Janu Sirsasana is a mild spinal flexion and rotation combined with some hip flexion, external rotation and abduction (for the anatomy geeks out there🧐)
Here are a few pointers ⭐ Like all forward folds, we want to explore elongating the back of the spine as well as muscles at the back of the straight leg. ⭐ We can try different positions of the spine, either more of a straight back situation or a rounded, evenly flexed and spacious back that allows us to bring our chest and belly closer to our straight leg. ⭐ At the bent knee side we want to rotate the thigh bone externally and elongate the inner thigh outward (away from the midline). This may initially feel like an obstacle to the forward bending but overtime should start to teach us interesting pattern of moving our upper body forward in space. ⭐ A mild spinal twist is useful in order to align our upper body to the straight leg. These patterns of alignment can be very helpful in the long run and can result in more effective and mindful yoga postures. ⭐ As an asymmetrical pose it can bring awareness to imbalances in our body. Does it feel different in the right and left side? If so, how and where? ⭐ Try to focus on the exhales and extend them comfortably. Feel free to experiment with different breathing patterns until you find what works best. ⭐ This is a wonderful pose for looking into more subtle aspects of yoga practice which are called "Bandhas". Focus on drawing the lower naval area in as you breathe out and tone (lift) the pelvic floor gently as you breathe in. Consult with an experienced yoga teacher if these internal forms are not clear or ineffective. Cautionary Tip Make sure you are not feeling compression or any other form of discomfort at the lower back. If you do follow the steps mentioned below patiently.
Here are some steps we can take before we get into the full expression of Janu Sirsasana ⓵ Check out this video to practice preparing the backs of the legs for forward folds. ⓶ Make sure there is no knee pain! ☝️ If you feel any knee pain at the bent leg side: ➜ Use a block under the knee Or Slide the foot forward to increase the angle at the knee joint ✌️ If you feel any knee pain or over stretching the back of the knee/leg at the straight leg side: ➜ Roll a blanket or a towel and place it under the knee. [See photos above] ⓷ Use a yoga strap or any alternative you have available (belt, rolled towel..) 👉 Hold the strap firmly with two hand, in an even way on both sides and then gently pull the strap to elongate the spine. 👉 Gradually (and patiently) bring the upper body in an up-right position forward which will increase the sensations the back of the straight leg and also may affect the bent leg side. pay attention to any sensation that is coming up as you gradually go deeper into the pose. Determine whether these sensations are useful or harmful and decide whether to increase them slowly or back off. ⓸ Once you're able to grab your foot create a mild twisting pattern 👉 Grab the foot of the straight leg with the hand from the opposite side. 👉 Use the other hand as support on the ground beside you. 👉 Keep the spine more elongated and up-right and twist gently so the heart is facing the straight leg's foot. ⓹ Move towards full expression of Janu-Sirsasana (Head to Knee Pose) 👉 Grab the foot and start rounding the back making sure there is a sense of spaciousness and not compression particularly at the lower back. 👉 Gradually go deeper with your upper body towards the straight leg, creating a movement forward (flexion) from the hip region while continuing to round and lengthen the spine. 👉 Optional: reach the hand beyond the foot and clasp the fingers or hold a wrist.
⓺ Breathe in a way that supports holding the pose INHALE - open more space at the back and lengthen the spine EXHALE - draw the naval in and release the upper body forward and downward Important side note! Pay close attention to where you feel the stretch at the back of the straight leg. If you feel it too much at the back of the knee try to change the angle of the foot sideways or point-flex and see if it changes the location somewhat. You can also try to contract muscles at the front of the thigh and push the straight leg downward. If none of that works consult with a teacher. Stretching the tendons at the back of the knee is not necessarily risky but as a rule of thumb we are usually better off stretching more the hamstrings (at the back of the thigh) or the calf muscles (at the back of the shin). Try to use your instincts to intuitively shift stretching sensations to these areas.
You can embark on further investigation of these poses and more in any of the weekly classes or join the Masterclass for a more in-depth overview. Sign up here!