“If the pose is not the goal, where do I put my head?”
This last weekend during a private session with someone freely asking all kinds of amazing questions, she said her goal was a different pose, Upavistha Konasana, or wide legged forward fold. “How do I get there?” she asked. Sometimes we have to “regress to progress”. Take what the ego may find as a step backward, find a new path, new sensations, and ultimately reach your goal in less time! Which leads me to today’s pose, Head to Knee or Janu Sirsasana.
Janu Sirsasana stretches the feet, the calves, the hamstrings, the low back, the hips, the sides of the waist, and even the upper back, and back of the neck! I mean, WOW! So much in one simple pose! How much you feel all these things is like the old standby piano analogy of “you get out of it what you put into it”. But wait, there’s more!
During my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training I posed the question “if the name of the pose is Head to Knee pose, is the head being AT the knee the most important part of the pose, or not important at all?”. The response was “the pose is not the goal”. While I conceptually love the idea of the pose not being the goal, and I practice and teach this concept, I couldn’t help but question why the pose would be called Janu (Knee) Sirsasana (Head – pose) without the intention of the head being at the knee. Thus began my journey into this pose I have grown to love for so many more reasons than just for stretching my entire back body.
Let’s get into this pose, physically.
- Start in a seated position, left leg drawn into the body, right leg long.
- Press your hands into the mat to create a long spine and shift your torso to align with the right leg (as much as possible).
- Imagine a sandbag on your folded leg. (Option to place a block under the knee for added support.)
- Bend your right knee up to the sky, flex the foot strongly, reach out and clasp your hands under the balls of your feet.
- Inhale: lengthen the spine. Exhale: pull the belly in deeply to find a gentle curve in the spine and bring your forehead to your knee. (You will feel a gentle compression in the front of the throat, and constriction of the breath. You want this! It’s good for the thyroid.)
- Inhale: lengthen from the tailbone through the crown of the head. Exhale: press your HEEL away from you as you use your bi-cep strength to counter it. (Keep the shoulders down and away from your ears.)
- With every inhale, lengthen, with every exhale press – and maybe sink a little deeper, foot moving away from you as you begin to straighten the leg.
- Keep your torso in line with the leg, elbows pointing toward your mat.
- Stay for at least 6 or 7 breaths. Find that balance of effort and ease. Where can you provide strength? (Quads, abdominals, bi-ceps.) Where can you find ease? Send your breath there.
- Switch sides and repeat.
One of my favorite things about yoga is the “journey inward”. It’s more than self care. It’s self awareness, self discovery, the self that exists outside of the world’s expectations. It’s looking to the true self for validation, and ultimately the clarity of knowing.
Let’s get into this pose, mentally.
- Your forehead is pressed to your knee, creating pressure on your “third eye center” or Ajna Chakra, the Chakra of intuition.
- There is a slight constriction of the throat, and thus, your breathing. Can you stay calm in this state of “slight agitation”?
- Your eyes are in a soft gaze toward your navel, looking inward.
- Imagine a wheel of energy that travels from your seat up the spine (lengthening) around to the forehead on your inhale, and send that energy back down from the forehead through the knee and around to the starting point on your exhale.
So, how important is your knee to your head? Honestly, it depends on who you ask. It also depends on who you are “googling”… the revolved (twisted) versions, or versions with your head up make for prettier pictures, especially when you have a make-up team. Nothing is entirely right or wrong. It’s YOUR body. You need to do what feels good in YOUR body. I will tell you that I spent a long time just reaching for my toes, but when I “regressed”, and put my knee into the mix, my leg was straight within a month. In addition, the mental benefits of this pose equally match the physical benefits, hands (or heads!) down.
WHAT YOU PRACTICE GROWS STRONGER
From my heart,
Have a pose you would like me to dig into a little deeper? Let me know! Want to stay on top of all things “good yoga”? Join my email list and get it delivered right to your inbox.