Sep, 18, 2013
Dandayamana Janushirasana - 5th Pose in the Hot Yoga Sequence
Runners , Keep Your Knee Joints Strong & Healthy with this Pose!
No, I can't pronounce it either. So let's call this posture by its equally catchy English name: Standing Head To Knee Pose.
This pose is the first pose after the warm up; and introduces the standing and balancing series of the class.
This pose will give you thighs of steel and quite possibly knees so durable you can take the physio off speed-dial.
This pose is all about learning to use your leg muscles to lock out your knee. Sounds simple - standing on one straight leg - but it's not. Locking the leg is different from hyper-extending the leg. Hyper-extension is allowing the knee joint to lock, and involves little muscle recruitment. In this pose it's important that the leg is locked using muscle strength, and not hyper-extended using flexibility.
To lock out your leg, a strong set of quads, hams and glutes are key - these muscles protect the ligaments that surround the knee to keep the joint functioning properly. These ligaments include the lateral and medial collateral, anterior and posterior cruciate and meniscofemoral ligaments, as well as the lateral and medial meniscus cartilage tissue. And guess what? Keeping these ligaments strong and healthy is crucial for injury-free running.
Alongside occupational hazards such as 'tennis elbow' and 'golfer's wrist', 'runner's knee' is the dreaded non-specific but debilitating impact-related pain which torments many a runner (and leads to that physio on speed-dial).
To achieve the correct set-up for a locked - not hyper-extended - leg, follow this guide: Stand on one leg and distribute your bodyweight equally around your foot. Too much weight in the heel encourages hyper-extension; too much weight in the ball of the foot and toes upsets your balance.
Contract your quadricep muscles so you can see them 'lift' above the kneecap. Squeeze the gluteus muscles of the leg you're balancing on, allowing your hamstring to contract slightly to steady your balance. Once you can balance here, you're ready to start the pose.
Dandayamana Janushirasana: Step by Step
1. Stand with your feet together, toes and heels touching. Shift your body weight to your left leg, and lock this leg according to the guide above.
2. Interlace your fingers and thumbs, forming a 'cup' with your hands. This grip is used a lot in Bikram, and is often referred to as the 'Bikram grip'.
3. Contracting your abs to protect your lower back, bend at the waist, and pick up your right foot with your palms cupping the sole around the balls of your feet. If you have lower back problems, or struggle to reach your foot, bring your right knee up and grab just underneath the knee cap using the same grip.
4. Look forward, not at the ground, ensuring you keep your left leg locked contracting your quads, hams, glutes and abs to keep your balance.
5. If you cannot completely lock your left leg, stay in this stage of the pose until you can use your muscle strength to lock the leg completely straight. Hold for 60 seconds, return to standing and repeat balancing on your right leg for 60s. Return to standing, and then repeat again for 30s on each leg.
6. If your left leg is locked strong without any wobbling, extend your right leg, with your heel pushed out away from you and your toes turned back towards your face, maintaing the Bikram grip. At this stage, the aim is to lock out your extended leg and feel a deep stretch in the calf and hamstring of your extended leg.
7. If you're able to comfortably lock both legs without your grip slipping, you can relax your shoulders and drop your elbows either side of your calf. If you're still able to maintain this stage of the pose comfortably (good luck with that), you can slowly lower your head until your forehead is touching your knee and you're looking up your belly button. Hold for five seconds and slowly reverse out of the pose the same way you came in, before repeating the pose standing on your right leg.
Dandayamana Janushirasana: The benefits
'This pose is excellent damage limitation for your knees,' says Olga Allon, Director and Head Teacher at Hot Bikram Yoga in London. 'The longer the ligaments surrounding your knee joint stay strong and healthy, the longer you'll be able to run without any knee pain.'
'Don't worry if you can only grab your knee at first; it can take years to get to the full expression of the pose. The most important thing is that you learn to lock your knee properly, contracting your abs as you lean forward (we call this an 'inversion' in Bikram).'
'There is a cardiorespiratory response to this pose, so don't be alarmed if your heart rate is elevated and you feel slightly out of breath in between the two sets. Keep breathing steadily in and out through your nose to remain calm.'
'The mental element of this pose is to have patience when building up the strength to lock your leg. Until you're fully comfortable with the stage of the pose you're at, it's unwise to move onto the next level, which can be a frustratingly slow process. Like trying to better a PB: It takes time, but it will happen if you put the effort in and remain patient with your progress.'
Bikram specialist Olga Allon teaches at London's Hot Bikram Yoga.