Exploring Seated Forehead-to-Knee
Seated forehead to knee is a wonderful pose that appears in many yogic traditions. Let's take a look at the history of this pose and more.
What's the Sanskrit?
In sanskrit, “jānu” means, “head” and “śīrṣa” means “knee”. If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while then you’ve maybe seen the word “āsana” which means “seat” or “pose”.
Therefore, poorly translated it means “head-knee-pose”. However, in English we call Janu Sirsasana simply “Seated Forehead-to-Knee”.
Oddly enough, when you become more advanced in your yoga practice, your forehead will reach BEYOND your knee. Because you seek to keep your eye-gaze forward, the forehead should ironically never even touch your leg… Check out Iyengar’s classic example from “Light On Yoga”
The Battle Between Lineages
“Yoga Mala” by Ashtanga Yoga Master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois states that your bent knee should be kept at a 90 degree angle.
The iconic text, “Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar states one should push the bent knee as far back as possible to make an obtuse angle.
So which is correct? These small discrepancies pop up all the time in yoga. Any good teacher would say in their cliche yoga-voice, “just do what feels best for you body.”
And as silly as it sounds - that’s often the correct answer. If you are not used to trying the “obtuse” angle suggested by Iyenger then I highly suggest giving it a try. It will REALLY DEEPEN the feeling in your hip and lower back.
Watch This "How To" Video on Seated Forehead-to-Knee
In this video I go into depth on more of the alignment details of this specific asana.
Do You Have a "Drishti" Problem?
Want a visual aid for this pose? This in-depth video goes over the most common queues as well as a unique hidden gem of this posture.
The idea of body-awareness and exactly what’s happening to your neck is discussed in detail. Give it a look!
You could be looking to far forward and messing up your neck this could be bad for those cervical vertebrae!
Block-up Your Knee
Okay, so what if you’re not Gumby?
As a matter of fact, it hurts trying to bring your knee all th way to the ground... Not a problem - make use a block in your practice.
By propping a block up under your knee or even mid-way up that leg you’ll allow your hips to relax more. Once your hips can relax more, you’ll be able to come much deeper in this posture and thereby reap the benefits.
Don't overlook this simple modification. Most people just accept discomfort their knee or hips in this pose. Remember, the less discomfort you have, the more you'll be able to enjoy the pose!
Liver and Spleen
This posture is often said to aid in digestion as it helps to tone the liver and spleen. Furthermore the kidneys are also benefited by this posture
While these benefits may not have extensive scientific research to back its claims, it is one of the the most widely accepted and talked about benefits of this posture.
A Cure For Diabetes and Bedwetting?
In “Yoga Mala” Jois states in a rather round-about way that janu sirsasana can cure diabetes and even help to stop bed-wetting.
The sciences may have not caught up to this miracle cure for diabetes, but this posture will assuredly help with various digestive functions. Whether or not it is a “cure” for diabetes is still up for some serious debate.
However! You may find these 2 studies interesting with regards to diabetes and Yoga
The Difference Between Janu Sirsasana A, B, and C
The Ashtanga and Iyengar traditions are big on these 3 different variations for this posture. Each has a noticeable variant with where the heel is resting and/or pressing into your body.
Janu Sirsasana A
This variation is the one we see the most often. (Primarily because it's far easier than "B" and "C". You can see that the foot is simply laying on its side with the heel pressing gently into the inner thigh muscle
Janu Sirsasana B
This is when we see some of those classic "tantric" roots of yoga come into play. In this variation you place your perineum on top of your heel. This pressure of your heel pressing into this root chakra area is said to help with many things such as balancing testosterone & estrogen levels and awakening kundalini.
Janu Sirsasana C
Forehead-to-knee C will benefit you differently depending on if you are male or female. For men the heel presses into your lower intestines. For women you should aim to have your heel pressing gently into the left or right ovary (depending on which heel you have pulled in).
Forehead-to-knee or "Half Butterfly"?
“Half Butterfly” is the name of this posture in the Yin Tradition of yoga. Martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink founded this style in the mid 1970s.
As with the majority of Yin Yoga postures, this pose focuses on relaxation. A big “no-no” in most other traditions is allowing your back to round… However the “half butterfly” version of seated forehead to knee encourages this act with the help of a block or bolster.
Seated Forehead-to-Knee appears in many Iconic Yoga Therapy texts such as Dr. Loren Fishman’s, Healing Yoga as well as Mel Robin’s Yogasana Handbook.
Taken through this scope, it seems that Janu Sirsasana can aid in a vast amount of ailments such as:
- Back Pain
- And even depression
The world of yoga therapy is quickly gaining attention as an effective way to help treat not just physical issues but as way to help with your overall mental well-being too. Perhaps one of the world's leaders in the space of yoga therapy - Dr. Loren Fishman states in is book, "Yoga For Back Pain"...
"Yoga works not just on the physical and gross physiological features of the practitioner, but its goal is also spiritual. In my years as a practitioner of yoga and a doctor i have seen it significantly benefit emotions and mentality."