Gorakshasana – Right Method, Benefits, Dosha Effects

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Gorakshasana is also called as ‘Goraknath Pose’ or ‘Cowherd Pose’. It is an intermediate level yoga pose. It is a remedy for various mental and physical health ailments. It is one of the advanced seated Yoga posture. It is often used for meditation. It is described in Hatha Yoga texts including Shiva Samhita (14th century), Hatha Yoga Pradipika (15th century) and Gheranda Samhita (17th century).
Read – Yogasana – Spiritual, Physical And Mental Benefits, Classification

Word Meaning

Go = cow
Raksha = protect / protector

Goraksha, thus carries one of the below mentioned meanings –

  • protector of cows or
  • protector of cowherds
  • cowherd
  • protector of earth
  • protector of sense organs

Yogi Goraknath, one of the founders of Nath Sampradaya system who belonged to 10th century CE is said to have practiced this pose for meditation. Therefore this pose has been named after the name of this Yogi.

There is no direct connection between this pose and cowherd. Therefore it appears that the name is not suitable for the pose. Others feel that this pose resembles the posture and attitude of a cow rather than its protector. The meaning ‘protector of earth’ also seems inappropriate. But ‘protector of sense organs’ makes sense seeing the utility of this pose. The practitioner is said to become the protector of his own senses by regularly practicing this pose and mastering it.

But according to the widely accepted versions of the meaning of this pose is that this pose has got its name because it was a preferred pose of Yogi Goraknath. Goraknath was also called by the name Goraksha.

Yogi Gorakshanath had believed that this pose is beneficial in reducing the spasticity of the mind. It also increases the intellectual level of the practitioner. It eliminates the inertia of the body when practiced regularly and also cures many diseases.
Read – Health Benefits Of Yoga: Mind And Body

Preparation for Gorakshasana

  • Gorakshasana or cowherd pose should be done on empty stomach, preferably early in the morning.
  • Food should be taken 3-4 hours before practicing this yoga pose especially if it is practiced at some other part of the day other than early morning. Obviously by the time you take on to the pose, your stomach would get empty and you would also have derived energy from the food to accomplish the pose.
  • Keep your bowel and bladder empty by the time you take on to the pose.

Method of doing Gorakshasana

Positioning for the pose

Sit in Dandasana – Staff Pose

Getting into the pose
Bend your knees.
Draw your feet together towards perineum, as close as possible. Keep the soles and heels together.
Hold your feet.
Raise the heels up while placing the balls of soles on the ground while bending the toes.
Your feet should be vertical. The knees should be pointing outwards from the center of the body and touching the floor.
Your head, neck and torso should be straight and in one line.
Place your palms on the opposite heels.
Close your eyes or gaze the tip of your nose with both eyes.
Breathe normally.
Focus your mind in between eyebrows.
Be here for few breaths or as long as you are comfortable being in.

Release from the pose

  • Separate your feet and stretch them in front of you.
  • Come back to Dandasana.
  • Sit freely, relax and breathe easily.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVAS1Kbk0gE

Variation 1

This is a difficult pose. If you are not comfortable to keep your feet vertical, you may place them horizontal. Keep feet together. The toes and heels of right foot meeting the toes and heels respectively of the left foot. The toes face forward and the heels pointing backward.

Press hands on the floor in front of you and raise torso off the floor.
Now sit on your heels and keep hands on knees.
Be here for few breaths.
Some opine that this is the final pose.
Read – Marjaryasana (Bitilasana) Cat-Cow Pose, How to do, Benefits, Ayurveda Details

Release from the pose

  • Keep hands on the floor.
  • With support of your hands lift yourself off your heels and gradually come down to the floor.
  • Release your feet.
  • Come to Dandasana.
  • Relax and breathe freely.

Variation 2

Here the heels are brought to the front and kept close to the navel.
The toes touch the ground and support the body weight.
The knees touch the floor.
Bring your hands closer.
Cross the wrists and touch the heels with your fingers. The right fingers are over your left heel and the left fingers are over your right heel.
Release in the reverse way.

Gorakshasana and Bhadrasana

Bhadrasana explained in Hatha Yoga Pradipika is said to destroy every disease. Here in this asana, you place your ankles below your genitals, one on each side of your perineum. The left ankle is on the right side of the perineum and the right ankle is on the left side of the perineum. Hold the feet by hand while sitting motionless on your heels. This asana is also called as Gorakshasana by experts. (Read more here)

Health Benefits

  • It is a good pose for meditation and Tantra Yoga practices
  • It awakens the Kundalini energy by redirecting the apana upwards to the higher Chakras.
  • It makes the legs, joints of legs, feet and low back flexible, makes feet and legs supple
  • Good for your back and posture
  • Removes spasm and stiffness of the knee joints, ankles, hips, calves and butts
  • It is beneficial for muscles around feet, ankles and hips, and hamstrings. It can be included in Yoga sequences wherein these muscles are involved.
  • Enhances blood circulation in the body
  • Helps reduce body fat, tones up the body
  • Balances your digestion and also calms the digestive system, hence recommended against IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Helps relieve the gases in stomach and cures constipation
  • It is good for reproductive system and tones it up and is thus beneficial for conservation of sexual energy, activates your sexual energy.
  • It is easy to hold celibacy for both men and women when this pose is practiced regularly
  • Beneficial to remove pregnancy related problems
  • Beneficial in various kidney ailments
  • Relieves piles and urinary disorders
  • Prevents hernia
  • Relieves sciatica
  • Improves concentration and helps to calm the mind
  • It is believed to halt the ageing process and hence is anti-ageing pose
  • Stimulates Muladhara Chakra – Root Chakra

Preparatory Poses

Time spent doing Gorakshasana

Be in the pose for 30-60 seconds. You may also extend the time of performance if your flexibility allows you to be there for extended time.

Impact on Chakras

This pose is said to open up and balance the Muladhara Chakra – the root chakra. This pose stimulates Swadisthana Chakra – the Sacral Chakra. This in turn activates your sexual energy.

Contraindications, Precautions

Contraindications

  • Knee problems
  • Lower back problems
  • Sciatica pain
  • Hernia Problems in your leg and feet joints
  • Obesity due to intestinal diseases and thyroid

Caution

Do not hunchback. Keep your spine straight and relax your shoulders.

Impact on doshas and tissues

Impact on Doshas and its subtypes – Since it is mainly beneficial for health of reproductive system and urinary system, relieves diseases related to kidney, urinary bladder, piles and hernia and also removes pregnancy related problems, it is good for balancing apana vata functions. This is further supported by balancing effect of the pose on root and sacral chakras. Since it is good for your digestive system it balances the functions of gut doshas, i.e. pachaka pitta, samana vata and kledaka kapha. Since the pose helps to calm mind it balances prana vata, vyana vata, sadhaka pitta and tarpaka kapha functions. The pose is extremely good for the health and balance of shleshaka kapha since it is good for the health of muscles and joints.

Impact on tissues – This pose flexes & stretches and strengthens your muscles and joints and hence good for the health of muscle tissues and joints. Since it enhances the blood circulation the pose is good for health of blood tissue and channels of transportation of rasa tissue. It is also a good pose to reduce fat and tone up the body and hence good for balancing fat tissue and also for its health and also good for fat carrying channels. The pose is extremely good for the healthy balance of semen tissue (sperms) and ovum / menstrual health.

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)

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