Yoga Pose Focus: the subtleties of Janusirshasana (head to knee pose)

by Jay Hiller, September 2, 2022

Woman demonstrating Janusirshasana
Exploring the subtleties of Janusirshasana in work clothes.
Photo by DH who interrupted his workout to help me. Thanks!

Shortly after I started teaching yoga, I noticed that B.K.S. Iyengar includes variations of Janusirshasana in almost every yoga sequence of his book, Yoga for Holistic Health. So I started teaching it a lot. It’s not an easy pose for me. My body isn’t particularly bendy. Teaching Janusirshasana and having to pay attention to it because I was teaching it, taught me about the pose and led me to appreciate it. Of course, there’s always more to learn.

Here are some points I emphasize when teaching it:

  1. It’s a back lengthening pose, not a how-far-past-your-toes-can-you-reach pose. I encourage people to find a hand placement where they can concentrate on lengthening their back with each inhalation.
  2. Long holds in janusirshasana are great for noticing restrictions in your body. For me, it’s tension in my lower back and hamstrings. Other people may find that they have to stop because their torso is lying flat on their leg and there’s no more room for them to go. Some people only go so far because of the shape of their bones, I’m told, though I have no idea how you would know that that’s the case.

A quick skim of the Iyengar book mentioned above and Yoga Toolbox for Teachers and Students by Joseph and Lillian Le Page (2005, Integrative Yoga Therapy) show the following features and benefits:

  • Activates all 7 Chakras, with a focus on the 1st, 2nd & 6th (Le Page & Le Page)
  • Can be performed as a Vinyasa which is especially helpful for correcting Kapha imbalances (Le Page & Le Page)
  • Good for cooling, eases the effects of stress on the heart and mind (Le Page & Le Page; Iyengar)
  • Stabilizes blood pressure (Iyengar)
  • Eases stiffness in the shoulder, hip, elbow, wrist and finger joints (Iyengar)
  • Relieves stiffness in the legs and strengthens the muscles in the legs (Iyengar)
This book contains information about Janusirshasana and many other poses.

Whether head touches your knee or not, whether it will in the future or not, this is a very good pose to practice. I hope you’ll give it your attention.

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