Standing Head To Knee Pose, Dandayamana Janushirasana, (dahn-die-ya-MAH-nah JOHN-nu SHEER-SHAH-sah-nah)
danda (stick) + yamana (balancing) + jānu (knee) + śīrṣa (head) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Dandayamana Janu Shirasana
You’ll need consistency and patience to achieve this pose – but the benefits are well worth it.
Standing Head To Knee Pose Fundamentals
Standing Head To Knee Pose is one of the most challenging and intimidating of all the Bikram poses, as it demands advanced balance skills and flexibility.
You will need a lot of patience and experience to master this asana, but it will still offer most of its benefits while you’re working towards it.
Add this asana to your practice if you want to build your balance, and take your hamstring flexibility to a whole new level. The pose also stimulates the reproductive and digestive systems and will refresh your energy.
However, where the biggest benefit of this asana lies, is in attempting to reach a union between the body and mind. Even if you are the strongest and most flexible person out there, achieving this pose will be impossible without focus.Although we can, and should, practice concentration and awareness in all yoga poses, challenging asanas like the Standing Head To Knee Pose really put it to the test. You need to move with intention, both while entering and holding the pose.
By focusing on maintaining good alignment in this pose, you will naturally come back to the present moment, which in itself comes with a sense of bliss and ease.
Furthermore, continuing to work on the pose even if it’s difficult, helps you develop more patience and self-discipline (tapas) which is useful both on and off the mat.
Standing Head To Knee Pose Benefits
- Strengthens the standing leg, as well as the arms, back, and core.
- Stretches and lengthens the muscles of the lower back and the lifted leg.
- Compressing the torso towards the lifted leg stimulates the organs of the digestive and reproductive systems and may boost their function.
- Improves your sense of balance, as well as focus and coordination.
- Helps students become present, and unify their minds and body.
How To Do Standing Head To Knee Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Start standing in Mountain Pose, and take a moment to become aware of your body, to concentrate on the present moment, and to root your feet into the ground.
2. Shift your weight into the right foot, and slowly lift the left leg with a bent knee.
3. Grab the left foot with both hands, interlocking the fingers.
4. Before you move forward, pause, and check if you are balancing your weight evenly throughout all four sides of your right foot. Engage your quadriceps and keep your ankle, knee, and hip in the same line.
5. Take a deep inhale and begin straightening the left leg in front of you, so it’s parallel to the floor. Your hands will act as resistance.
6. Engage your core, flex your foot, and begin leaning your torso towards the thigh, trying to touch the knee with your forehead.
7. When you find your edge, hold the pose for around 5 breaths.
8. Release back to Tadasana, take a moment to ground yourself, then move to the other side.
Tips And Tricks:
- In this pose, the students are instructed to lock both knees. That means both knees are completely straight and the knee and ankle joints are in the same line.
- Actively engage your thigh muscles to protect your knee joints.
- Before you straighten the lifted leg, make sure you’re distributing your weight evenly across all four points of the standing foot.
- Maintain a sturdy grip on the lifted leg with all five fingers.
- Three things will help you most with balance – contract your abs, flex the lifted foot, and find your drishti – gaze.
- Keep your elbows close to your leg.
- Tuck the chin into your chest and slightly round the spine, so you can move the forehead to the knee.
- Move slowly and with control, and avoid forcing the pose or jerking your leg.
Standing Head To Knee Pose Variations:
Standing Balance Pose
When you’re doing the Bikram series, and if you’re not able to do the Standing Head To Knee Pose – you can simply work on improving your balance with this variation.
In this modification, your hands will remain on your hips, and you’ll only focus on trying to make the lifted leg perpendicular to the floor. That can be difficult without hands, which makes this pose great for learning to activate your quads in order to keep the leg lifted.
Seated Hand To Big Toe Pose
The previous variation will help you build your balance, and the Seated Hand To Big Toe Pose – otherwise known as Head To Knee Pose – is ideal for building the flexibility needed to achieve the pose. It is best to perform both poses to work on both skills.
For this variation, you will begin seated in Staff Pose. Keep one leg straight in front of you, and bend the other, so that your foot is touching the thigh of the extended leg and the knee is opening outwards.
Turn your torso towards the straight leg and begin to fold forward, rounding your back and trying to touch the forehead to the knee. Hold the foot with your hand if possible, just like in the standing variation.
Standing Head To Knee Pose: With A Strap
Grabbing your foot with your hands and keeping the leg straight might be difficult due to tight muscles, but also due to anatomy. Those with longer hands will naturally find it much easier to approach this pose.
Regardless of the reason, if grabbing the extended foot messes up your alignment – use a strap. Wrap the strap around the foot and hold it with both hands at a comfortable length.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Lock the knees – but do it right. One of the main cues for this pose is to lock the knees of both legs. However, don’t force it, as that leads to hyperextension and potential injury. Instead, focus on engaging your thigh muscles to get stability and protect the knee.
Only working on the hamstrings. The hamstring stretch in this pose is intense, so it’s common to take away the whole focus. However, many things are happening in this asana, so try to shift your concentration through all of them – making sure your abs and thighs are engaged, your kneecaps are lifted, and both feet are active.
Injuries and Contraindications
Avoid the pose if you are recovering from an injury or surgery in the knees, ankles, feet, lower back, rib cage, shoulders, hips, and hamstrings. Due to the strong compression also refrain from the pose if you have any complications in the internal organs. Finally, balancing combined with forward folding may be dangerous for those with high blood pressure, vertigo, and dizziness, so it might be better to perform a more gentle variation instead.
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