Ashtanga Yoga, a traditional and dynamic practice, consists of six series of postures designed to enhance physical strength, flexibility, and mental clarity. The Primary Series, also known as Yoga Chikitsa, lays the foundation for the more advanced sequences. Among the postures in this series is Janu Sirsasana C, a seated forward bend that offers numerous benefits to the body and mind. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the safest way to correctly practice this posture, contraindications, benefits, modifications and more!

Like Janu Sirsasana B, Janu Sirsasana C is a unique posture in the Primary Series.  I lovingly call Janu Sirsasana C the toe crusher posture.  Chiefly because this asana requires that you press the heel of your foot into your inner thigh while you press the rest of your toes into the floor.

Janu Sirsasana C provides a wonderful stretch in your hamstring, your back, hips and side body.  This pose also opens the foot and ankle and is a great hip opener.  And just like Janu Sirsasana A & B, Janu Sirsasana C helps you incorporate concepts of tensegrity in more subtle ways to ground your body as you begin to hinge forward in the posture.

Benefits of Janu Sirsasana C:

Janu Sirsasana C, a key pose in the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series, offers a multitude of benefits for both the physical body and the mind. Incorporating this pose into your practice can contribute to your overall health and well-being.

Stretches Hamstrings and Calves:

Janu Sirsasana C involves a deep stretch in the hamstrings and calves of the extended leg. Regular practice helps improve flexibility in these muscle groups, leading to better mobility in daily activities and other physical exercises.

Hip and Groin Opening:

The posture also facilitates a gentle opening of the hips and groin. By targeting these areas, the pose helps alleviate tension, enhance flexibility, and improve the range of motion in the hip joints.

Spinal Flexibility:

As you fold forward, Janu Sirsasana C encourages spinal flexion. This flexion lengthens and stretches the entire length of the spine, improving spinal flexibility and relieving tension in the back muscles.

Abdominal Massage and Digestive Benefits:

The forward bend in this pose creates a gentle compression of the abdominal region. This compression massages the abdominal organs, including the digestive organs like the liver and kidneys. Such stimulation can aid digestion and support healthy organ function.

Yoga students in an Ashtanga Yoga Mysore style class at the Yoga Shala in Maitland, Florida, with owner Krista Shirley, a level two authorized Ashtanga Yoga teacher and Mat Pilates Instructor, teaching teacher trainees how to properly adjust students in yoga poses.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction:

Janu Sirsasana C, like many forward bends, has a calming effect on the nervous system. The focus on the breath and the gentle nature of the pose help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety levels.

Mindfulness and Mental Clarity:

As you hold the pose and direct your attention to your breath and body, Janu Sirsasana C promotes mindfulness. This mindfulness practice enhances mental clarity, concentration, and self-awareness.

Kidney and Liver Stimulation:

The pose’s compression also stimulates the kidneys and liver, aiding in detoxification and promoting healthy organ function.

Lower Back Relief:

Regular practice of Janu Sirsasana C can help alleviate lower back discomfort. The pose encourages the release of tension in the lower back muscles and promotes a healthier alignment of the spine.

Preparation for Seated Poses:

Janu Sirsasana C serves as a preparatory pose for other seated forward bends. As you become more comfortable in this pose, you’ll find it easier to perform more advanced variations.

Mind-Body Connection:

This pose fosters a deep connection between the body and the mind. The conscious breathing and attention to alignment create a harmonious union, enhancing your overall yoga practice.

Increased Energy Flow:

The stretching and compression in Janu Sirsasana C stimulate the flow of energy (prana) throughout the body. This revitalizes the body and leaves you feeling invigorated.

Patience and Self-Acceptance:

Mastering Janu Sirsasana C requires patience and self-acceptance. As you work through the pose’s challenges, you’ll cultivate qualities of patience, discipline, and self-love.

Incorporating Janu Sirsasana C into your regular yoga practice can have a profound impact on your physical and mental well-being. Remember that the benefits of this pose are best achieved through consistent practice, proper alignment, and a mindful approach. Always listen to your body and practice with respect for your own limitations.

Krista Shirley, a Level 2 authorized Ashtanga yoga teacher and owner of The Yoga Shala in Maitland, Florida, performs the seated pose Janu Sirsasana C from the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series in her home in College Park. She sits on a yoga mat with her right knee bent and foot tucked underneath her, and her left leg extended straight in front. Her hands reach forward to clasp her left foot. The room is warm and inviting, with soft lighting and personal touches such as plants and cozy furnishings.

