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Turning Point

Once you find your center, you can move in new directions.

By Rachel Brahinsky with Charles Matkin

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose)

Take a few moments again to cultivate your sense of being in the practice, rather than doing all you can to push into the final pose. In Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, Matkin says people tend to grab for as much as they can get, rather than acknowledging where they really are. "If you seek to understand what's going on in your body rather than fixing or changing it, you shift your perspective," he says. So instead of blindly pushing yourself beyond your limits, choose to become curious about the truth of what's currently happening.

This is key for your emotional well-being, but it's also key for protecting your hamstrings and spine from injury. As Matkin points out, "This is delicate equipment you're working with. You have to take time to find the pose that feels right for you. The pose that is the most beautiful is the one with the most integrity."

Sit with your legs in a wide straddle. Bend your left knee and bring the left foot toward your pubic bone. Use your hands to roll open the flesh of the hamstring and calf toward the ceiling; this external rotation will encourage the knee to roll away from the pelvis. Then lay your bent leg on the ground. The farther your knee points away from your straight leg, the harder the pose will be. Engage the straight leg toward center to rotate it internally.

To prepare, reach your hands to the floor behind you and lean your torso back, lifting the chest and lengthening the spine. Then establish the first of two twists that build the foundation of this pose. Lean back and twist toward the bent knee, with the chest open. Take a few breaths to ground both the left sitting bone and knee into the floor.

Come back to center, then flow into traditional Janu Sirsasana by twisting toward the straight leg. Ground both sitting bones as you come into a forward bend over the right leg. Stay here for a few breaths, focusing on lengthening your spine before moving on.

From here, get ready to flip the spine open. Grab your right foot with your right thumb and first two fingers. Keep the palm facing up. Plant your right elbow against the inner right shin or calf. Roll your bottom shoulder back and underneath you as much as you can. Reaching the left arm out and overhead, open into a deep twist. If you can do it without compromising the twist, move the right hand onto the arch and grab the toes with your left hand. Keep the bent knee rolling way out and keep it grounded.

Matkin suggests working this pose with a wavelike breath that pulses through the asana. As you exhale, roll the chest down toward the floor; as you inhale, roll it up toward the ceiling so that you're moving from twist to countertwist: "That's the action that lengthens the spine. That's the inner pulse that the breath connects us to," Matkin explains. Do this three or four times before switching sides, so it isn't a one-shot deal. "It's like going back for dessert time and time again," he says.

As you melt into the pose, you will apply the alignment that you've worked with through this entire sequence. You will bend forward and lengthen your spine down the line of the leg as in Twisted Fan Pose and Revolved Triangle. Then you will flip the spine open as you did in Bound Triangle, all the while accessing some of the lift of the King Pigeon Pose lunge.

"The challenge," says Matkin, "is taking an asymmetrical position and trying to make it as symmetrical as possible. You've done neutral, reverse, and bound twists in the three prior poses; now you're mixing all three of those flavors. The taller you work your hip crests, as you did in the King Pigeon lunge, the more access you get to both sides of your waist."

For Matkin, it's the complexity that makes Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana so beautiful—and helps reveal deeper wisdom about your practice, both on and off the mat. "Often, people think they have to strain or struggle to do a pose correctly. But in yoga you get to just keep showing up—again and again. The process is the reward. And the more you do it, the more intimately you'll get to know yourself."

Charles Matkin began his formal study of yoga and meditation at the age of five. He studied biology, theater, and Ayurveda at Maharishi International University, and his yoga training includes certifications from the Yoga Zone and Jivamukti schools, plus extensive education in Iyengar Yoga and Viniyoga. Rachel Brahinsky is a writer and yoga teacher in San Francisco.

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Reader Comments

ale

kenny graham?

Casey

who is the model? does anyone know?

Sophia

I love this model's poses. It's so nice to see a male yogi demonstrating so gorgeously. Thank you.

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