Posture Clinic: Standing Head to Knee Pose

One of the most dynamic and challenging postures in the Bikram Yoga series, here is OMB’s breakdown of standing head-to-knee.

Standing Head to Knee Pose

Dandayamana Janushirasana

Huiping Mo, Bishnu Ghosh Cup Champion demonstrates standing head-to-knee pose. photo: Bikram Yoga College of India


Contraction of :

Compression of:

Extension of:

The proximity of the heart to the floor, puts pressure on the muscle, exercising the heart through elevating the heart rate.

Physical Benefits:

  • Builds strength through the body
  • Improves flexibility of sciatic nerve
  • strengthens tendons
  • Prevents wear and tear of knee cartilage though strengthening of soft tissues around the knee
  • Helps clear and prevent problems with digestion, including flatulence
  • Helps to develop balance
  • Helps maintain sugar levels through compression of the pancreas
  • Improves blood circulation throughout the body
  • Tones abdominal muscles and thighs
  • Improves your sex life through the massage of your reproductive organs
  • helps to decrease varicose veins by exercising the long vein (great saphenous vein) running from the leg to the heart

Energetic Benefits

  • challenge of the posture helps to build patience, determination allowing light-heartedness
  • concentration required unifies the mind and body
  • working on balance between right and left side helps to balance yin and yang, male and female energies in the body
  • final expression of the pose involves both control and release, allowing you to let go of old patterns
  • helps to improve confidence and self-worth
  • helps to clam and clear the mind


Most sports will teach you to bend the knee to maintain the safety of the joint. Bikram Yoga is different. By balancing for one minute, the static nature of the pose makes it safe to lock the knee.

The “lock” is created by the contraction of the quadriceps muscles in the front side of the leg, this lifts the patella, creating space in the knee-joint, strengthening the soft tissues around the knee-joint to help protect the integrity of the joint.

This pose involves patience, one step of the pose must be complete before the next. Reference the picture of Huiping Mo above to get an idea of what each step should look like. Remember: it is not a race , you have plenty of time to master the posture.

Notice the positioning of the foot on the floor, your toes should not v-in or v-out.

Tips from the Pros

Always distribute your weight evenly on the foot (big toe, little toe, heel). When you keep your weight in your heel you are jarring your bones – Craig Villani

Those who have hyper-extended knees should always move the weight forward into the front of your foot and big toe. Most people with hyper-extended knees will hang out in the side of the foot and heel which causes you to use the quadriceps and back of the leg to sustain the pose. You must instead move the weight into the big toe to engage the inner thigh, helping you to use all the muscles in the upper leg to lock the knee. – Dana Moore, Co-Owner: Bikram Yoga Toronto

In the first part, make sure the thigh is parallel to the floor (when you kick, the leg). If the leg is above or below parallel it puts too much pressure on the lower back – Rajishree Chourdhury

“Do not grab the knee to modify the pose it is wrong” Bikram Choudhury

“Grabbing the knee to modify the pose jams the femur into the hip socket, damaging the joint.” Emmy Cleaves

For those who are overweight, have arthritis or other conditions and challenges, round the spine and grab wherever you can below the knee. – Rajishree Choudhury

Suck your stomach in. The abdominal region is a great source of energy. Compression of the abdominal organs will both protect your spine and give you energy for the pose. – Rajishree Choudhury

Always grab the ball of the foot, grabbing lower on the foot jams the femur into the hip socket when you kick – Craig Villani

When you kick, initiate the movement with the heel so that you extend the back of the leg properly. – Craig Villani

When you kick your leg out make sure to extend the heel forward and keep the hips in one line. If you displace the leg alignment, you effect the sciatic nerve, so keep the hips aligned. – Rajishree Choudhury

Tips for Teachers

Watch that the students always have their weight distributed evenly in the foot, re-assess their weight distribution in each stage of posture. – Craig Villani

Do NOT teach students to modify the pose by grabbing the knee, it is wrong and jams the femur into the hip socket. – Bikram, Emmy, Rajishree

When you notice a student has their hips out of alignment, correct them by saying “kick your heel more forward,” and not “push/move your hip forward.” – Craig Villani


Filed under About Bikram Yoga, Benefits, Bikram, Bikram Yoga Toronto, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips, Tips and Tricks

18 responses to “Posture Clinic: Standing Head to Knee Pose

  1. One more time all together – do not grab the knee!! Hallelujah and Amen.

    Contraction of hamstrings??

