Standing Head-to-Knee Pose – Instructions
The Standing Head-to-Knee pose is simple to execute, yet it’s a posture that requires immense flexibility in the hamstring, hips, and upper back areas, but also great balance and stability. It is the fifth of all the Bikram Yoga Poses, and comes right after the Eagle Pose and right before the Standing Bow-Pulling Pose.
The original name of the posture is Dandayamana Janushirasana.
Benefits & Purposes
The most notable benefit of the Standing Head-to-Knee is that it stretches and improves the flexibility of your hamstrings. You’ll notice that despite its simplicity it actually engages all of your body’s major muscle groups, and that you’ll require a lot of concentration if you want to perform it properly and get through it with grace.
Because of the significant bend at the waist that takes place when performing this posture, it helps improve the function of your digestive tract as well as reproductive organs. Additionally, it’s a solid exercise for improving the endurance and strengthening your abdominal muscles.
A wide range of body parts are strengthened through the proper execution of the Standing Head-to-Knee pose, including your tendons, upper arm muscles (biceps and triceps), shoulder-area muscles (trapezious, deltoids), upper and lateral back muscles, and of course the hamstrings.
As you become more experienced with this posture, you’ll notice a significant improvement in your concentration on a daily basis, and a better mind<->body connection and awareness. Some studies also indicate that this pose helps mitigate certain symptoms of diabetes, due to the significantly improved blood circulation in the body.
How To Perform The Standing Head-to-Knee Pose
Before you begin, realize that most people will require a few months of regular training before they can reach the level of flexibility and mental focus required to perform this pose as perfectly as you see in the picture above. What I’m trying to say is that you should not beat yourself over, nor try to push yourself past your limits if you cannot get it right during your first attempts – this will only lead to unjustified disappointment and/or injury, particularly to your hamstring tendon.
- Begin by shifting the weight of your body onto your left leg and interlocking all your fingers.
- Bend forward at the waist and lift your right knee towards your chest, until you can place your right foot onto the “platform” created by interlocking your fingers. Ideally, you want your fingers to be positioned 3 to 4 inches below the tips of your toes, and most people will find this easy to achieve.
- With your fingers still below your right foot and your torso bent forward, straighten your right leg until it becomes parallel to the floor. As stated earlier, this will be impossible to perform for the vast majority of beginners, and you probably won’t be able to get anywhere close to parallel. Do not try to force your leg into parallel position as this will result in an injury almost 100% of the time; simply extend your leg as far as you can before you start feeling uncomfortable pain, and hold that position.
- You want to keep the knees of both your legs locked the entire time; again, if you can’t do it as a beginner – do not worry.
- After holding your leg parallel to the floor for around a minute, then take a deep breath, exhale, and slowly start lowering your elbows (towards the calf) and the entire upper body. The goal is to get your front torso (chest, stomach) as close to the leg as possible, and also to have your forehead as close to the leg as possible. While you do this part of the pose, focus on feeling a stretch in your lower back.
- Hold for a while or for as long as indicated by your instructor, then move your torso away from the leg, go back to neutral position, and repeat the same procedure for the other leg.
Tips & Advice
- Don’t get discouraged, and don’t push yourself past your limits.
- Try to keep both knees locked at all times.
- Do not jerk your leg during any stage (be it when starting or finishing the pose); all movements should be very slow and controlled – otherwise it’s an injury waiting to happen.
- Keep your body weight evenly distributed over your entire standing foot – do not lean into the toes nor the heal.
- Keep your stomach sucked in and make sure your abdominal muscles remain contracted.
- As you improve, try to pull the foot of your lifted leg towards your body, so that it no longer is perpendicular to the floor.
Standing Head-to-Knee How-To Video
The video below demonstrates how to perform the Dandayamana Janushirasana correctly. Please keep in mind, however, that if doing Bikram Yoga alone at home, you should strive to hold this pose for much longer than the person demonstrating the posture on this video.