Janu Sirsasana (JAH-new shear-SHAHS-anna)Head-to-Knee Forward Bend
Do this pose this Spring
tohelp cleanse your internal organs and free up your hips, pelvis and leg muscles. Your inner and outer leg lines correlate to the meridian (energy) lines that feed into the liver and gallbladder, which work overtime in the winter when our diets are often heavy in fat, protein, caffeine, alcohol and sugar. We want to free up our pelvis and groins now (the earthy, watery, "Kapha Dosha" part of our body) to release the dense and heavy energy that collects in the winter.
This multi-tasking pose for all levels of students is both a forward bend and a spinal twist. It:
* Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings and groins
* Improves digestion and helps heal gastric ailments
* Calms the mind and central nervous system
* Relieves anxiety, fatigue, headache and menstrual discomfort
* Helps relieve symptoms of menopause
* Is therapeutic for high blood pressure, depression and insomnia.
Precautions for doing this pose include knee and low back pain/injuries.
Step by Step
Sit in Staff Pose, with your legs extended and hips on a folded blanket (if your lower back rounds). Bend your right knee and rest the right heel as close to the top of your left groin as is comfortable. Support your right knee with a cushion/blanket if it's not on the floor.
Perform This Pose in Two Stages
1. Do first with a straight back, bending from the hip sockets with "no knobs" poking out from your back/spine. Hands can be behind the hips to help keep your spine straight, on a belt looped around your left foot, out to the sides, or extended above your head. As you extend forward, work with your breath. Pause, inhale and ground through your sitting bones. Lift your rib cage away from your hips, extending your heart away from the navel. Lengthen your spine front and back, shoulders sliding down your back. As your exhale, twist the core of your body toward your extended leg. When you get to your safe "yoga edge" of sensation, breathe and hold for half a minute.
2. For the full pose, keep as much length in your spine as you can, but allow your spine to round as you bend further forward from the hips. Rest your hands on the floor, your thigh, knee, shin or foot. If your head isn't close to your left knee, bend the knee more until you feel your back stretching on the left side. Take at least five full breaths, sending energy into places of deep "sensation"-perhaps your hamstrings, base of the spine, or neck/shoulders.
If fear, discomfort, fear, frustration or even anger arise, be comforted by the fact that the pose is working! We hold our deep unconscious fears and sadness at the base of the spine to the soles of the feet. Done consciously, this pose strengthens our ability to "let go" and surrender to divine experience, releasing tension and energetic/emotional blocks. We can find ourselves stepping more confidently and clearly on our path of understanding.
Virabhadrasana I (verr-ah-bah-DRAHS-ana)('Exhaulted' Warrior) Variation
Do this pose to strengthen your inner warrior--to connect with the grounding energy of the earth...and harness the mental focus, stamina, courage and self-control you need to pursue your New Year's intentions. Like the warrior Arjuna in the most revered of all yoga texts, the Bhagavad-Gita, imagine bravely battling the universal enemy, self-ignorance (avidya), the key source of all our suffering.You'll strengthen your feet, ankles , legs and core in this pose as you trim your thighs and arms. You'll open your chest and lungs, shoulders, neck, belly, hip flexors.
From Mountain Pose, step back with the left foot, turning it out 45 degrees. (Or enter from feet spread wide as done here). Square your hips forward, as you bend your right knee up to 90 degrees (aligned over the ankle hinge). Feeling grounded in your legs and engaging your core (heart lifted/tailbone down), inhale your arms overhead. Sink down through the sitz bones as you press up through your crown and fingertips. Roll shoulders back and down. Breathe deeply, staying in the pose 30 seconds or 4 or 5 breaths. Gradually build to 1 minute or more. Repeat on opposite side.
To release, step forward on the inhalation. Find more instruction at Yoga Journal.
Variation: Lift and press through the back heel to more directly stretch your quads and strengthen balance/poise.