Yoga Posture Clinic: Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)
Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana) is one of those poses that reveals itself over time, unfolding as the body lengthens and opens with the breath, but it can be a bit sticky at first.
To begin with, the pose is a hamstring stretch, groin and hip opener, as well as a shoulder opener; however, it’s the sides of the bodies that often feel it the most. Shortened from long hours of sitting, our side bodies can be surprisingly tight and restricting, especially for the breath.
Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose can be felt from your hip through your armpit, stretching all those little intercostal muscles between the ribs—allowing for fuller expansion of the lungs and chest. Opening and lengthening the side bodies in Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana will give you a greater sense of ease and freedom in your body.
Getting Into Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana
- Begin seated in Baddha Konasana with the bottoms of your feet together and knees open to the sides.
- Extend your right leg out to the side and pull your left heel closer to your groin, opening the left knee further back. Place your hands on either side of your hips and press down, lengthening the spine up as you firm both thighbones down.
- Inhale, lift and turn your torso to the left; exhale and side bend to the right, placing the back of your right hand to the floor inside your right leg, palm facing up. Next, inhale and extend your left arm out, palm facing up; exhale and lean back as you reach the arm over your ear toward the right foot.
- Firm down through your left thighbone as you pull your left shoulder blade back, revolving your torso open toward the ceiling as you lean to the right.
- Continue extending your right arm along the floor inside your right leg, lengthening your right waist and rib cage alongside your right inner thigh. Rotate the upper arm bone out, turning the palm up, and hold onto the arch of your right foot with your right hand.
- Reach your top arm up and over, clasping the outside of the right foot with your left hand. Inhale and press your elbows apart as you lengthen both sides of your body; exhale and pull your top arm and shoulder blade back as you revolve your torso toward the ceiling and gaze up.
- Press down through both thighs to keep a nice lift of the spine as you breath your left side body open. When you’re ready to release, inhale, press down into your thighs and reach your left arm back up, bringing you upright.
The most common misalignment of any seated postures is rocking back on the siting bones, tilting the pelvis and rounding the low back—making it nearly impossible to extend the spine.
It’s important that you’re sitting upright on both sitting bones with your low back lifting in and up, and that the kneecap and big toe of your extended leg pointing straight up. If your hamstrings, hips or low back feel tight, sit on a firmly folded blanket, turning your inner thighs down.
When you side-bend to the right, your left sitting bone will get light. Press down through your inner left thigh, anchoring your left sit bone as you lean back and over. Continue to press your right thigh down as well, lengthening your right inner thigh toward your right inner knee.
Keeping the top arm and chest revolving open can be tough in Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana. I often have my students start with the top hand holding the base of the skull, where the neck and head meet, asking them to lean back into their hand as they side bend to keep the chest open.
Variations and Entry Strategies
Like many yoga poses, there are few different ways to approach Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana. For example, some methods start with the extended leg bent holding onto the foot with both hands as you press the leg straight and revolve the torso.
Another common way to get deeper into Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose is to take your bottom hand to the opposite knee, pulling and twisting your torso as you lean in the opposite direction.
Or you could turn your bent knee up, placing your foot flat on the floor and holding onto the ankle with the bottom hand. It’s fun to play with different variations and ways of finding freedom this pose.
In the full expression of Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, the sides of the body are parallel, the top arm is behind the top ear, the torso is revolving and the back of the head comes to rest on the knee.
Meagan McCrary is an experienced yoga teacher (500 ERYT) and writer with a passion for helping people find more comfort, clarity, compassion and joy on the mat and in their lives. She is the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga a comprehensive encyclopedia of prominent yoga styles, including each system’s teaching methodology, elements of practice, philosophical and spiritual underpinnings, class structure, physical exertion and personal attention. Currently living in Los Angeles, Meagan teaches at the various Equinox Sports Clubs, works privately with clients and leads retreats internationally. You can find her blog, teaching schedule and latest offerings atwww.MeaganMcCrary.com, as well as on Facebook.