We’ve divided the whole practice into different parts: warm-up, posture steps, alignment cues, relax pose, modification, and variation. This will help you get detailed insight about the pose and ensure that your practice is easy and stress-free.
Part 1 - Preparatory Poses for Janu Sirsasana
It’s important to lengthen your spine, open your glutes and loosen your upper body to practice head-to-knee pose. Here are a few ways to prepare these muscles groups:
1. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) - If your body feels super tight and tense, it's wise to loosen up. Sun Salutation flow is the perfect way to activate your entire body.
Surya namaskar is an Ashtanga yoga warm-up flow sequence with 12 different poses to perform in one round on each side. Beginners can perform 10 to 12 cycles of Surya Namaskar flow, which will help them open up their body systematically.
2. Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) - After Surya Namaskar, sit on the mat and bend your legs to make a namaste formation with your legs. Keep your back muscles straight, and knees close to the ground.
Hold both feet with your hands and make sure your eyes are closed. Hold this position for 1 to 5 minutes. You can also move your upper body side to side to enhance lower back mobility, or try flapping your legs on each side to increase blood circulation in your pelvis.
3. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) - After warming up with Bound Angle Pose, straighten your legs in front of you and sit in Staff pose. Keep your upper body straight, inhale slowly and deeply as you raise your arms overhead.
Now, bend forward from your torso onto both legs. Engage your core, start to exhale, and one by one, rest your chest, back, arms, and head on your legs. Hold the pose for a few minutes and feel your spine, glutes, and hamstrings gently burning.
Part 2: Step-by-Step Instructions to Perform Janu Sirsasana
The following are steps to practice the head-to-knee pose:
Step 1- Start by sitting in the center of the mat in Dandasana or Staff Pose.
Step 2- Next, bend your left knee and tuck the sole of your foot in the inner thigh of your extended right leg. Keep your bent knee close to the ground.
Step 3- Straighten your spine and inhale deeply as you bring your arms over your head. Here, lengthen your spine and engage your shoulders and core together.
Step 4- Next, slightly shift your body weight onto your right extended leg, and start to exhale slowly as you descend forward.
Step 5- Bend your upper body onto your leg completely. Ensure that your arms extend forward and your chest is above your thigh as you bend your leg.
Step 6- Hold your right leg's foot with both palms and rest your head on your knee. Hold the pose here for a few deep breaths.
Step 7- Release the pose by inhaling and lifting your chest and arms back up. Finally, straighten both legs into Staff pose, relax for a few seconds, and repeat on the other side.
Inhale: While your arms are overhead and spine is lengthening upright.
Exhale: While bending to reach for your extended foot forward and placing your head on your knee.
Performance Duration for Beginners: Hold Janu Sirsasana for 1 minute on each side.
Performance Duration for Advanced: Hold for as long as you feel comfortable on each side.
Part 3: Things to Keep in Mind
Below are some essential alignment cues for beginners to keep in mind before starting their head-to-knee pose practice:
Keep your back straight: Collapsing your back while bending forward may cause serious spine or neck injuries. It’s important to be mindful of your sitting posture. Keep your back straight throughout the practice, to keep your spinal column safe.
Do not lock your knees: Locking your knees means that you are over-straightening your legs, which may cause knee joints to start hurting or deteriorating. You can avoid locking your joints by making sure your legs maintain a slight bend around your joints while extending forward.
Do not overstretch: Overstretching of the spine, back, hamstrings, or glutes can cause muscle tears. So, be mindful of your body's stretching capabilities. If you feel any specific area starts to hurt or feel weird, make a conscious decision to immediately step out of the pose.
Part 4: Relaxing Poses After Janu Sirsasana
The following are a few yoga poses that will relax your body after practicing head-to-knee pose:
1. Dandasana (Staff Pose): After head-to-knee pose practice, get into Staff pose by extending both your legs straight forward. Keep your spine upright and sit in this pose for a few minutes.
As you feel your hamstrings and core muscles relax, you can also close your eyes to soothe your mind.
2. Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose): To restore the natural curve of your spine, continue to the Upward Plank pose. In staff position, place your palms at the sides of your hips and press down on the mat with your fingers.
Inhale and engage your shoulders, core, and toes. Press into the ground and lift your core off the yoga mat. Hold your body like an inclined plank, keeping your neck, back, core, and toes in one straight line.