Forward Bend, Seated Head to Knee
JĀNU ŚĪRSĀSANA (जानु शीर्षासन)
(JAH-noo sher-SHAH-sah-nah)

 


‘Jānu’= knee, ‘Śīrsa’= head, ‘āsana’= posture


Alternate Names

Janu Shirashasana
Head to Knee Pose
Head to Knee Fold Pose
Head on Knee Pose
Head-to-Knee Forward Bend

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Pose Type: Forward-Bend / Stretch / Seated / Hip Opener

1. Start in Staff Pose (Dandasana), seated with your legs extended straight (do not lock the knees). Make sure to bring your shoulder blades back so that your shoulders are down and under your ears with your spine extended upward.
2. Tuck in your tailbone and root down into your sit bones. Press your legs firmly to the floor, grounding yourself to the mat, without locking your knees. Flex your feet with your toes are pointing to the sky.
3. Bend and rotate your right knee, so that it points away from your left leg. Bring your right heel up to your groin so that the sole of your foot is resting on the inside of your upper left thigh. The outer edge of your right foot should be resting on the mat.
4. Make sure your left leg stays extended straight with your knee up toward the sky. Do not lock your knee.
5. Take a deep breath and raise both arms above your head. When ready, exhale and begin to bend forward from the hips. Engage your abdomen, broaden your shoulders, and lengthen through your spine to the crown of your head. Keep your back straight as you try to touch your chest and forehead to your left thigh/knee.
6. Lift your belly and stretch through your spine and left leg as you continue to bend forward and wrap your hands around the soles of your feet. Be sure not to lock your elbows.
7. Hold this pose for several breaths and breath smoothly. Make sure not to bounce or force the stretch.
8. When ready, slowly release and rise back into Staff Pose (Dandasana).

Common Adjustments
• Rounded back and/or shoulders and straining to stretch farther
• Neck strained or shoulders hunched / lifted
• Folding at the lower back or waist instead of the hips
• Knees and/or elbows locked
• Knee of extended leg not facing up toward the sky

Modifications
• Students with tight calf muscles and/or hamstrings, have stiff knees, or have osteoarthritis in the knees, can either: a) place a blanket or bolster under their knee or b) bend the knee of the extended leg.
• For students, who have tight hamstrings, a tight lower back, tight hips, or cannot reach their foot, they can either: a) practice with a strap wrapped around their foot and gently pull the strap, b) start with first reaching for their shin, then their ankle, and then build up their flexibility to reach their foot, c) place a pillow, blanket, or bolster on their thigh and/or knee to rest their head on (this also helps with breathing if stress is felt in the chest or lower abdomen), d) sit on the edge of a folded blanket, block, or chair (with or without a strap), or f) place a chair in front of their foot to grab onto.
• If the ankle of the bent knee is uncomfortable, place a blanket under the ankle for support. If the bent knee is uncomfortable or lifted, place a blanket, bolster, or block under the knee for support.
• Pregnant students should practice Forward Bend, Seated Wide Angle - Dragonfly (Upavistha Konasana). Alternatively, the can utilize straps and blankets to make the posture more comfortable and open the extended leg wider. They can also practice by placing a chair in front of their foot to grab onto.
• For alignment, practice with your back against the wall. Place foot against the wall for a deeper stretch.
• For advanced students, place a block behind their foot and have them reach for the block. Alternatively, they can either: a) grab their toes, b) wrap their hands round their foot with their hands together in either Venus Lock or Bear Grip, or c) wrap their hands around their feet and then clasp one wrist while their other hand is in Guyan Mudra.

Counter Poses
• Knees to Chest (Apanasana)
• Cobra (Bhujangasana)
• Bow (Dhanurasana}
• Camel (Ustrasana)
• Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
• Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) or One-Legged Bridge Pose (Eka Pada Setu Bandhasana)
• Plank, Side (Vasisthasana)
• Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
• Upward Facing Plank Pose (Purvottonasana)

Anatomy
• Neck• Chest (Pectoralis Major)
• Shoulders (Deltoids)• Biceps and Triceps
• Abdomen (Core) and Obliques• Upper (Cervical), Middle (Thoracic), and Lower (Lumbar) Back and Spine
• Hips (Psoas and Iliopsoas)• Gluteus Maximus, Medius, and Minimus (Glutes)
• Quadriceps and Hamstrings• Calf muscles and Ankles

Benefits
• Stretches and strengthens the neck, arms, shoulders, abdomen, entire back, spine, hips, groin, hamstrings, calf muscles, and ankles. This helps to improve flexibility in the lower back and hamstrings.
• Improves blood circulation, which improves lung function, as well as soothes headaches, along with menopause and menstrual discomfort. This also stimulates the kidneys, bladder, stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver, and uterus and soothes the adrenal glands. This is therapeutic for students with diabetes, weak liver or kidneys, or sciatica.
• Massages digestive and pelvic organs which improves colon function and digestion.
• Improves posture and spinal alignment.
• Stimulates the reproductive, endocrine, and urinary systems.
• Stimulates the nervous system, which calms the brain, reducing stress and anxiety, as well as relieves mild depression, insomnia, and fatigue.
• Opens chest and lungs and is therapeutic for students with high blood pressure, asthma, and sinusitis.

Contraindications
1. Students with acute hip, lower back, knee, or hamstring injuries, spondylitis, intestinal discomfort, or diarrhea should avoid this pose. If the student wants to practice this pose, it should be done with modifications, props, and guidance.
2. Students with a slip disc, bulging disc, a hernia, have low blood pressure or intestinal discomfort, or are pregnant should avoid this pose, as well as just after a student has had an asthmatic attack.
3. Students with arm, shoulder, knee or ankle injury should be cautious and practice with guidance.
4. Students with Asthma should use caution in this pose.
5. Never push down on a student’s spine or knees.

Chakras
Chakra One:Root or Muladhara (root support) Chakra. This is the survival and gravity chakra. Its goals are stability, grounding, prosperity, right livelihood, and physical health. Its location is the base of the spine, coccygeal plexus, legs, feet, and large intestines.
Chakra Two:Sacral or Svadhisthana (sweetness) Chakra. This is the chakra for emotion, sexuality, and attraction of opposites. Its goals are fluidity, pleasure, and relaxation. Its location is the abdomen, genitals, lower back, and hips.
Chakra Three:Solar Plexus, Self-Power, or Manipura (lustrous gem) Chakra. This is the combustion, power, and energy chakra. Its goals are vitality, strength of will, and purpose. Its location is the solar plexus.
Chakra Five:Throat, Visuddha, Vissudha, Vishuddhi, or Vishuddha (purification) Chakra. This is the communications and sympathetic vibrations chakra. Its goals are clear communication, creativity, and resonance. Its location is the throat.
Charka Six:Third-Eye or Ajna (to perceive) Chakra. This is the intuition and projection chakra. Its goals are psychic perception and imagination. Its location is the brow.



Additional information on this asana can be found in your textbooks

  • In the textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini, this posture can be found in Chapter 8 – Seated Postures as “Janu Shirshasana – Head-to-Knee Pose”.
    • Watch the Chapter 8 video “Janu Shirshasana” found in the Web Resources that come with your textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini. This video gives you an additional example of how to practice this asana.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, this posture can be found in Chapter 9 – SITTING POSES as “JANU SIRSASANA – Head-to-Knee Pose”.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, a variation of this posture can be found in Chapter 9 – SITTING POSES as “PARIVRTTA JANU SIRSASANA – Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose”.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, a variation of this posture can be found in Chapter 9 – SITTING POSES as “MAHAMUDRA – The Great Seal”.

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