Click here to access our yoga tutorial on Janu Sirsasana C

Contraindications

While Janu Sirsasana C offers numerous benefits, it’s important to recognize that not every yoga pose is suitable for everyone. There are certain contraindications and precautions to consider before practicing Janu Sirsasana C or any other yoga pose. It’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor if you have any existing medical conditions or concerns. Here are some contraindications and precautions to be aware of:

Knee Injuries:

If you have a knee injury or chronic knee pain, Janu Sirsasana C may exacerbate your condition. Putting pressure on the knee joint could lead to discomfort or further injury. Instead, opt for gentler knee-friendly modifications that don’t involve deep knee flexion.

Hamstring Injuries:

Individuals with hamstring injuries, strains, or tightness should approach Janu Sirsasana C cautiously. Overstretching the already injured or tight muscles could impede the healing process. Consider modifying the pose or avoiding it until your hamstrings have recovered.

Lower Back Issues:

People with lower back problems, such as herniated discs or chronic pain, should approach this pose carefully. Folding forward may exacerbate lower back discomfort. If you have such issues, consult a yoga instructor or medical professional for appropriate modifications or alternative poses.

Pregnancy:

During pregnancy, the body undergoes various changes, and certain yoga poses may not be suitable. Janu Sirsasana C can put pressure on the abdomen and may not be comfortable or safe for pregnant individuals, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. Consider taking one of the modifications below if you are uncomfortable taking the full expression of Janu Sirsasana C.

High Blood Pressure:

Individuals with high blood pressure should exercise caution when practicing forward bends, as they can affect blood pressure levels. Janu Sirsasana C involves a forward bend that may cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, potentially leading to dizziness or discomfort.

Recent Abdominal Surgery:

If you’ve undergone recent abdominal surgery, including surgeries like appendectomy or abdominal hernia repair, Janu Sirsasana C might strain the healing tissues. It’s important to avoid putting unnecessary stress on the surgical site.

Ankle or Hip Injuries:

Injuries to the ankles or hips can affect your ability to practice Janu Sirsasana C comfortably. The pose involves hip and ankle flexibility, which might be limited due to injuries.

It’s crucial to approach your yoga practice mindfully and with awareness of your body’s limitations. If you have any of the above-mentioned conditions or concerns, it’s advisable to seek guidance from a qualified yoga instructor who can provide modifications or alternatives tailored to your needs. Additionally, consulting a healthcare professional before starting a new yoga practice is highly recommended, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

A yoga student demonstrates Janu Sirsasana C from the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series at The Yoga Shala in Maitland, Florida. The student sits on a yoga mat in a serene studio filled with natural light. The studio has a calm, inviting atmosphere, perfect for practice. The Yoga Shala specializes in Mysore style Ashtanga yoga and offers daily classes. Join us to experience the transformative power of Ashtanga yoga.

Step-by-Step Guide to Janu Sirsasana C with Sanskrit Vinyasa count

We will be entering this posture from downward facing dog, having just taken a vinyasa after Janu Sirsasana B to seated position. 

Sapta (Vinyasa #7): From Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog), look forward and walk or jump your feet through and have a seat on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.  Take the right foot with your hands and guide the ball of the right foot onto the floor close to your body.  In this position your toes will be pressing down into the ground.  From there begin pressing the heel of your right foot into your inner left thigh.  The right heel should be close to the pubic bone. The knee is at a 45 degree angle whereby the right thigh is pressing forwards at a diagonal. Lengthen your spine and stretch both arms forward and grab your left foot with both hands.  Left foot is flexed. Head up.

Tip: This foot position will likely be a challenge for you in the beginning.  If you struggle to place your foot easily, try lifting your right leg up and taking your right arm under the right leg so you can grab the heel of your right foot with your left hand and the top of your right foot with your right hand. From there you can start drawing or guiding the right foot towards your left inner thigh.  This should help you get the foot closer to the inner thigh of your left leg.

Asthau (Vinyasa #8) Exhale and fold forward out over your straight left leg.  Be sure you maintain flexion in your left foot, engage the left quadricep and press your left heel forward as you press your tailbone backward. Bring your chin to your chin if you can.  Look towards your toes (Padhayoragrai drishti). During the posture, maintain active pressure from your right heel into your inner left thigh to help stabilize the pressure and create oppositional force, which protects the right knee. Breathe here for five deep breaths.  With each inhale, elongate your spine, lifting your chest slightly.

Nava (Vinyasa #9) Inhale, lift your head and lengthen your spine.  Keep your hands bound around your feet.  Exhale there.

Dasa (Vinyasa #10) Inhale, bring your hands to the floor, cross your legs and lift your body up off the ground.

