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, whether at the end of a day or at the beginning.
Philosophy + Origin
While the name of the pose may seem to reveal an intention based on physical anatomy and outward appearances, Janu Sirsasana is really all about “going in” 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,” quite a difference from how we live our lives. 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.
- Use a folded blanket under the pelvis to help keep it tilting forward and to alleviate discomfort in the lower back.
- Use 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
Like many yoga poses, it can be tempting to push too far in Head to Knee pose. In addition to potential injury, wanting to go “deeper” in Janu Sirsasana can take away from the stretch this pose offers. Because it is as much of a twist as it is a forward fold, it’s important to not try to pull yourself forward too much. Instead, 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 the tension in the lower back, use a blanket under the hips, folding it until your pelvis tilts forward to create space in your back body.
- Begin in Dandasana, seated on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bring your right knee towards you, bringing your heel in as much as possible toward your perineum and allowing the sole of the right foot to rest on the inner thigh of the left leg. Allow the outer thigh of your right leg to rest on the floor or use a folded blanket, bolster or block to support it.
- Using your hands for support, begin to turn the torso towards your extended left leg, aiming the navel towards the knee. Keep the length in your spine as you twist, grounding down through both legs. Even without folding, many individuals will feel the benefits of the twist and stretch.
If you’re able to keep the pelvis tilting forward and the back body free from tension, begin to reach the hands forward towards the left foot. As you do, ground down through the left thigh and reach through the heel to flex the foot. Keep the front of your torso long and the sternum lifted as you begin to hinge your hips.
- Use your exhale to lengthen the groins to find more depth. With your hands on either side of your extended leg, bend your elbows and actively lift them up and out away from the floor. 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.
- After up to 3 minutes in Janu Sirsasana, lift yourself up and out of the posture on an inhalation. Return to Dandasana before following the steps on the other side.
Get the latest from Gaia
- Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Baddha Konasana
- Supta Padangusthasana
- Upavistha Konasana
- Janu = knee
- Sirsa = head
- Asana = pose
- Stretches spine, back muscles, hamstrings and groins
- Massages and stimulates liver, kidneys and other internal organs
- Relieves headache, menstrual discomfort and symptoms of menopause
Increases energy and reduces fatigue
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, depression and insomnia
- Calms your mind
- Relaxes your central nervous system
- Reduces anxiety
“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
Because Janu Sirsasana is helpful for digestive issues, practicing Apana mudra can increase the power of the pose. Apana mudra, which is known to detox the body and improve the condition of the skin, 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.
THERE’S MORE TO YOU THAN YOU THINK
Travel down a new road with Gaia, a member-supported conscious media company. Join our community of seekers, dreamers, and doers to empower your own evolution. Discover over 8,000+ ad-free, streaming videos to inspire and encourage curiosity. Everything is waiting for you; which path will you choose?