This week, I’m highlighting the yoga asana, or pose, Janu Sirsasana (or Janusirshasana), or head to knee posture, which is more or less the English translation from Sanskrit. This pose transitions us to the floor from extended side angle pose. Head to knee pose returns us to the direction in which we are moving the body with pyramid pose, but we are seated to accommodate the opening of the front of the hip as we lengthen through the back of the body and legs. Because the pose is asymmetrical, be mindful of keeping an even count for both sides. This is most easy to do through concentration on counting each full breath.
To do head to knee pose, sit towards the back half of your mat:
- Begin seated with both legs extended out in front of you.
- Keeping the left leg extended, and bring the right foot inside the inner left thigh.
- Square your shoulders with the extended left leg.
- On an inhale, press your sits bones into the ground as you raise your arms overhead, lifting your ribs off your waist by drawing your abdomen in and up (as if sucking in your gut). Focus on lengthening your spine here by sitting tall.
- On an exhale, hinging at your waist, reach your chest out and over your left leg, taking your gaze to your left knee.
- Bring your palms in contact with the mat, and relax your shoulders down your back, away from your ears.
- Breath for 5 full breathes.
To come out of head to knee pose, complete the steps in reverse, and prepare to repeat with the right leg extended. As you practice, focus on keeping your spine long in the posture. Be mindful of whether or not your mid or upper back begins to round when you fold forward. Focusing on drawing your shoulder blades down your back and towards one another helps in keeping the spine long, as well as the chest open. The goal of the posture is to open the back of the body. Don’t worry about how far your hands reach in front of you, or whether you can touch your toes!
Some of this pose’s more specific benefits are that it lengthens the spine and messages the internal organs with help from the breath. Some of this pose’s contraindications are for those with any knee or back pains. Be careful when entering, maintaining, and exiting the pose, moving as your body allows.
Highlighting some of head to knee pose’s Ayurvedic points to consider (I hope you figured out your dosha!):
- Vata try to ground down through your sits bones, bending the knee as needed so the torso rests on the thigh and the forehead on the knee or shin, possibly taking hold of the foot with both hands.
- Pitta try to rest the hands besides the extended leg to maintain steadiness and ease, attempting to not overextend yourself.
- Kapha try to maintain a deep connection with the breath, riding it like a wave, allowing each inhale to raise you slightly and each exhale to fold you deeper.
Also, from the perspective of Ayurveda, if you’re one dosha, but one day you’re feeling like another, try the modification for that dosha. The modification could be beneficial as a way to return you to balance with your own dominant dosha.
If you’re interested in learning or practicing yoga, please feel free to attend one of the yoga classes offered in the John A. Danzi Center, right on the SJC Patchogue campus (free for students, faculty and staff; $5 for alumni and guests).