Part V in the Bikram Yoga Series:

Standing Head To Knee

Does standing head to knee seem impossible for you? Is it all you can do just to keep your standing leg locked for 60 seconds without feeling like your leg will catch fire? You are not alone! Here are a few tips for you to consider during your next few classes to see if you can find a new place to balance and the strength to move forward.

Tip #1 - Suck your stomach in and breath slow and steady throughout the pose. I know we say it so often that you probably tune us out over time, but this will help you with your balance considerably. Start before you round down, trying to suck your stomach in after you already have your foot in hand does not allow you to engage all the same muscles because now your weight is distributed differently in the body. Suck it in as hard as you can, take a deep breath and round down and then pick up that foot!

Tip #2 - Try to round down as you pick up your foot so that your lifted thigh is parallel to the floor. If you are standing upright it is much more difficult to achieve a locked out leg as your hip joint on the standing leg isn't in the ideal position

Tip #3 - Keep your body weight forward into your toes on your standing locked out leg. Then you can push your knee back, keeping your quadricep engaged. - When the back of your knee hurts, it is often because you have your body weight in your heel when you are trying to lock your leg and your hip is not aligned with your heel so your body weight shifts into the lower back and the back of the knee. - When your heel is not in line with your hip, even if you achieve a locked out leg, when you lift up your leg you push even more tension into your lower back and set yourself up for potential injury. Especially if your stomach is not still engaged!

Tip #4 - Please remember this is a "building block" process and you really can't move forward to Tip #4 if you haven't mastered the previous Tips 1-3. You don't have to move to an exactly straight lifted leg immediately. If you have a locked out standing leg you can gradually move your heel forward towards the mirror a few inches at a time and please remember to flex your toes back towards you as much as possible as you do this. Flexing your toes back helps engage your leg muscles on the lifted leg and helps you push your heel forward towards the mirror which helps you keep your very important hip alignment. Once your leg is in the air when your toes are not flexed back it is easy to drop your weight back into your heel again. And then not only is it harder to keep your leg lifted and straight, you are again shifting weight and tension into the lower back and back of the knee. Yoga is a lot about putting your body weight and strength in the exact right location so that you can feel nearly weightless in your poses. Take it slowly and over the course of a few days or weeks you'll be able to get that leg parallel to the floor.

Tip #5 - Once and only once both legs are locked, and your toes are flexed back towards your face as hard as you can, then you will have the right amount of strength and balance to begin to bring your elbows down close to your calf muscle. Use your arm strength here as well to keep that perfect balance of tension and strength working throughout your body. Make sure your stomach is still engaged while you are working with your arm positioning. Eventually your flexibility will allow you to lower your elbows below your calf muscles and then your body weight will properly placed and the balance between strength and flexibility achieved for you to surprisingly easily tuck your chin to your chest, put your forehead on your knee and hold it there for as long as you'd like!

Tip #6 - Have fun, be patient with yourself and remember to breathe in and out through the nose for as slow of a count as you can swing throughout the length of the posture. It can take anywhere from one month to six years (or maybe longer) before you gain the strength and the positioning ability of your body to achieve the full expression of this pose, but as long as you are trying 100% to do it correctly, you are getting all the benefits and you will get there!

Bikram Yoga Series Archive
Untitled Document

Part I - Pranayama Breathing
Part 2 - Half Moon Pose and Hands to Feet Pose
Part 3 - Awkward Pose
Part 4 - Eagle Pose
Part 5 - Standing Head To Knee
Part 6 - Standing Bow Pulling Pose
Part 7 - Balancing Stick Pose