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PIcture of Head to Knee Pose

 

Janu Sirsasana: Head to Knee Pose


Head to knee pose, or janu sirsasana (JAH-new shear-SHAHS-anna), may look like a forward fold, but in practice it’s much more of a twist. Accessible for students at all levels, janu sirsasana stretches hamstrings, back, and groin while offering the benefits of a twist, such as massaging and stimulating internal organs. Because it is soothing to the central nervous system, janu sirsasana is a great way to relieve stress in the body and mind.

Philosophy + Origin

While the name of the pose may seem to reveal an intention based on physical anatomy or outward appearances, janu sirsasana is really all about tuning inward and creating space for self-reflection. Because the pose soothes the nervous system, the quietness that happens after spending time in this posture allows you to “feel in” rather than “project out.” 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 is felt beneath the more prominent sensations.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • If folding foward causes discomfort, use a folded blanket under the pelvis to help keep a forward tilt.
  • Place a folded blanket or bolster under the knee of the extended leg to offer support, especially if the knee doesn’t easily touch the ground.
  • Use a strap to help reach the foot of the extended leg in order to deepen the stretch in the hamstrings.
  • To deepen the stretch and increase the intensity of this pose, widen your legs to more than ninety degrees apart.

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • Lower back or knee injuries.
  • Herniation of lumbar discs.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Asthma.

TIPS:

Focus on turning the navel towards the extended leg and releasing the lower back as you hinge from the hips. If you feel like you can’t release tension from the lower back, use a blanket under the hips, folding it until your pelvis tilts forward to create space in your back body.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Begin in a seat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Place the sole of your right foot to the ground and allow your knee to drop out to the right side. Option to place a prop under your right thigh to support.
  2. 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.
  3. Ground down through your left thigh and reach through your left heel. Keep the front of your torso long and the sternum lifted.
  4. As you fold forward more, be sure to work on having your lower belly touch your thighs first, then your chest, then your chin, then your forehead. This sequence will help ensure that your front body stays long.
  5. 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.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

SANSKRIT:

  • Janu = knee
  • Sirsa = head
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Stretches the spine, back muscles, hamstrings, and groins.
  • Massages and stimulates liver, kidneys, and other internal organs.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Relieves headache, menstrual discomfort, and symptoms of menopause.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Calms your mind.
  • Relaxes your central nervous system.
  • Reduces symptoms of anxiety.

MANTRA:

Om Shanti Mantra

A simple mantra with powerful effects, Om Shanti is designed to bring more peace in your life and the world around you. To practice, say, “Om shanti shanti shanti,” which means “Om peace peace peace.”

MUDRA: Apana Mudra

Apana mudra is thought to detox the body and improve the condition of the skin. This gesture is practiced by bringing the ring and middle fingers to meet the thumbs, leaving your pinky and index fingers extended straight out. Practice the mudra with both hands at the same time.

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