Janu Sirsasana: Head to Knee Pose
Janu sirsasana (JAH-new shear-SHAHS-anna), may look simple, but it combines elements of a forward fold, twist, and side body stretch. Head to knee pose stretches the hamstrings, low back, and groins and can be adjusted to be very challenging or very relaxing.
Philosophy + Origin
While the name of the pose may seem to reveal an intention based on physical anatomy (head to knee pose), janu sirsasana is really all about turning inward and creating space for self-reflection. Instead of focusing on the intensity of the posture — or a desire to bring your head to your knee — turn your attention to the peace and stillness that may be hiding beneath the more prominent sensations.
- Use a folded blanket under your hips to help keep a forward tilt of your pelvis.
- Place a folded blanket under your extended knee to offer support, especially if the knee doesn’t readily touch the ground.
- Loop a strap around the foot of your extended leg to deepen the stretch in the hamstrings while keeping the spine long.
- To deepen the stretch and increase the intensity of this pose, widen the space between your knees.
- Begin in a seat with your legs stretched out in front of you. If your low back rounds, sit up on some blankets or a pillow.
- Bend your right knee and place the sole of your foot near your left inner thigh, top of your foot on the ground. Option to place a blanket under your right thigh or ankle to support.
- Turn your torso toward your left leg. Inhale to lengthen your torso, exhale to walk your hands forward and reach your chest to your left toes.
- Ground down through your left thigh and reach through your left heel. Keep the front of your torso long and your sternum lifted. If there’s room, option to lower your forehead to your extended leg.
- Lengthen your tailbone behind you to encourage your natural lumbar curve.
- After up to three minutes in janu sirsasana, lift yourself up and out of the posture on an inhalation. Return to seated then repeat on the other side.
- Bound angle pose | Baddha konasana
- Reclined hand to toe pose | Supta padangusthasana
- Standing forward bend | Uttanasana
- Seated forward fold | Paschimottanasana
- Wide angle forward bend | Upavistha konasana
- Tree pose | Vrksasana
- Knees to chest pose | Apanasana
- Supported fish pose
- Janu = knee
- Sirsa = head
- Asana = pose
- Stretches the quadratus lumborum (QL), hamstrings, and groins.
- Thought to provide relief for headaches, menstrual discomfort, digestive issues, and stress.
Vasisthasana: Side Plank Pose
Vasisthasana (vah-sish-TAHS-anna) comes in many variations. At its core, side plank is a challenging arm balance that requires core and shoulder strength.
Philosophy + Origin
The word “vasistha” appears in the yogic tradition as the name of several sages. This pose honors all the vasistha sages, including an array of rishis and prajapatis (lords of creation). In one story of Vasistha, he was the proud owner of a famous wish-granting cow named Nandini that helped Vashistha acquire vast wealth. While the Sanskrit translation of this pose is “Sage Vasistha’s pose,” the common translation is “side plank.”