Janushirsasana: A Multi-Tasker’s Pose

JanushirsasanaWhat I love about Janushirsasana is that you’re not just doing a forward fold.  Yes, you are forward folding over one leg, but the other leg is bent and open as if you were doing Baddha konasana, which is a hip opener. This means that with this one pose, your body receives the benefits of forward folding and hip opening.

Forward folds are particularly beneficial for people with low back pain. Make sure that you don’t have any bulging discs, though. Forward bends and bulging discs are a bad combination for a home practice.

Also, when your bent leg rotates open, that gives you an opportunity to get into your hips and stretch your piriformis. Frequently, this pesky muscle is a component (if not a primary cause) of back pain. When done correctly, this pose can greatly relieve back pain.

Janu-What?

Loosely translated, Janushirsasana means head to knee pose. There are several different spellings of this pose in the yoga community. Some even involve the pose being spelled with two words.

I bring this up because as you read different yoga books, one author might spell this pose differently from another. As far as I can tell, it’s a matter of preference and how you were taught. Regardless of the spelling, the posture is accomplished in the same way.

Janushirsasana

  1. We will use ujjayi breathing.
  2. Begin in Dandasana. Make sure that your femurs are medially rotated and that you can feel your SITs bones pressing firmly into the ground.
  3. Lift out of your hips as you bend your left knee and bring it toward your chest.
  4. Let the left knee open to the side. Place the foot against the right thigh. Transfer energy from the left foot to the right thigh and vice versa. Remember, in order for the left knee to open closer to the ground, external rotation must happen in the left hip. If it is stressful on your knee or hip to have your knee bent and open to the side, there are a couple of things you can do. First, you can sit on a folded blanket to give your hips a slight lift. Second, you can place a block under your knee to help support your leg.
  5. Again, lift out of your hips and allow your pelvis to hinge forward. Keep a straight spine while you let your pelvis hinge forward.
  6. Allow your hands to come down beside or on your right leg. Make sure that the hands simply rest on your leg. There should be no grabbing because grabbing can cause injury.
  7. When your pelvis cannot hinge forward anymore, allow your spine to soften. Fold over your right leg.
  8. As you inhale, think of lengthening and allowing the pelvis to rotate further. On your exhale, think of softening into this pose.
  9. Hold for 8 breaths.
  10. On your last exhale, draw the belly button to the spine, lengthen, and come up to a seated position.
  11. Fold your left leg up, and slide it out beside the right leg.
  12. Follow steps 2-10 for the second side.

Janushirsasana Video

Here is a video for visual learners.

When you do Janushirsasana, where do you feel the stretch or work? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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