Inhale deeply in the starting position. Exhale as you bend forwards (stage 2). Breathe normally a number of times after the forward bend. Inhale deeply then exhale deeply as you pull yourself slightly forwards. Breathe slowly and deeply in the final pose. Inhale as you raise the body back to the starting position.
Mistakes to avoid
This asana gives many benefits if it is done correctly. Make sure you avoid the following common mistakes:
- Bending the knee of the straight leg upwards during the practice. If you do this then the asana becomes very easy; so easy that even a person with the stiffest back will be able to touch his head to his knee. But the benefits will be almost nil. Keep the leg straight so that the muscles at the rear of the legs (hamstring muscles) and the spinal muscles are stretched and become flexible through practice.
- Using the back muscles to bend the body forward. This defeats the purpose of the asana, for the contraction of the back muscles implies that the back is tensed, which prevents the fullest possible forward bend. Try to relax the spinal muscles throughout the entire practice. Let them be passively stretched. In this manner the spinal muscles will become progressively elongated and the vertebrae loosened.
- Excessive strain which can cause injury. Be careful not to apply force to the back when bending forwards. Apply a little tension by pulling on the arms, but not too much. You must use your discretion in this respect.
Janu sirshasana is similar to paschimottanasana. .As such, details on awareness, sequence, duration, limitations and benefits are all the same.
The greatest advantage of janu sirshasana over paschimottanasana is that it simultaneously loosens the legs in preparation for meditative asanas. It gives basically the same benefits plus this extra one. This is the reason that we have introduced it at this stage. Earlier in the book we emphasized the importance of loosening up the legs for meditative asanas and kriya yoga. We described a number of specific leg loosening exercises to be practised every day. Because of lack of time you have probably not practised them. If this is the case then you should definitely include janu sirshasana (or ardha paschimottanasana) in your daily practice program. In this way you will loosen up the legs and the back, as well as obtain the benefits associated with forward bending asanas. If necessary you can replace paschimottanasana with either of the two asanas described in this topic.
Advanced practices from the final pose
In the description we gave of paschimottanasana we explained two advanced practices. These can also be integrated with janu sirsh asana (and ardha padma paschimottanasana). These two refinements will intensify the benefits that can be obtained.