About the asana
Hi! This is Tim with MidpackRunner.com.
I’m here today with another stretch for the active runner. Today we’re going to be looking at a stretch that will target the IT bands, the glutes, and some of you may even feel this in your hip flexors and low back. The asana is called cow face, and you may already be familiar with it from more yang styles of yoga.
Again, this stretch (as with all the stretches in this series – and most of the stretches in yin yoga as a form), is meant to target your lower body to the exclusion of your upper body.
As with the other stretches in the series, you want to start out in a position that feels fairly easy. If you feel any pain at all, stop and consult a certified instructor.
Not mentioned in the video, but this stretch isn’t inherently bilateral. To fix that, pay attention to which leg is on top as you settle into the pose. Once you’ve sat through the pose (we’re aiming for 3-5 minutes here), switch legs and repeat the stretch with the opposite leg on top.
The goal here is to have your legs stacked with both knees facing forward.
If you suffer from ITBS like I do, this may be fairly intense. For me, it’s worst – and best – at the junction with the glutes.
If the stretch here is too intense, you can back your knees off away from the forward position until it becomes more comfortable.
If the stretch is comfortable, you can drop you neck toward your chest and relax into the pose. If you’re really flexible, you can fold forward over your legs (as seen in the video) and rest your sternum on your quads. Note that this will really intensify the stretch, so just be aware of how your body is feeling as you settle in.
For some people, this asana can put some strain on your knees. If you notice discomfort in that area, there are a few things you can do to alleviate it.
Once strategy is to place a rolled hand towel under the lower knee, elevating it slightly. You can play with different heights for the towel – different compactness levels – until you find one that works best for you.
If the towel doesn’t work for you, you can grab a block and sit right on the front edge of it to prop yourself up and keep your hips tilted forward. As with the towel, you can play with the heights of the block until you find one that works.
If neither of these fixes the issue, or if the stretch is just too deep for you at present, you can take an alternative asana: double pigeon.
In double pigeon, your legs are stacked and parallel with the front of your mat. Your upper knee may float a bit, especially if you’re holding any tension. That’s okay. Over time, as you deepen your practice, your hips will loosen and the floating will be less an issue.