    • You’re right about the hamstrings, a lot of articles and books say it is strengthened so I added it to the contraction list… and now am realizing thats soooo wrong. Thanks!!

      And yes…. DON’T GRAB THE KNEE!!

  2. Paul Askew

    And don’t just stand there with your knee hanging in the air. That just grinds my gears 🙂

    • Yes, Rajishree said once in a seminar that an important part of the pose was to bring the heart down parallel to the floor, something that doesn’t happen when you are just standing there.

    • Bikram Enthusiast

      Fair enough, but when I started, as an overweight and completely out-of-shape Bikram novice with multiple ankle sprains over the years and arthritic knees, I couldn’t even balance on one foot in a doorway. Nor could I reach the bottom of my foot with my hands because my hips were so tight. So there I was, hanging my knee in the air in this pose to practice balancing on one foot. Fast forward two years and not only can I lock my standing leg, but I can extend and lock my other leg for half of the time in the posture. If there is a better way for out-of-shape people to start learning this pose, the teachers should guide them.

      • I completely agree. It is correct for someone who is overweight to stand with the leg elevated, without gripping the foot. Still, the best way to accelerate change and get benefits is to reach for the foot to the best of the ability of the student.


  3. Lena Yang

    Any suggestion how to ensure a Bikram grip?

    • Best advice I’ve gotten is something I heard from Sarah Baughn years ago: “Don’t hold the FOOT, hold the GRIP.”

      Also, it’s ok to wipe your hands on your shorts before you start. (It’s in the dialogue!!)

      Anyone else? 🙂

    • Good one Juliana!!

      Another instruction that Craig gave in our TT was to interlock the fingers and cup the palms slightly so that it was the palms gripping the sides of the foot.

  4. Oh, I love this post! This posture is so challenging. I have seen students grabbing their knee because they can’t pick up their foot and it drives me crazy! I want to correct them and I’m not a teacher!
    What about the grip once you are kicked out? When you start to bring your elbows down, I’ve heard teachers tell me to loosen my grip slightly. Is this right?

    • Sarah

      Loosening the grip slightly when your elbows are down and in will allow you to get your wrists straighter. It also challenges your kicking out leg more…”create cramp on top of the thigh”.

      Loving these posture clinics – great job OMB!! X

  5. Thank you very much for the post!
    I am doing Bikram for 2 years and this posture is my problem #1. I am still at the first stage, so far form kicking yet. Thank you for detailed tips, I will try it on my next class!

  6. mate

    Its not too healthy to increase the flexibility too fast!
    If you overstrech the stabiliser muscles or ligaments of the joints, the spine will be instable…

    For examlpe the pose above ( standing had to knee) is especially dangerous for less flexible people! The hamstring dont let the pelvis tilt forward, the pressure in the S1 intervertebral disc is exremly incerasing!

  7. Alan Conley

    I have recently just gone from holding my foot up and just maintaining my balance for the length of the posture working on locking my knees. Now I am trying to extend the non-weight bearing leg I can actually kick out some and hold balance , then I try to stand-up my non weight bearing leg looks like a ^ upside down letter V Am I hurting myself should I hang out at a certain position until I am stronger?

  8. Pingback: Getting my heat fix | Laughing, Living and Loving in London

  9. I just started Bikram 2 weeks ago. This is by far the most difficult pose for me. My ankle on the standing foot cramps the second I start and I can’t stay in the pose for more than 20 seconds. (I am just holding my foot parallel to the floor at this point.) What tips do you have for me? I’d be very appreciative.

  10. Wendy Chopin

    is the back supposed to be rounded the entire pose?

  11. Bikram Enthusiast

    jenmitch, I’m not a Bikram instructor, but I used to get horrible cramps in my calves on tiptoes during awkward pose. Over time, the cramps went away, I believe, because my muscles became stronger. Keep trying to the best of your ability and I have a feeling this will get better. Also, being properly hydrated helps with cramps.

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