Well as promised here are the tips to assist with Standing Head to Knee Pose.
For me, this posture is the first one of the major balancing postures – I feel it is part of a “group” together with the Standing Bow Pulling Pose and Balancing Stick. These three postures will work you out physically but really allow and in fact demand from you an increase in concentration, focus and determination of the mind. I really enjoy them actually as I like the challenge!
For beginners, this is likely to be the first posture where you really get to realise how important it is to lock the knee. I have been told several ways to think about the locking of the knee – one was to “suck” the muscle to the thigh bone and pull up the knee cap. After a number of classes you begin to experience “muscle memory” and it will get to feel more like a normal action than it is when you first try it! It will become second nature – eventually, I promise!
In order to write this post I have gone back to my original posture clinic notes and I came across this tip and for some, this may help. Instead of concentrating on tensing and tightening the leg muscles, you may like to relax and bow the leg back instead. I had completely forgotten about this until I read it this week!
I am a strong believer if you relax into the postures first instead of resisting them (and even trying too hard) you will greatly improve not only your yoga but it does wonders for your whole well-being too. This is a part of big subject and something that I have been looking into over many years but it is interesting when I found this note as basically it is saying the same thing! So if a locked knee is not yet your speciality you may like to change the focus and relax and bow the leg instead!
Kicking the leg out
When you start this posture you shift your weight slightly to the left leg and lift up the right foot. You will need to interlace the fingers right to the webbing and ensure your thumbs are crossed underneath the foot so you get a good grip and able to keep it throughout the posture! If you pull your stomach in as you do this, you will be stronger and it will also help your spine as it prevents backache. The correct position to hold the foot is three inches below the toes.
Now for the focus of the eyes, which if you have read any of my other posts, will absolutely make you stronger in any posture. You don’t have to have your eyes bulging out of their sockets, just a gaze at your left knee in the mirror will work wonders!
Now before you go any further in the posture you must ensure your left knee is locked. I find it helpful if you imagine your leg going down into the ground just like the infamous “Bikram speak” “concrete lamp post”- unbroken – no knee!! If your knee is not locked do not kick out, just stay there in that position until you gain strength as you do not want to put pressure on a bent knee.
Now it’s time to inhale and slowly kick your right foot towards the mirror until the leg is parallel to the floor – no higher – no lower – at the same time maintaining the lock on the left knee! WHAT?? you say – yes ‘fraid so – but one day muscle memory will kick in and you will!
Taking another deep breath, continually kick the foot away from you towards the mirror. Another tip I just got reminded of was instead of focussing on straightening the raised leg, change the focus to pulling the toes back towards you and pushing the heel towards the mirror. Sometimes just looking at something differently can produce a better result so you can try it! Don’t forget that pesky left knee to stay locked. While you are in this stage, open the chest – whenever you do this you will have more energy to hold the posture.
If you fall out even after a few seconds, “bank” that success, and go back in. Use the whole minute even if you drop out of it several times. Do not judge yourself but just regain your gaze, and as they say in the UK – keep calm and carry on! Eventually all the seconds in the posture will add up to the minute or half minute depending which set you are on.
The Next Stage – Elbows Down
The aim is to eventually get both legs locked and looking like an upside down “L” shape and only then it is time to pull your stomach in (if it isn’t already) and bring the elbows down by the side of the calf muscles and eventually they will go down below the calf. The arms get nicely toned at this point!
The Finale – Head to the Knee!
Head to the knee is the ultimate aim but you only go for this if you have both legs locked. In order to do this you need to change your gaze to your standing big toe, tuck the chin right in so you compress and then your head has a chance of landing on the knee. If your head is below the knee you will not get the compression that the posture is aiming for.
If you are not ready to attempt the final advanced adjustment – no worries. It may take a while. When you feel comfortable enough with your balance you may wish to give it a go. Step by step is the Bikram way for all these postures.
Then you get to repeat the whole process on the other leg! The first set is held for a minute on each side and the second one is an easier 30 seconds only. Try not to think about the time while you are in the posture just keep your attention on the adjustments and the seconds will be over before you know it! I have found it is always easier to be “pro-active” in the posture rather than just hang in there waiting for it to be over! You will improve much faster this way too.
Summary of the Main Points
- Focus your eyes on your left knee in the mirror to get your balance and strength
- Make sure you have the proper grip of the foot by interlacing fingers right to the webbing and crossing the thumbs under the foot – this will keep the grip in place
- Only kick out with the other leg if your standing knee is locked
- Pull in the stomach muscles throughout the posture as it makes you stronger and works the internal organs
- Inhale when you raise the leg and concentrate on kicking the heel towards the mirror and toes back towards your face
- Keep the standing knee locked throughout the posture
- Open the chest until you bring your elbows down
- Only if both legs are locked bring the elbows down towards and then below the calf muscles
- Only attempt the head to the knee if both legs are locked out
- Change your gaze to your big toe on the ground
- Tuck in the chest and slowly bring the head to the knee! Voila!
The Benefits of Standing Head to Knee Pose
- Develops amazing concentration, focus, patience and determination
- Works the nervous system and the mind
- Compresses the internal organs to enable them to function properly
- Slims and tones the legs like nobody’s business!
- Uplifts the buttocks
- Great for the abdominals when the stomach is sucked in
- Works all the muscles in the legs, arms, and back
- Strengthens the spine
Next one in the Posture Series is the Standing Bow Pulling Pose. I will post some other posts in the next couple of days too.