Ekadasa (Vinyasa #11) Exhale and jump back into Chaturanga Dandasana.

Dvadasa (Vinyasa #12) Inhale into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana(Upward facing dog)

Trayodasa (Vinyasa #13) Exhale into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog)

Caturdasa (Vinyasa #14) From Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog), look forward and walk or jump your feet through and have a seat on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.  Take the left foot with your hands and guide the ball of the left foot onto the floor close to your body and begin pressing the heel of your left foot into your inner right thigh.  The knee is at a 45 degree angle whereby the left thigh is pressing forwards at a diagonal. Lengthen your spine and stretch both arms forward and grab your right foot with both hands.  Right foot is flexed. Head up.

Pancadasa (Vinyasa #15) Exhale and fold forward out over your straight right leg.  Be sure you maintain flexion in your right foot, engage the right quadricep and press your right heel forward as you press your tailbone backward. Bring your chin to your chin if you can.  Look towards your toes (Padhayoragrai drishti). During the posture, maintain active pressure from your left heel into your inner right thigh to help stabilize the pressure and create oppositional force, which protects the left knee. Breathe here for five deep breaths.  With each inhale, elongate your spine, lifting your chest slightly.

Sodasa (Vinyasa #16) Inhale, lift your head and lengthen your spine.  Keep your hands bound around your feet.  Exhale there.

Saptadasa (Vinyasa #17) Inhale, bring your hands to the floor, cross your legs and lift your body up off the ground.

Ashtadasa (Vinyasa #18) Exhale and jump back into Chaturanga Dandasana.

Ekoonavimsatih (Vinyasa #19) Inhale into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana(Upward facing dog)

Vimsatih (Vinyasa #20) Exhale into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog)

Tips and Considerations:

  • Consistency: Regular practice will lead to increased flexibility over time. Be patient and persistent.
  • Modification: If the forward bend is too intense, start with modifications for Janu Sirscana C (below)
  • Avoid: Do not force your body into a deep stretch. Honor your limitations and work gradually.

Tap above or click here to watch the YouTube tutorial for Janu Sirsasana C

Modifications

Modifications are essential in yoga to ensure that poses are accessible and safe for practitioners of all levels and physical conditions. If you’re new to Janu Sirsasana C or have specific limitations, the following modifications can help you experience the benefits of the pose while avoiding strain or discomfort. As always, listen to your body and make adjustments that work for you.

If you want to work with modifications for Janu Sirsasana C, I encourage you to check out our yoga tutorial on this asana where we provide three modifications of this asana to help you work your way to the full expression without rounding your lower back, over stretching your hamstrings or losing your active engagement.  But even more importantly, the first two modifications help you keep your body more upright and teach you how to use your upper body to work to open the foot and ankle. The full expression can feel like too much pressure, or a crushing sensation in your foot, if you try to attempt the full expression the first time you take the posture.  So please go slowly and build up your bodies ability to sustain this posture through the variations provided.

No matter what you do, please do not fold forward in this seated posture until your foot is pressing into your inner thigh with your toes pressing into the floor.  Also ensure your knee is at a 45 degree angle with your knee touching the ground.  If you fold forward with your knee lifted off the ground, you will put too much undue pressure on your knee! Know that the more you take the posture, the more comfortable you’ll become with it.

Janu Sirsasana C, a fundamental posture in the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series, offers a range of benefits for the body and mind. By following this step-by-step guide and practicing regularly with mindfulness, you can gradually deepen your practice and experience the transformative effects of this powerful asana. Remember that yoga is a personal journey, so be kind to yourself and embrace the progress you make along the way.

Practice with The Yoga Shala

If you want to join us for LIVE classes, The Yoga Shala offers virtual and in person classes every weekday morning. We are located at 140 Circle Drive #4, Maitland, Florida. Owner, Krista Shirley, also offers virtual or in person private sessions (Yoga, Meditation, Breath-work, Nutrition, Life Coaching and Mentorship).  Visit theyogashala.com for details.

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We hope you find this video series helpful to you in creating or maintaining your yoga practice!

About Krista

Krista Shirley is a level II authorized Ashtanga Yoga teacher.  She is deeply passionate about sharing these teachings with all who wish to learn.

If you want to join Krista in person she teaches daily classes at The Yoga Shala in Maitland, Florida. She also offers virtual sessions in Yoga, Meditation, Breath-work, Nutrition, Life Coaching and Mentorship.  Check out www.theyogashala.com for more details.

If you do not live in Central Florida and want to find an authorized teacher in your area, check out our teacher, Sharath Jois’ website, for a list of all teachers authorized and certified by his yoga centre in India.

 

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