This month we’ll spend extra time in class learning about Head to Knee and the final Stretching Pose.
This posture duo comes near the very end of class, when you have already spent more than an hour systematically warming and stretching your body. Your muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons are more than ready for the deep front side compression of Forehead to Knee (Janushirasana) and the full stretch to the backs of your legs and entire spine during Stretching (Paschimottanasana). You are ready.
Throughout June, teachers will help you understand individual alignment details of both postures so that you can get the most out of them.
During June and beyond, focus on the following five tips.
Work your sit-ups.
Each sit-up, done as fully as possible, gets you ready for these two postures. In fact, the sit-up is like a moving mash-up of Head to Knee and Stretching. Legs out straight. Grab your toes. Pull your stomach in, and get your forehead as close as possible to your knees. Bend your elbows to the floor. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Wring every drop from every sit up you can.
Don’t wimp out!
Look, we get it. These postures come at the very end of the series, and you’ve been working hard for more than an hour. But the best gift you can give yourself is to keep working to your maximum. Don’t hide out in this posture. Commit to giving both sets at least 100% this month, and you’ll be impressed by your progress.
Remember the excellent, 10-finger interlaced, interlocked grip you got during Standing Head to Knee? You must get that same grip in Forehead to Knee Pose. If you can do it with a straight leg, by all means do that. But if you must bend your knee up to get a full grip, thumbs included, that is what you do. Once you have the grip, you can start to kick your heel forward to straighten your leg, just like you do during Standing Head to Knee. You can even use your forehead to push your knee down.
The grip for Stretching is just as important. Again, bend your legs up as much as needed to wrap the first two fingers of each hand around your big toes. Use your thumbs to lock your grip in place. Don’t just tickle your toes or limply grasp them. You need a firm grip for alignment and leverage.
Forehead to Knee MUST: Touch your forehead to your knee!
No bargaining, no excuses, get your head to your knee. Bend your knee up as much as you need to. It’s Standing Head to Knee Pose, not Head to Shin Pose or Head Sadly Dangling Down Near Your Knee While You Wish Class Was Over Pose. Yes, it is possible that you don’t yet have the flexibility to get there or that parts of your body are currently in the way, but you must aim for the forehead to knee goal and get as close as you can.
You must look forward to anchor and propel the straight spine that is the, ahem, backbone, of this posture. As soon as you drop your gaze down, your spine begins to round. Look forward, eyes on you in the front mirror. When you are still working on straightening your legs, when you are just beginning to bend your elbows down, it’s not only eyes forward, but chin up, chest up to maintain as much length as possible in your spine.
It’s true that you will see students in class who have their elbows down near the floor and have brought their upper body down to touch their lower body, who seem to be looking down. They are not. Deep into the posture, they have brought their face to parallel so that their entire spine, including their neck, is straight and stretching toward the front mirror. But they are still looking forward. The eyes continue to drive the rest of the body forward.
Please be sure to ask questions about this posture if you have them. Teachers are always available before and after class to work with you and help you understand what’s going on in your body and where you can move next as you do your best in each and every posture.
–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford