Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pose of the Month: Janu Sirsasana

Janu Sirsasana is a wonderful seated forward bend that allows for space in the side body- your ribs, it opens the backs of your legs, spreading that connective tissue evenly from the heel to the buttock. It also helps to circulate blood through the legs and lengthens the upper torso. This posture feels especially good as a cool down built into your regular practice or anytime your legs feel tight. Providing flexibility to the hamstrings and spine while relaxing the central nervous system Janu Sirsasana is a mainstay in my prenatal yoga classes.

Sit on the floor with your buttocks lifted on a folded blanket if need be, and your legs straight in front of you. Inhale, bend your right knee, and draw the heel back toward your perineum. Rest your right foot sole lightly against your inner left thigh, and lay the outer right leg on the floor, with the shin at a right angle to the left leg (if your right knee doesn't rest comfortably on the floor, support it with a folded blanket). So now you are in a figure four position with your legs.

Press your right hand against the inner right groin, where the thigh joins the pelvis, and your left hand on the floor beside the hip. Exhale and turn the torso slightly to the left, lifting the torso as you push down on and ground the inner right thigh. Line up your navel with the middle of the left thigh, if your belly is there, you can stay in the center where there is space to fall forward. You can just stay here, using a strap to help you lengthen the spine evenly, grounding through the sitting bones, or when you are ready, you can drop the strap and reach out with your right hand to take the inner left foot, thumb on the sole. Inhale and lift the front torso, pressing the top of the left thigh into the floor and extending actively through the left heel. Use the pressure of the left hand on the floor to increase the twist to the left, so your chest is floating upward. Then reach your left hand to the outside of the foot. With the arms fully extended, lengthen the front torso from the pubis to the top of the sternum.

Exhale and extend forward from the groins, not the hips. Be sure not to pull yourself forcefully into the forward bend, hunching the back and shortening the front torso. As you descend, bend your elbows out to the sides and lift them away from the floor.

Lengthen forward into a comfortable stretch. The lower belly may touch the thighs first, the head may come last. Stay in the pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Come up with an inhalation and repeat the instructions with the legs reversed for the same length of time.

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