Back with another Tutorial Tuesday and this week it’s all about Janu Sirsasana, head to knee pose. I’ll explain a brief overview of how to do Janu Sirsasana, and offer modifications to make it more accessible for beginners. Specifically addressing common “sticking points in the pose. At the end of the post I’ve included some options to make the pose more challenging. Most importantly, I’m sharing the one major alignment tip that I advise everyone to do before leaning forward! Hint: it’s about your pelvis!
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How to do Janu Sirsasana
Begin sitting in Dandasana on your yoga mat. Bend the left knee, bringing the foot towards the groin. Let the hip open, allowing the knee to drop out to the left side, resting on the floor. Hinge from the hips and fold over the extended leg, resting the hands on the shin, floor, or reaching for the foot.
While in the pose notice where you have feedback from your body. Where do you feel the stretch? The head-to-knee pose can be tricky for many people. It requires flexibility in the hamstrings and calf. Plus the bent knee out to the side means you also need open hips.
Major alignment tip
The major thing about this pose is the pelvis. Many people do this with the pelvis shifted. This is because when we open the bend knee out to the side the pelvis moves. If we fold from this slanted position there is less feedback in the fold. In general terms, it’s easier.
So, move the pelvis! The long leg side of the pelvis needs to draw back. Not only does this provide a better stretch but it also prevents torque in the spine. Pull back to make your discs happier!
Janu Sirsasana Modifications
I’m all about the modifications in yoga poses and Janu Sirsasana is no different. But, in this pose there are many things we can adapt. The biggest hurdle to feeling this as a WHOLE back body stretch and not just in the hamstrings is, tight hamstrings. So perhaps try a little bend and support in the extended leg. Serious game changer!
The next variation is about the bent leg. If the leg doesn’t connect to the floor then support it. Personally, my right side connects my left side doesn’t. So I generally always support my left side. Whether that support is blocks, a rolled up blanket ora cushion.
One common misconcetion is the placement of the foot on the bent leg. The foot DOES NOT have to be in towards the groin. We’re not trying to get it in our underwear! It can also be away from the leg and the body. Choose somewhere comfortable!
Another tip is that many people seem to want to just fold from the spine. Instead think about the fold coming from the hips rather than the spine.
All these things will help make your janu sirsasana more comfortable, and accessible for those with reduced range of movement. Basically, support, support, support!
Making the pose more challenging
While props can make poses more accessible they can also make the pose more challenging. In Janu Sirsasana many people use a strap thinking it makes the pose easier, and it can, but also… no. To make this pose more challenging, the extended leg foot can be flexed with toes pointing up rather than forward. Using a strap gives us access to this. Rather than think about pulling your torso towards the foot, think about pulling the ball of the foot to the chest.
While reaching hands to the foot is the full expession of the pose, there are other options to provide a deeper challening. Using blocks! A block behind the foot not only gives that “toes up” flexion of the ankle but also more length from the arms to reach towards. Providing a deeper stretch in the lats and serators.
Basically yoga props are your key to a happier or more challenging pose. I always say that props aren’t just for modifications and this is one pose where props can add a big difference to the pose either easing or increasing the challenge. Try some of the variations in this post in your next yoga practice.
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- Can you do Janu Sirsasana?
- Which of the modifications could you include in your practice?
- Do you know where your hips are?