Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana – Revolved Head to Knee Pose
Remember the first time you discovered you were pregnant? All the excitement and the anticipation to finally ‘look pregnant‘ and to feel the ‘flutters‘ of your baby? The anticipation is soon shadowed by fatigue, sore breasts, heartburn or morning sickness and pain and tightness in the hips and back.
We’ve all had it one way or another, back pain that is! From getting out of bed too quickly, sitting too long or from carrying our sweet babies on one hip – consistently. As we age, so does the strength and flexibility of our spine. I recently travelled with a Physiotherapist friend of mine on our way to instruct a teacher training and she quite precisely told me me ‘every single day our bodies are literally decomposing’. Not in a harmful way but in a way where as we age we need to become aware of the constant changes in our bodies and to be mindful and accepting of these changes.
The first transformational shift for women hormonally is of course puberty, but the most drastic physically, emotionally and mentally is the when women become pregnant. Noticeable, the changes occur is our overall posture and as women will generally start to press the hips forward, tucking the tail, clenching the gluteals (posteriorly rotating the pelvis) and weight bearing in the knees. The other postural change for pregnant women is when the pelvis tips forward (anteriorly rotating the pelvis) due to the weight of baby creating lordosis (curve in the lumbar back) and rounding the shoulders forward. Each of these may cause instability during the postpartum stage of healing.
I for one thoroughly enjoyed all 3 of my pregnancies but because our rectus abdominus is stretching due to the expansion of the uterus this causes a natural separation in the abdominal wall (known as diatasis recti), which leaves the back quite vulnerable to trunk instability. Mixed with relaxin, a hormone secreted by the ovaries and placenta during pregnancy, which helps to naturally stretch connective tissues and muscles in the hips to help facilitate the journey into labour. This can cause in most cases women to either feel quite ‘lax’ or more flexible during pregnancy.
As you progress in your pregnancy and enroll in fitness programs to help you ‘prepare’ for labour or to simply stay healthy throughout you pregnancy, remind yourself of one thing. In pregnancy, there needs to be a balance between flexibility and stability. If you are one suffering from more laxity in your pregnancy then it’s best to find a program that will help stabilize and strengthen muscles in the gluteals to support the pelvis and pelvic floor. If you are one suffering from more tightness and stiffness in your pregnancy then it’s best to find a program that will help you stretch and lengthen muscles to rid of such pesky ailments.
As we make the transition from pregnancy to motherhood, we forget to correct this misalignment both in the spine, the abdominals and the pelvis while we tend and care for our newborn. The amount of women’s I’ve seen postpartum 20 + years still dealing with problems that were never corrected after they had their babies is astonishing! One of the biggest muscles that seems to be tight in just about every pregnant and postpartum mother is the Quadratus Lumborum.
The quadratus lumborum — sometimes known as the QL — is a muscle located in the lower back. Its main action is to help flex the trunk of the body sideways and is involved in a large number of twisting activities. The QL attaches to the vertebrae in your lumbar spine in L1-L4 and anchors itself to the pelvic crest (iliac crest). It’s job is to stabilize the lumbar spine on each side, much like the cables of a bridge.
During pregnancy and in postpartum, this muscles gets extremely tight because it working overtime to keep the spine stable and safe due to the enlarged uterus and diatasis recti.
I’ve been teaching yoga to women and mothers-to-be for 10 years and I’m not kidding when I tell you this is the BEST pose for lower back pain and compression in the side body. Whether you’re expecting or in your postpartum phase of healing, Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-to-Knee) will be the best thing you’ve done for yourself today!
- Sitting on the floor, lengthen the right leg out to the side at a 45 degree angle.
- Bend the left knee and place the left foot into the inner right thigh.
- Inhale raise the arms overhead, and exhale hinge from the hips reaching the right middle finger and index finger to wrap around the big toe. Lower the left hand to the waist.
- Inhale draw the right ribs and shoulders forward and the left ribs and shoulder back trying to stack the left shoulders on-top of the right.
- Gently bend the right elbow towards the right thigh to enhance the stretch in the left side of the lower back.
- Inhale, raise the left arm overhead to parallel the right ear rolling the shoulder away from the ear and down the back.
- Engage the transverse abdominis by hugging the sides of the lower belly (below the navel) toward the midline of the body and the pelvic floor muscles by gently lifting baby from below.
- Hold this pose for 5 breaths.
- With every inhalation lift through the left fingers and breathe into the left side of the torso, and with every exhalation anchor through the left sit-bone as the breath draws the torso to the left side.
- 10. To release this pose, inhale lead with the left hand, lift the chest while engaging the lower abdomen and pelvic floor muscles, hinge from the hips stacking the shoulders over the hips and return to centre. Repeat to the opposite side.
Modifications: Place a folded blanket underneath the sit-bones to tilt the pelvis slightly forward. If there is a previous knee injury, stabilize the knee and hip with a block tucked underneath the bent knee or a blanket rolled up underneath the left knee. If the fingers do not reach the foot, use a strap around the foot or place the hand on the shin. It’s more important to have the chest open than it is to touch the big toe!
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings, adductors (inner thighs), calves, lumbar spine, chest and shoulders. Is a helpful pose to relieve pressure off the sciatic nerve. Stretches the intercostal muscles and opens the chest and shoulders. This pose is amazing for tightness in the quadratus lumborum (lower back muscle connecting the pelvis to the spine).
Precautions: Previous knee, ankle, hip and shoulder injuries.
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