Janushirasana and Paschimottanasana:
“Head to Knee Pose with Stretching”
This posture begins the closing sequence of our yoga class. Here, we further calm the body by forward folding. First, we stretch each leg, individually. Then, we stretch both legs together. Lengthening the hamstrings and folding the spine forward over the legs promotes a calm in the body and helps foster the feeling and frame of mind needed for our final relaxation at the end of class. Hamstrings are notoriously stiff and tension filled, so it is important to breathe deeply in these final stretches to allow the body to flush the tension out with fresh oxygen.
Begin by sitting on your mat. Stretch your right leg out at a diagonal toward the top corner of your mat. Fold your opposite leg in so that the sole of that foot is pressed right up against your right leg inner thigh. Your legs should make a right angle at the hips. Stretch both arms up to the ceiling and interlace all ten fingers. Twist your body to the right and fold over your right stretched leg. Hook your grip around the sole of your right foot, flexing that foot back so the back of your right leg begins to stretch. Round your spine so your forehead touches your knee. Hold and breathe for ten seconds.
Repeat on the other side.
To begin Paschimottanasana, stretch both legs out straight in front of you. Squeeze them together as if you have one leg. Flex all ten toes back to your face. Lengthen your spine up to the ceiling and begin to fold at the hips. Reach your arms out to your feet and grab your big toes with your middle and index fingers. Use your grip to pull your toes back, helping to stretch your hamstrings. Keep sending your chest forward as you fold your body over your legs. Breathe deeply.
As stated above, these “closing” postures help foster a feeling of calm throughout the body, preparing us for final relaxation. When we stretch the hamstrings, we naturally release tension from the legs, which are considered to be the “roots of the nervous system.” This, in turn, helps to free the pelvis from tension, which is considered to be the “seat of the spine.” Now we are ready to neutralize and relax the spine, in our attempt to prepare the body, in entirety, for final relaxation.