More than just a Head to Knee Forward Fold
Help your mood as well as your flexibility with Janu Sirsasana
Janu Sirsasana comes with a long list of benefits. Apart form the obvious help towards flexibility in your hamstrings, you can also start to develop strength in your thighs, core and spine. The outward rotation of your opposite leg helps to bring a stretch to your groin. As a forward fold, other benefits such as mild relief from anxiety, menstrual discomfort or fatigue are also cited alongside providing good stimulation for the liver and the kidneys as well as improving digestion. With a list of benefits that long, how can we not try Janu Sirsasana for ourselves!
If you are suffering/recovering from a knee injury, then you might prefer not to bend the knee fully. Instead you might prefer to have it slightly bent whilst resting it on a brick or a rolled up blanket.
Also if you have an injury to the back of your leg such as a hamstring tear, or you are suffering from sciatica, practice this pose with a big bend to the knee of the straight leg.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog)
Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Step By Step Guide
Start by sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you in Dandasana. If it’s difficult to sit here with a straight spine then place a block underneath your buttocks. Bend your left knee and place the sole of your left foot on the inside of your right thigh, with the heel as close to the groin as comfortable. If your left knee is quite high above the hips, or your knee/hip is in any pain, place a brick underneath that knee for support.
As you inhale, feel your spine and head lift away from your pelvis, bringing length to the front of your torso and reducing any overly kyphotic curve in the upper spine, you can even lift your arms with your ears here to help bring length along the spine and torso. Keep that length as you start to rotate your pelvis forwards, bending only at the hip area and not above.
Exhale as you use that forward rotation of the pelvis to draw your chest over your legs, as if your breastbone were to meet your right toes in front. Let the hands land wherever they comfortably land, whether that’s by the knee, on the shin, or around the foot. Big point here, it’s not a sign of flexibility to touch your toes with your fingers if you have to overly bend at the waist to get there! Keep your torso long and your shoulders rolled down your back, drawing your shoulder blades towards each other behind your back.
NB. If you find it difficult to fold forwards at the hips and get a good stretch trying to bring your hands forwards, you might want to wrap a belt around your left foot and hold on to each end with each hand and your arms extended.
Inhale, keep your hands where they are and lengthen your chest upwards again, potentially getting more forwards rotation of the pelvis. As you exhale let that new found length in the spine and torso stretch you further forwards, whilst still drawing your shoulder blades towards each other behind your back..
Hold this Janu Sirsasana for 6 or more deep rounds of breath. The more consciously you breathe, the more you might feel your body soften into this position. It’s a challenging pose and can cause us to tense up, feeling as if we’re battling with it. So we want to relax with each exhale and let the pose work it’s beautiful magic.
To come out of this pose, on an inhale gently walk the hands back towards the hips and unfold the left knee so that both legs are straight and you are back in Dandasana. Then repeat on the other side.