How to Do Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Head to knee pose
Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Seated Forward Bend

Targets: Hamstrings, hips, groin muscles

Level: Beginner

Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana) is an excellent stretch to relieve tight hamstrings, the muscles in the back of your thighs. If you dread the idea of a seated forward bend with both legs straight, this pose will come as a pleasant surprise. Taking your stretch one leg at a time allows you to go a lot deeper and feels so much better. Just make sure that you're keeping your forward fold centered over your extended leg for the best results. If you want to take your torso between your open legs that fine too, but it's a different pose known as Upavistha Konasana. Head-to-Knee Pose is part of the primary series of Ashtanga yoga.

Benefits

Head-to-Knee Pose stretches the hamstrings, hips, and groin muscles. Runners and those in sports that require running will often benefit from a good stretch for tight hamstrings. It is also a restorative pose that is said to help relieve stress and calm your mind. If you have menstrual cramps or menopause symptoms, this pose is one of those recommended for relief.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin sitting in Staff Pose (Dandasana) with both legs outstretched in front of you.

  1. Adjust the flesh under your seat so that your sit bones are firmly anchored.
  2. Bend your left knee and bring the sole of your left foot to your right inner thigh.
  3. Square your torso over your extended right leg. Begin to bring your torso down to your leg by tipping your pelvis forward so that the forward bend initiates from your hips instead of your lower back.
  4. Keep your right foot flexed while pressing the back of the right thigh down toward the floor.
  5. When you reach your maximum forward bending limit, you have a choice. You can maintain your straight spine and long neck in an active position or you can relax your heart and head down toward the extended leg, allowing the spine to round. Do whichever one feels better.
  6. If your hands reach your foot, hold your foot. If not, you may hold on to your ankle or calf or place your hands on the floor wherever they reach.
  7. On each inhale, extend the spine long, and on each exhale, deepen the forward bend.
  8. Stay five to 10 breaths and then straighten both legs, shake them out, and repeat the pose on the other side.

    Common Mistakes

    Don't collapse your back. Keep your heart center lifted as long as possible when you come forward. Aim your chest at your thigh instead of your forehead at your knee.

    Keep your spine straight until you reach the maximum you can do naturally. At that point, you can then round the spine if you choose.

    Modifications and Variations

    Need a Modification?

    You may sit up on a blanket if your hips are tight. You may also place a rolled-up blanket under the knee of your extended leg, which can help if you have tight hips or knee problems. It is also acceptable to keep your knee bent slightly if you have knee problems.

    If you like, place a strap around the extended foot. Hold an end of the strap in each hand as you forward bend.

    Up for a Challenge?

    Clasp your hands under the sole of the extended foot. You can criss-cross your wrists if you have enough range.

    Try the pose with the bent leg in a Half-Lotus position, with the top of your foot resting on the opposite thigh.

    Safety and Precautions

    Avoid this pose if you have any back or knee injuries. You should feel a stretch in your muscles but stop if you feel any pain. If you are using a strap, don't draw too hard to pull yourself forward.

    Try It Out

    Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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