Head-of-Knee Pose or Janu Sirsasana is a deep, forward bend that calms the mind and relieves stress. Often practiced along with Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana), it is usually practiced toward the end of a sequence, when the body is warm, to prepare the body for even deeper forward bends. Though it’s also sometimes translated as “Head-to-Knee Pose,” it’s important to note that touching your head to your knee is not the most important aspect of the pose! Instead, keeping your torso long throughout the pose will help to bring a deep stretch to your hamstrings and back, without over-rounding the spine, which can cause injury.
What You Should Know Before You Do The Asana
This asana must be performed on an empty stomach. You must have your meals at least four to six hours before you practice yoga. You must also make sure that your bowels are empty. Avoid practicing this pose if you are currently suffering from asthma or diarrhea. Students with back or knee injuries should only practice this pose with the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable teacher.
How To Do The Janu Sirsasana : Step-by-Step Instructions
- To begin, sit on the floor with your back erect.
- Stretch out your left leg all the way from the hip joint. Bend your right knee, placing the bottom of the right foot against the inner part of your left thigh. Your right leg and knee should be comfortably pressed on the floor.
- Your chest and navel should line up with your left leg. This will set your torso in the right position.
- Let your hands provide support as they rest beside the hips.
- Inhale. Extend your belly and torso right up to the top of your head.
- As you exhale, let the energy flow through the left leg, reaching till the ball of the foot. Inhale and stretch your arms up such that it creates more length in your spine. Then, exhale and bend forward from the base of the hip as if you are coming forward from the groin to the front of the sitting bones. Reach for your ankles or toes, if you can, with your hands, or stretch till you are comfortable.
- Remember that if you stretch too far, it will tend to round the spine and, in turn, lead to injury.
- Hold the pose and breath deep and slow. As you breathe, feel the breath filling the groin, the back of your left leg, and the entire area of your back.
- Inhale and release the pose. Let the muscles in your abdomen contract. Then, lift your torso. Stretch out your right leg. Relax for a few seconds. Repeat the asana with the right leg stretched out.
Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Make sure the front of your torso stays long throughout the pose. It doesn’t matter if your head ever touches your knee! Dropping your head down and rounding your spine can over-stress and injure your back, hamstrings, and groins. Instead, make sure you’re folding from the hips, not at the waist. Use a strap around your extended-leg foot if needed. Then, work on keeping your front torso long as you fold forward.
- Work toward bringing your belly to your thighs first, rather than bringing your head toward your knee.
- Never force yourself into a forward bend. If you’re using a strap, be sure not to pull too hard to draw yourself forward. Only come as far forward as you can, while keeping your spine long. You might not come as far forward as you’ve been used to, but it’s more important to keep the integrity and alignment of your spine than to touch your knees with your nose!
Make sure the bent-leg foot doesn’t slide under the straight leg. You should be able to look down and see the sole of the foot. Keep the bent-leg foot active too. Broaden the top of the foot on the floor and press the heel toward the inner groin of the straight leg.
Modifications & Variations
Try these changes to find a variation of the pose that works for you:
- If your hamstrings or low back are extremely tight, place a rolled-up blanket or yoga mat beneath the knee of your extended leg.
- If you can’t comfortably grasp the foot or ankle of your extended leg, use a yoga strap. Wrap the strap around the sole of your extended-leg foot and hold onto it with both hands.
- If it’s easy to clasp your hands around the sole of your extended-leg foot, you can deepen the pose by placing a block at the sole of that foot and holding that, instead.
- For a greater challenge, you can widen the angle between your legs beyond 90 degrees.
- Some yoga styles will vary the hand position of the clasp, and the placement of the heel of the bent-leg foot. Note that there is no right or wrong variation — but if you’re in a class, follow the instruction your teacher gives. He or she is instructing you that way for a reason!
Benefits Of The Janu Sirsasana
- Practicing this asana calms the mind and also relieves mild depression.
- The groin, hamstrings, and shoulders get a good stretch.
- The liver and kidneys are stimulated.
- The digestive organs get a good massage, and therefore, digestion is improved.
- The reproductive organs are stimulated too, and therefore, menstrual and menopausal disorders are reduced.
- Practicing this asana relieves headaches, anxiety, and fatigue.
- Practicing this asana also cures insomnia, sinusitis, and high blood pressure.
- During pregnancy, this asana helps to strengthen the back muscles. But this asana should be practiced only up to the second trimester.
Seated forward bends
Stretching in Janu Sirsasana can be a great way to bring awareness to your thoughts of resistance and limitation. When you’re faced with stiffness and tightness, it can be easy to think you can force your way through the blocks. Instead, allow yourself to be exactly where you are in the moment. Forcing a forward fold will only cause more stiffness and resistance.