Janu – knee; Shirsha – head
Janu C looks like a tricky one. One leg is straight, the other one is bent at the knee, externally rotated from the hip, the foot is flexed and rotated so the heel is pointed upward and the toes flexed and spread over the mat. Torso folds forward and the arms reach over for the other foot, the face meets the knee. Or not.
To phase it in, let’s start from dandasana. In dandasana the hips are squared, equally directed forward. The back is straight, or not. If the pelvis is tilted backward the lower back will be rounded. To unround it, bend the knees or sit on a block. Bring the sternum up and roll the shoulders back and down to straighten the upper back. Bend one leg, bringing the knee to chest and then externally rotate from the hip. Take hold of the foot with both hands, flex it and without applying force try to turn it so the heel is pointing towards the navel and the toes are being brought in contact with the mat. Release. Now look at the foot. If the foot is not vertical to the ground, press the hands against the ground, lift the sit bones and bring them a little bit forward maintaining the squareness of the hips. This should bring the foot more upright. Or it might not. Either way, do not obsess. It’s not a big deal if the foot is not vertical to the ground and it’s equally not a big deal if it is. But it could be a big deal if we cause an injury to the knee. So far this is not a spiritual practice. It is a physical practice meant to be therapeutic for the body. From here, do not manipulate the position of the knee, let it settle by itself. In time it will settle down into the ground. If it doesn’t meet the ground, for safety reasons a simple way of supporting it is by placing a block or a book under it, rather than just leave it floating above the ground. Go for the block/book if there is a discomfort inside the structure of the knee or the history of trauma. To avoid more trauma, never press the knee down. Never ever. Not in a mood for caps, but I can not stress this enough.
Fold forward from the hips, but not fast forward. Back straight and try not to make sudden, unpredicted movements. If not floating through vinyasa, I wouldn’t recommend jumping into it, unless the idea is to self-destruct. Slowly explore comfortable range of motion. If possible, reach the arms forward and bind the hands around the other foot. Elongate through the spine. Stay centered to the midline of the body and try not to lean to one side. Muscles along the spine should be elongated equally. Right and left side of the waist should be of equal length.
Some extra caution is required until we’ve become proficient in performing the posture so we can enjoy it’s benefits. One of the benefits, when performed correctly, is improved circulation and influx of nutritional supplies through the blood to some of the restricted areas of the knee structure. Still, not all of them will get the supplies easily. Such is the inner cartilage of the meniscus. But the surrounding connective tissue can be nurtured well.
Although this posture might bring some discomfort to the ankle and the foot, which also belong to the group of the body parts with limited circulation and blood supply, it is highly therapeutic and nourishing. It can help heal chronic problems bringing the nutritional elements to these poorly supplied parts of the leg. After performing the posture we might feel as if someone gave us a nice foot massage. Mmmm. Or not. Beware, it can be contraindicated if there is a feet injury such as plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia or some ongoing inflammatory process which we might not feel and perceive as uncomfortable if the body is properly warmed up.
Forward fold stimulates the pancreas, liver, kidneys, urinary bladder, uterus and ovaries (especially if the heel comes in contact with the lower belly) and is very beneficial for digestive, urinary and genital system.
It might take some time to get to it. Gradually go through all of the phases. It’s important not to push and force. Align the idea of a visual appearance of the posture with the idea of it being therapeutic, beneficial and nurturing.