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How to Do Revolved Head-of-Knee Pose in Yoga

Revolved Head-of-Knee Pose is a deep, seated twist that stretches the whole body, and strengthens your legs and core. It's a powerful variation of the forward fold, Head-of-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana), that deepens the stretch to the hamstrings and spine, while providing all of the benefits of a spinal twist.

The Sanskrit name for this pose, "Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana" (PAHR-ee-VREE-tah JAH-noo sheer-SHAH-suh-nuh), comes from four words:

  • “Parivrtta” — meaning “revolved”
  • “Janu” — meaning “knee”
  • “Sirsa” — meaning “head”
  • “Asana” — meaning “pose”

It is often practiced in the second half of a yoga class when the body is warm. Other poses that are often practiced along with this one include Head-of-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana), Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana), and Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold (Upavistha Konasana).

Benefits of Revolved Head-of-Knee Pose

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana stretches the hamstrings, spine, shoulders, lower back, and the sides of the abdomen. It provides a spinal twist that massages and stimulates your digestive organs, which helps to improve digestion. This pose also calms the mind, relieving anxiety, fatigue, and mild depression. It is also known to be therapeutic for headaches and insomnia.

In yoga, we learn that the heart is truly the seat of the soul. If we come to our asana practice with this in mind, our work in the body can be moved into the heart and beyond. All of our efforts will gradually reflect the joyous adventure of self-discovery and the glow of our inner infinity, the soul.

Aadil Palkhivala

Cautions

Avoid practicing this pose if you are currently suffering from asthma or diarrhea. Students with injuries to the hips, back, shoulder, or knee should only practice this pose under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable teacher. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.

Instructions

  1. Sit on the edge of a firm blanket with your legs extended in front of you in Seated Staff Pose (Dandasana).
  2. Place your hands on the floor behind your body and lean your torso back slightly. Then open your legs as wide as it is comfortable. Work toward opening your legs to a 90-degree angle (with the pelvis as the apex).
  3. Keep the tops of your kneecaps and your toes pointing straight up toward the ceiling. Flex your feet and strongly engage your thigh muscles, pressing your legs down toward the floor. Reach out through your heels.
  4. Bring the sole of your left foot to the inside of your right thigh.
  5. On an exhalation, lean to the right. Slide your right hand along the inner edge of your right leg, palm facing up, toward your right foot’s toes Press your right shoulder blade against the inside of your right knee, and let your forearm rest on the floor. Turn your right hand to clasp the inner edge of your right foot. Hold the sole of your foot with your fingers, and the top of your foot with your thumb.
  6. Reach your left hand’s fingers up toward the ceiling. Then reach toward your right foot, bringing your left arm directly over your left ear. Rest your left bicep alongside your head. Clasp the outer edge of your right foot.
  7. Draw your left shoulder back, keeping your chest open. Turn your head to look up at the ceiling. If doing so hurts your neck, gaze forward, instead.
  8. Twist your upper torso further, opening your torso and chest toward the ceiling.
  9. Keep your left thigh bone drawing firmly down toward the floor.
  10. With each inhalation, lengthen the front torso. With each exhalation, twist deeper.
  11. Hold for 30 seconds. To release the pose, unwind your torso and bring it to the center line between your legs. Press your tailbone toward the floor as you inhale and lift your torso. Extend your left leg along the floor next to your right leg. Then repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same length of time.

Modifications & Variations

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana can be an invigorating and stimulating pose when practiced correctly. Remember to take it slowly and never force yourself in the pose. Try these changes to find a variation of the pose that works for you:

  • If your hamstrings or low back are tight, place a rolled-up blanket or yoga mat beneath the knee of your extended leg.
  • If you can’t comfortably grasp the foot of your extended leg, use a yoga strap. Wrap the strap around the sole of your extended leg’s foot and hold onto it with both hands.
  • If it’s easy to clasp both hands around the foot of your extended leg, you can deepen the pose by placing a block at the sole of that foot. Then hold onto that, instead.
  • For a greater challenge, you can widen the angle between your legs beyond 90 degrees.
  • For a deeper twist, extend your bottom arm beneath your torso to clasp the opposite knee.

Tips

Practicing Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana will stretch your entire body when practiced in correct alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:

  • Keep the front of your torso long throughout the pose. Dropping your head down and rounding your spine can over-stress and injure your back, hamstrings, or groins. Use a strap around your extended-leg’s foot if needed. Work on keeping your torso and spine long as you twist and fold.
  • Un-twist before coming back to a seated position. Never return to a seated position while you are still twisting.
  • Use your elbows and forearms to help twist your upper torso.
  • Keep your bottom shoulder pressing against the inside of your knee. Bend your knee slightly, if needed, to ensure that your shoulder stays in place.

Twist & Fold

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana can be a great pose to add variety to your seated floor practice. Regularly practicing this twist will keep your hamstrings and spine limber, and your mind calm. Remember to take it slowly and be gentle with your movements in this pose. As your thoughts settle into the present moment, your body and mind will become more graceful, at ease, and supple.

Revolved Head-of-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana) is a seated twist that stretches the hamstrings and spine. Read this guide to learn all about this pose!
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