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Yoga Pose Notebook: Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose)

 Parivrrta Janu Sirsaasana | Revolved Head to Knee Pose
{illustrations by MCKIBILLO}

Before we get to the post, a quick, shameless plug for my upcoming trainings. You can join me live at my 500-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in San Francisco, London, or Hong Kong. I also have three separate online teacher trainings, focusing on arm balances & inversions, sequencing, or anatomy.

One Thing to Learn About Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

You don’t have to press the sitting bone that you’re leaning away from in Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana into the floor. In fact, you may have a better all-around experience posture if you allow that sitting bone to lift up. Yes, you read that correctly. Here’s why:

The pelvis and spine work best when they work together. In fact, the pelvis and spine are so functionally integrated that I think of them as two parts of the same system when it comes to movement. When you do a forward bend with your spine, you do a forward bend with your pelvis (anterior tilt). When you do a backward bend with your spine, you do a backward bend with your pelvis (posterior tilt). There are a few minor exceptions and complications to this rule of thumb, but the logic is sound. In fact, if you take your pelvis and spine and move them in opposite directions you will typically produce excess compression and tension somewhere in the spine. And, while this may look fancy on Instagram, excess tension and compression at spinal junctions is not in anyone’s best interest, nor does it fall under the scope of teachings that we can fairly describe as “yoga.”

Since the spine and pelvis work best when they’re both sharing the same set of motions, I want you to experiment with lifting the sitting bone that you’re moving away from when you do Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana. You read that correctly. Experiment with lifting the opposite buttock slightly instead of pressing it down so that your pelvis can rotate laterally over your thigh bones slightly. You’ll still receive a big ‘ole side-stretch, you’ll produce more length in your spine, and chances are that you’ll reduce excess compression in the lower back and sacroilliac region on the side that you’re moving toward. In short, you’ll probably like it. A lot. If not, feel free to press both sitting bones down and keep it old school.

Use the illustration above to hone your pose and experiment with changing the alignment of your base. Enjoy.

SEQUENCING FOR PARIVRTTA JANU SIRSASANA

You can find a fully-illustrated, 16-pose sequence for Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana here.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT ANATOMY, SEQUENCING, AND TEACHER TRAINING?

I offer both online trainings and live, in-the-flesh ones around the world. Here are a few of the courses that are currently open. (For a full schedule, go to my Schedule page):

Essential Anatomy E-Course

The Art of Yoga Sequencing E-Course

500-Hour Training in San Francisco (2018)

100-Hour Training in London (2018)

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My 5 Favorite Yoga Postures (And Why I Love Them)

Jason Crandell in Pigeon Pose | 5 Favorite Yoga Poses

Common wisdom tells you to work daily on the yoga poses that bring up resistance and challenge you. Personally, I’m okay with this sentiment—after all, there’s plenty of value in exploring the edges of your comfort zone. As a practitioner and teacher, though, I tend to emphasize the opposite—I choose to indulge the postures that I love with egregious frequency. I encourage the teachers that I train to do the exact same thing. We love the poses that we love for good reasons: they awaken us, they ground us, they soothe us, they challenge us, and they nurture our mind’s ability to focus and settle down.

These five yoga poses come up time and time again in my classes because I’m shamelessly enthusiastic about them.

5 Favorite Yoga Poses

Urdhva Dhanurasana — It Soothes Me

Yep, that’s right, I find Urdhva Dhanurasana deeply soothing. Yes, I’m aware that everyone and their cousin goes on and on about how uplifting and energizing backbends are. But, honestly, my experience is the opposite. A nice, strong Urdhva Dhanurasana (or 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6) actually cuts through whatever narrative my mind is engaged with, focuses my attention, and burns off whatever anxiety I may be experiencing. Urdhva Dhanurasana is never easy for me, but it’s always settling.

