With early summer often comes an increase in activity – a little more physical exercise outside in the elements, a little fuller social calendar, with outings and later nights during these longer days. Even our emotional and mental activity speeds up with planning summer vacation, travel, finishing up exams and end-of-the school year projects.
Grounding and stability is key to keeping cool in summer, whether the outside temperatures provide the typical heat and humidity of summer, or your summer feels like, as the saying goes, “the coldest winter ever spent”.
Janusirsasana belongs to the cooling family of forward bends. Named “head to knee pose” by some and “head of the knee pose” by others, this asymmetrical seated forward bend gives length and traction to the spine and massages the abdominal organs for better digestion and health, especially the organs that promote vitality, such the liver, kidneys and spleen. This bent-knee forward fold encourages the expansion of breath in the back of the lungs, soothes the nervous system and stretches the whole back of the body. A perfect tonic to summer adventures and excess heat, add a daily dose of Janusirsasana to cool down, promote relaxation and keep the body and mind rejuvenated and restored.
Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose), with both legs stretched out in front of your torso. Bend your right knee and place your foot high on your inner thigh. You can create a 90° angle in the right leg, or draw your right heel even closer to your right groin to create a slightly larger angle.
Use your hands to internally rotate both thighs, spread your sitting bones and allow your weight to descend. If your spine is rounded, sit up on the edge of a blanket or two to help keep your pelvis in a neutral tilt.
Rest your left hand on your sacrum and raise your right arm overhead. Lengthen through your right side waist and feel the light twisting action of turning your right ribcage slightly toward your left leg.
As you exhale, lengthen and lower your spine over your extended leg. As you inhale, lift your spine and arm back up. Do this a few times to enliven the core of your body and create rhythm in your breath. Then, clasp your foot or loop a strap around it. As you inhale, lift and lengthen your spine once more, as you exhale, lengthen and lower your torso over your leg.
Let your spine release forward, and hold the body steady. Now work with the breath. Inhale the breath simultaneously down through the pelvis and toward the crown of the head; feel your spine lengthen and the energy extend out through your legs. As you exhale, keep a light tone in the space between your navel and spine and deepen in your forward fold. Continue to find length in your spine and the whole stretch of the back body; deepen into the forward fold by relaxing any unnecessary effort.
Soften the skin on your forehead and cultivate the quality of witnessing as your mind settles into the grounding and stability of the body. Stay for 5-10 long smooth breaths.
Inhale and slowly lift your torso up. Close your eyes and sit for a moment, resting the mind in the sweet open space of soothing awareness before practicing on the other side.
Chrisandra teaches Janusirsasana and other adventures in awareness in 4 weekly classes at Yoga Tree. She leads the Heart of Renewal Retreats and is a core teacher in Yoga Tree’s 200-hour Teacher Training. Email Chrisandra@gmail.com
Photography by Ryan Scott.