Janu Sirsasana: Head to Knee Pose

JanuSirsasana-NicoLuce

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.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • 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.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Lengthen your tailbone behind you to encourage your natural lumbar curve.
  6. 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.

PREPARATORY POSES:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

COUNTER POSES:

  • Knees to chest pose | Apanasana
  • Supported fish pose
  • Savasana

SANSKRIT:

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

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Stretches the quadratus lumborum (QL), hamstrings, and groins.
  • Thought to provide relief for headaches, menstrual discomfort, digestive issues, and stress.


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Bhujangasana: Cobra Pose

ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

Bhujangasana (boo-jang-GAHS-anna) is a great way to strengthen the upper back and is often practiced as part of a transition back to downward-facing dog in vinyasa yoga. Practicing cobra pose regularly can improve your lung capacity, reduce stress, and stimulate many of the internal organs in your body.

Philosophy + Origin

Although often perceived as evil or dangerous, snakes also have a rich history of power and worship. In some yoga traditions, the energy of kundalini is represented by a serpent resting coiled at the base of the spine. By awakening this snake, we enliven our body’s energy and create a pathway towards enlightenment. This connection with enlightenment is also seen in many portrayals of the Buddha where he is shown with a cobra over his head.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Option to swap cobra pose for sphinx pose by placing your forearms on the floor.
  • Lengthen the back of the neck to avoid straining the neck and upper back.
  • If you experience discomfort in the lower back, bend the elbows more.
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