase mobility in your spine, allowing you to enter more challenging backbends.

“I work behind a desk, and like many others, regularly slouch when I’m not conscious.”, says Yoga Answered contributor Sara Popovic. “I love doing cow pose to counteract that roundness and to remind myself to sit up straight and open my chest-and heart.”

Cow Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Bitilasana
Pose Type: Chest-Opening Yoga Poses, Yoga Backbend Poses
Difficulty Level: Beginner pose
Targets: Core, hips
Benefits: Cow pose warms up your shoulders, spine, back muscles, and hips, preparing you for the yoga class. It stimulates the adrenal glands and the kidneys and can boost your mood and energy. It activates the root chakra and brings a sense of stability and grounding.
Preparatory Poses: Tabletop pose, Sphinx pose, Locust pose, Cobra pose

How to Do Cow Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Begin in Tabletop pose. Your hips should be directly over your knees and your hands slightly in front of the shoulders. The knees should be hip-width distance apart, and the hands should be shoulder-distance apart. Keep your wrists parallel to each other.
  2. Press your hands firmly into the ground and with an inhale, begin to arch your back, allowing your belly to drop down.
  3. Drop the shoulders away from the ear and try to reach your head towards the ceiling. Broaden your collarbones and try to look up.
  4. Hold the pose for 3 to 8 breaths, or exhale into the Cat pose, flowing through the two poses for a couple of times.
  5. To release, move to a neutral position, and relax a moment in Child’s pose.

Beginner’s Tip

If you have sensitive wrists or feel any discomfort during the practice, warm them up before doing the Cow pose. The easiest way to warm up your wrists is to rotate them in both directions, make and release the fists a couple of times, and shake the hands to boost circulation. It’s important to be conscious of your shoulders – they tend to ride up. Try to relax them and move them away from your ears to protect your neck.

You can further protect the neck by initiating the pose from the hips and moving towards the upper part of the body. If you’re not comfortable, you don’t have to look up as far – you will gradually improve mobility in your neck.

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