What is Janu Sirsasana?
Janu means knee and Sirsa is head, thus Janu Sirsasana is called the Head-to-knee pose in English. Similar to the seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana), in this asana one leg is straight and one leg is bent. We then bend forward from the hips and aim to touch the toes of the stretched leg. The posture is a wonderful hip opener as well as great for the hamstrings. It’s also considered useful for boosting energy in the body.
Position type: Forward Fold
Position type: Sitting
Ideal for: Hip mobility and back stretch
Targets: Back and hips
Pose level: Beginner
What are the benefits of Janu Sirsasana?
This asana stretches the hamstring muscles and increases flexibility in the hip joints, lower back and spine. It tones and massages the entire abdominal and pelvic region, including the liver, pancreas, spleen, urogenital system, kidneys, and adrenal glands. It also helps remove excess weight in this area and stimulates circulation to the nerves and muscles of the spine. It relaxes the mind and brings down stress and anxiety levels.
For women, it is very effective in relieving premenstrual symptoms by healing the heaviness around the lower abdomen. However, it should be practiced very gently without adding excessive pressure.
How to prepare for Janu Sirsasana?
The better the hip flexibility, the easier it is to do the asana. Practice standing forward fold, triangle pose, lunges and hip openers like bound angle pose, garland pose, bow pose and pigeon pose regularly. In the beginning, bend as much as you can without curving your back or bending the knees. Over time, you will find this improving.
Lower back flexibility
Spine and especially lower back flexibility is useful for this forward bend. Practice the cobra pose, locust pose, camel pose, and standing forward fold to improve flexibility. You can also do the dynamic movement of Paschimottanasana which involves going forward and backward a few times, like in surya namaskar.
How to practice Janu Shirsasana
Getting into the posture
- Sit with the legs outstretched and the feet together. Bend the left leg, placing the heel of the foot against the perineum and the sole of the foot against the inside of the right thigh. Keep the left knee on the floor.
- Place the hands on top of the right knee, keeping the spine straight and the back muscles relaxed. Slowly bend forward, sliding the hands down the right leg, and grasp the right foot. If possible, hold the big toe with the index finger, middle finger and thumb of the left hand and the outside edge of the foot with the right hand.
- Make an effort to touch the knee with the forehead. Stay here and keep breathing deeply.
Getting out of the posture
- Release the grip. Inhale and gently raise both the arms up and lift the chin and chest.
- Come back to Dandasana and rest here.
Janu Sirsasana Variations
- As a beginner, you can keep a gentle bend in the knees and rest the chest on the knee.
- Hold the shin/ankle and try bringing the head down as close as possible.
If you are comfortable with the version described earlier then you may
- Practice with one hand holding the other wrist and hooking on to the outstretched foot.
- You can start with the of Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, the revolved head-to-knee pose. This is a slightly challenging lateral bend and twist in the spine that gives a wonderful stretch to the waist, back and sides of the back.
What are the contraindications of Janu Sirsasana?
Anyone suffering from slipped disc, sciatica, hamstring injury or hernia should not practice Janu Sirsasana. If you have back pain or knee pain, be very careful and practice slowly. Those with asthma, diarrhea and abdominal ulcers also should avoid the pose as it adds pressure on the abdomen. It should also be avoided during pregnancy.
What are the counter poses of Janu Sirsasana?
Since this is a forward bend, practicing a backbend is useful. Practice Purvottanasana, the reverse plank pose and then follow it up with backbends like Camel Pose, Ustrasana or Cobra Pose, Bhujangasana.
What are the safety precautions for Janu Sirsasana?
Flex your feet and press your heels forward. This will help keep the thighs active and engaged. Keep the core muscles engaged to hold the asana. Bend your knees if you have to, and slowly with practice the hamstrings will loosen up then you can start straightening the legs.
- Lengthen the spine and keep it straight. Avoid allowing the shoulders to come near the ears. You can look straight instead of down as this will keep the spine straight.
- Pull the stomach in and engage the core before you bend forward.
- Keep the body relaxed in the final position and take deep breaths.
Try starting by bending the knees. Gradually, as your muscles loosen up, you will be able to hold the position. Always learn and practice the asana live with a teacher to avoid misalignments and injuries. It is best to know the right variations and progress in an injury-free manner.