1.06.2011

Asana of the Week: Janu Sirsasana


Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose) is a revolved forward fold that packs a therapeutic punch.  As a matter of fact, this has been my go-to pose all week.  My low back has been unusually cranky and my right SI joint has been feeling tweaked.  Janu Sirsasana is one of the only postures that puts everything right again.

This pose lengthens and releases the muscles of the back and sides, particularly the latissimus dorsi and external obliques.  The spinal extensors are given a good stretch, as are the hamstrings and calf muscles of the extended leg.  The outer hip of the folded leg is opened as are the internal obliques of the same side.  The lower trapezius and rhomboids of the mid to upper back are both lengthened by the extension of the arms as the weight of the head is allowed to rest on the knee or shin of the extended leg.  Internally, this pose tones the liver and spleen, encouraging healthy digestion, as it tones and stimulates the kidneys for optimal renal function. 

Because of all this one-sided lengthening, Janu Sirsasana is an excellent pose for exploring the asymmetries of the back body.  This pose will reveal which side of the sacroiliac joint is more stable and which is more mobile, and which side of the back is stronger and which is longer.  Imbalance in the hips and hamstrings will also be made obvious to the practitioner as he or she practices this pose first to one side and then the other.

To set up for Janu Sirsasana properly, extend one leg and bend the other tightly so that the heel of the bent leg is as near to the perineum as possible.  Draw the knee out to the side by engaging the glutes and piriformis.  Adjust the pelvis so that both hips bones are pointed straight ahead by securing the sole of the foot against the inner thigh of the straight leg.  Maintain a slight internal rotation of the extended leg as you engage the quadriceps and draw the head of the femur (thigh bone) securely into the hip joint.  Lengthen the spine fully with an inhalation before folding forward over the straight leg.

Janu Sirsasana Sequence:  Here's a nice restorative sequence to gently open the hips, release tension in the back body, and encourage a general sense of well-being.  Breath deeply and enjoy each posture for as long as you like.
  1. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Posture) - Supported version.  Prop yourself up as you like with bolsters and blankets (or pillows and towels, as the case may be).
  2. Supta Pawanmuktasana (Leg Lock Posture) - Remove the props.  Hug the knees into the chest, rock gently back and forth, side to side on the sacrum and lumbar spine.
  3. Supta Udarakarshanasana (Revolved Abdomen Posture) - With the knees together, open the arms out to the sides and let the knees fall over to the left, twisting the spine.  Breath into the belly and let gravity do the work.  Repeat to the opposite side.
  4. Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby)
  5. Rock up to seated - Begin by rocking very slightly.  Build momentum until you are rocking along the entire length of the spine, then come all the way up to seated.
  6. Marichyasana C (Sage Twist C)
  7. Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)
  8. Switch sides & repeat steps 6-7.
  9. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold)
  10. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) - Supported version, either with the heels of the hands or a block supporting the sacrum.  A strap may be used around the thighs to secure the legs and allow for greater release.
  11. Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
  12. Savasana (Corpse Pose)

3 comments:

  1. ok I need to explore this pose a bit more in depth. There is something going on in my SI joint/hip/IT band/levator ani/ or whatever this pain in my right rear is called... and my hubby says it can't be him LOL No one I've seen has been able to pinpoint this pain.

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  2. I LOVE this pose for all the reasons you mention, especially what it does for my lower back where my scoliosis is. I like to explore it by opening the hip on the bent knee as well, and from there you can open up the chest and lead nicely into a twist. Super post!

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  3. Liveloveyoga - My recommendation for the pain in your butt? Ass massage. Have your hubby, or whoever is willing, give your right hip/glutes/low back a deep massage. If no one is willing or present to help you out, try coming into Rock-the-Baby (shin hugged into the chest) and then roll around on the outer hip & glutes of the bent leg. You may find some interesting knots there that need to be worked out.

    La Gitane - I have much love for the revolved variation, as well. It's a fantastic side stretch.

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