Letting Go with Janu Sirsasana

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Letting go is not easy. In most of our daily activities we are doing just the opposite. We are working towards a goal. We are trying to strengthen. We are always pushing.

In Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Forward Bend), we practice letting go. By lengthening the exhalation we can learn to relax during the pose. Yoga teaches you that discomfort is okay and we learn to let go of stress in situations we view as less than ideal.

Forward folds turn your focus inwards. When doing the Head to Knee Forward Bend (a pose I have always loved) I automatically close my eyes. It’s instinct. My body draws in and my mind follows. Focus is on my inner world and it’s a bit easier to let go of what’s happening around me.

As you extend forward into the fold, the intention is not one of force. Don’t pull yourself lower than what your body is ready for. It is a perfect time to practice Satya, which is the yogic principle of truth. Be honest with yourself. Let go of expectations and although the pose may not be exactly what you had pictured, it could be exactly what you need at this time.

Benefits of Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Forward Bend)

  • Stretches and strengthens the spine and lower back
  • Stretches the hamstring and groin
  • Calms the mind
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps to alleviate mild depression
  • Reduces headache pain
  • May help to alleviate menstrual cramps
  • Relieves symptoms of insomnia and high blood pressure
  • Stimulates the kidney and liver

Besides giving us the chance to reflect and turn inwards, why is it this posture is so calming?

Janu Sirsasana stimulates the bladder meridian that, according to Chinese medicine, flows down the back of your body and the backs of your legs. The urinary bladder channel has to do with our ability to cope with life and change.

It is also connected with the limbic system of our brain. The limbic system controls our moods and adds the positive or negative spin on our emotions. Neuroscientists believe that the limbic system needs to be kept cool in order for us to feel emotionally stable. An overactive limbic system is associated with depression and anxiety.

Interestingly, according to Chinese medicine, emotions are simply an expression of chi or energy – they are neither good nor bad. What’s important is that they are allowed to flow without impediment.

Janu Sirsasana

Directions

  1. Begin seated on the floor in Staff Pose, with your legs stretched out in front of you. Rest the sole of your right foot against your inner left thigh. The right leg is open on the floor with the knee pointing out.
    *Tip: You can sit on a block or a folded blanket in order to elevate your hips. This will tilt your pelvis forward slightly and allow you to keep you back straighter as you fold.
  2. Inhale and stretch your arms above your head lifting the rib cage up from the pelvis. As you exhale, twist your torso gently so that your spine is lined up with the extended (left) leg.
  3. Take another deep breath in and lengthen your spine up. Feel your rib cage expand. Exhale and bend forward from your hips. Fold as far as you can without rounding your back and then place your hands on the floor on either side of your leg.
  4. Maintain the length in your spine and reach your hands towards your left foot. Hold on to your foot, ankle or leg or a strap wrapped around the foot.
    janu sirsasana stick figure
  5. With each inhalation, extend and lengthen your spine. Reach your tailbone and the crown of your head away from each other.
  6. With each exhalation, focus on softening, folding and letting go of tension.
  7. Hold the pose for 1 to 5 minutes on each side. Sigh happily.

For more on Janu Sirsasana, see this mini Head to Knee Sequence.

Creative Commons License Koi Fish photo credit: richard winchell

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