The Standing Head to Knee Pose is a balancing and strengthening posture in the Bikram Hot Yoga Series called in Sanskrit Dandayamana Janushirsasana. The breakdown of the name Dandayamana Janushirsasasana in Sankrit is Dandayamana which means standing. If you want to break down Dandayamana a little further in Sanskrit, the meaning of Danda is "Stick," and Yamana has the definition of "Restraint."
Janushirsasasana is broken into three parts in Sanskrit: Janu means knee, Shira stands for head, and Asana means posture. The easiest way to understand this posture for beginners is to break it down into three separate parts. We are going to try and explain this pose for beginners to easily understand.
The first thing to work on is the most critical part, which is the standing leg. Try to understand this as if you are building a house from the ground up. The first thing you do is lay the foundation in the Standing Head to Knee Pose, the standing locked leg, and if you do not have this part down, the rest of the posture will crumble. If the leg starts to wobble during the Standing Head to Knee Posture, bend or buckle, just come back to work on the standing leg and nothing else. Having your leg straight and strong in this posture is much harder than the average person thinks.
To start, you straighten out your left leg, lift your right leg, and flex the right foot back, and your right thigh is parallel to the floor. From there, pull in your stomach, which will help you stay in the posture. Now it is time to focus on the left leg and straighten it as much as possible. To straighten the leg first, you must concentrate on pressing the left big toe into the floor. When you press your big toe into the floor, it will help activate your inner thigh.
Make sure the weight of the posture is distributed evenly throughout the standing foot. Lift the knee cap and contract your thigh in the standing leg while squeezing the standing leg buttock. Your leg should be straight like a steel beam and should be perfectly solid. For some people, the standing leg is something that happens quickly. For other new students, it can take months or even years to get the leg straight.
The second part of the Standing Head to the knee is picking up the flexed foot. Lift out of your waist and round forward, and pick up the foot flexed towards your face. The grip should be all ten fingers and grab three inches below the toes with wrists straight. You should not feel like you are holding the grip for dear life. The standing leg with your stomach sucked in is what holds and supports you in this posture. The grip of your hands is there more as a guide than anything else not used to keep you in the pose. Remember, any time the standing leg starts to weaken, crumble, or wobble, just come out of the grip and work on straightening the standing leg.
If the standing leg is straight, you can work on the third part, the kick out. Kick the flexed foot towards the front mirror and straighten out the lifted leg so you look like an upside-down L. Try and turn your toes towards your face while you straighten your wrist and arms. Bring the forehead to knee and elbows towards the calves while your spine is still rounding in the posture. Both legs remain straight until the end of the posture. Round out of the posture the same way you came into the posture, and you have completed the Standing Head to Knee Pose. In the Bikram Hot Yoga Series, the stance is done twice on each side of the body for twenty seconds each time you do it.
The Standing Head to Knee Pose should be viewed as a three-part posture, not a " get it all done " posture. The foundation of the posture is the standing leg which can take time for some people to establish, so if you do nothing else, work on the standing leg. You will know you have the standing leg right when it is straight as a lamppost, and it does not bend, buckle or bend. You should feel supported in steps two and three; otherwise, take a step back and just work on the standing leg.
Do not be intimidated standing next to a student doing the posture who may have been doing the series longer than you and is in this posture deeper than you are. You are getting all the posture benefits even if you are only doing one percent of the pose. This is true with all postures, not just Standing Head Knee Posture.