Jul, 23, 2013
Hot Yoga – Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose
Hot Yoga Signature Postures:
Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose – Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Janushirsasana
The work in this incredibly satisfying yoga asana is in rounding your back (opens up your spine) while engaging the main three seals (bandhas), creating a back extension with a powerful, inner compression. A deep forward bend with an added hip-opener, there’s a lot going on here! Throat lock (stimulates thyroid), abdominal lift (stimulates internal organs) and root lock (perineum muscle engaged governs the vitality of the base of the body), all give the practitioner of this pose a powerful experience. The pelvis must be in neutral, easy fix here. Please observe that this pose replaces the classic Sarvangasana in terms of inversion and benefits, as it is much safer to perform in a large group class.
It is okay to bend your front leg up at the knee as much as you need to, so that the forehead makes contact with the knee the entire time.
If the heel of the back foot lifts off the floor, shorten your step slightly.
Separate your hands only a few inches apart just in front of your extended foot and push against the floor to eventually straighten the leg. Use the breath to your advantage.
The breath takes up room in your body, exhaling allows for greater flexibility.
Push against the floor at the very end of the exhale when you are “breathless”.
If both legs are straight – bring the palms back together in a “prayer” position: Namaskar.
The fingertips one inch in front of your toes, arms straight, round the spine more.
As you lift up through the belly button and lower abdominals, look at your chest, not the belly. This will help you round your back even more.
Ground the front foot into the floor, inside edge.
Ground the back foot into the floor, outside edge.
Soften the hips. Pick up the lower hip to square both hips to the floor. You can internally rotate the thigh of the back leg INWARDS to help yourself square out the hips.
If necessary, use the mirror to check the hip alignment. Breathe “ujjayi” at first, and then breathe as smoothly as possible.
Now that both legs are straight, bring your palms together only a few inches in front of your extended foot so as you straighten your arms you’re able to round your spine completely. The elbows straighten out and the arms go behind your ears.
A rule of thumb to remember as you advance in your practice, in the words of my Teacher Jimmy Barkan: “No extra movement other than necessary” – economy of motion. In other words, stop fooling around and eliminate any unneeded idiosyncrasies. This is a good posture to practice discipline (tapas).
Here’s another Yogic concept to reflect upon: throw away what’s unneeded and keep only what’s useful.
Common Student mistakes: Hips uneven. Step too small / too large. Heels not aligned. Back leg bending. Lack of effort to get the forehead to knee. Spine straight, forehead towards shin (like Parsvottanasana). Wrists not straight. Coming in by leading with the chin. Head not between arms in transitions. Pivoting over toes, not heels, in transitions.
Any student with a back injury must be very careful coming in and out of this posture from standing. Replace the head-between-arms transitions with hands on the knee perhaps, to modify.
For obese students, it might not be possible to do this posture correctly. To modify, drop the knee of the back leg to the floor.
For Asian students (who generally have long spines) the forehead on the shin will be the reality.
Good instruction line: “Feel the rounding of the back, feel the compression in the front! This pose opens up your spine, and this practice purifies the body.”