Paschimottanasana — It Humbles Me

Paschimottanasana bums me out. I’m always prattling on about integrity of movement being more important than range of movement. Even though I firmly believe this, the first thought that runs through my head when I practice Paschimottanasana is, “Ugh. Is this really as far as I can go today?” This pose continues to reveal how judgmental I can be toward myself and provides me with the opportunity to let go.

See also A Smart Flow for Tight Hamstrings

Pigeon Pose — It Grounds Me

The bittersweet release of Pigeon Pose is undeniable. While the big, tension-busting stretch in the outer hips steals the show, the posture has another component that helps produce a grounding effect: The vast majority of your body is laying on the floor when you do the posture. Sure, it’s intense for many, but the intensity is always local. The majority of the body has the opportunity to drop, release, and let go into the floor.

Handstand — It Balances Me

There’s a saying in England that black tea wakes you up if you’re tired and quiets you if you’re unsettled. My experience of Handstand is the exact same. If I need an uplifting boost of energy, practicing Handstand does the trick. If, on the other hand, I’m overstimulated, a minute or two in Handstand grounds my energy and rebalances my mood.

See also How to Practice and Teach Handstand

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana – It Unwinds Me

Oh, the poor side body. It can be challenging to access and rarely gets treated to elongation in day-to-day life. Even in asana practice the side-body rarely gets the TLC that the hips, shoulders, core and spine receive. Thankfully, Parivrtta Janu sirsasana digs deeply into the side-body and wrings out tension. When I do this pose I literally have to will myself to get out of it. I want to stay there, nestle in, and take a nap.

I’d love to hear from you. What postures are keeping you calm, grounded, and sane these days?

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Essential Sequence: Stretch into Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana Sequence | Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method

WHY THE PARIVRTTA JANU SIRSASANA SEQUENCE WORKS

Nothing beats a good side-bending practice. And, truthfully, the recipe for the classic posture Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana is simple: the practice needs to focus on stretching the hamstrings, adductors, and the sides of the torso (which are largely comprised of the lats, obliques, and the quadratus lumborum). The sequence above sticks to these three basic focal points.

Let’s break it down a little further:

POSES 1–2

What could be better than resting on your back and stretching your hamstrings and adductors? Not much. Supta Padangusthasana A & B are simple, effective, energy-saving postures that target your hamstrings and adductors and allow you to transition into your practice gently.

POSES 3-4

You really can’t go wrong with Down Dog and Three-Legged Down Dog. You can use them in nearly any sequence, but I like them here because they continue the work of stretching your hamstrings, they lengthen your spine (which is helpful in side bends), and they provide a smooth transition from reclined to standing postures.

POSES 5-7

This combination of postures flows together smoothly and builds on the work of you’ve already established by opening your side body. An important note here is that most students will only receive a mild stretch in their side body in these postures. This is ideal sequencing because you don’t want the first side bends in a sequence to be intense or abrupt. Most students don’t spend a ton of time working their side bends, so the muscles involved (lats, obliques, and quadratus lumborum) need to be prepared slowly.

POSES 8-9

These postures hone in on the hamstrings, adductors and side body. At this phase of the sequence, you’re going more deeply into the targeted areas of this practice.

POSES 10-13

This progression of poses takes you deeper and deeper into your hamstrings, adductors, and side body. If you have more flexibility, you can bend your bottom elbow and take it to the floor in gate pose (pose 12). Once you arrive in Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, remember to bend your top elbow and lean your upper-body slightly back. Breathe into the side of the waist you’re stretching and savor the pose. If you’re stuck and struggling, there’s a 99% chance that the restriction is in your hamstrings and adductors. If this is the case, be diligent with the first 8 postures of this sequence for a few more months.

Want to practice this sequence at home? When you sign up for our newsletter, we’ll send you free printer-friendly PDF of the sequence above!

AND, if you want to feel more confident and knowledgeable about your sequencing skills, check out my online course, The Art of Yoga Sequencing. It’s great for yoga teachers and students who want to better understand how the body works and how to stretch and strengthen effectively.

{illustration by MCKIBILLO}

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