Calming Surrender in Seated Head to Knee Pose

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- Jason H, Old Greenwich

When a pose like the Seated Head to Knee Pose encourages introspection and a calm mind, I connect to my yoga practice more than ever. 

Seated head to knee pose is one of the final poses in the 26 & 2 class. It definitely provides the expected physical benefits. The pose deeply stretches the hamstrings and hips. It improves spinal flexibility and can help with low back pain relief. Also it improves kidney function. 

But forward folds such as this one also allow practitioners to draw inward. The calming reflection when bowing forward whispers a peaceful surrender. 

Yet, for me, interesting thoughts might creep in before giving in to the surrender. I notice it often happens when I start to marvel at the physical experience.

For example, I may wonder, “Why can’t I get as deeply into this pose as I have before? What’s wrong with me? Wait, does it even matter? Am I judging myself right now in a negative way by having this thought?” 

These questions might appear in my consciousness even at the end of a fantastic practice. But instead of continuing to judge myself, I come back to my breath. I come back to understanding I’m having a human experience on my mat. And there’s the surrender.

Jigar Gor stated, “Yoga is not about touching your toes. It is what you learn on the way down.” 

I love this quote and how it speaks of the depth of yoga as more than a physical practice.  A practitioner definitely reaches beyond the toes in seated head to knee pose. This quote sometimes floats through my mind at this point in the practice.  

Which puts me right back to observing those thoughts. Thoughts which border on judging my body’s capabilities. There seems to be an expectation that a yogi “should” touch their toes (and beyond). But the quote states that yoga is “what you learn on the way down.” 

What I have learned on the way down is to judge myself less and be more open to the endless possibilities in my life. Can’t get as deep in the pose today compared to yesterday? That’s OK, I get it. But I don’t have to stay focused on that. Thoughts of the argument I had yesterday with my family member? That’s OK too. Allow it all to be, and just breathe through it. 

Furthermore, I’ve compared this pose with the standing version. I’ve noticed how the seated head to knee pose feels more profound. The standing version requires balancing. It is a more physical experience. While seated, that calming surrender relaxes my mind, body and spirit.

Before diving into the seated head to knee pose, here is what we will cover in this article:

How Do You Perform Seated Head to Knee Pose?

Benefits of Seated Head to Knee Pose


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How Do You Perform Seated Head to Knee Pose?

Sitting tall, begin with the right leg extended out in front of you on the mat. Bend your left knee out to the side so your left outer leg is resting on the mat.  The sole of your left foot is pressed into your right inner thigh. Lift your arms over your head, lengthening the spine. Turn to the right and bring your arms down so your hands grab your foot. Interlace your fingers on the sole of your foot and pull your foot towards you. Tuck your chin to your chest and look at your stomach. Pull your stomach in and round your spine. Put your forehead on your knee. Your forehead might not reach your knee safely while your leg stays extended. If that’s the case, bend your right knee up to bring it to your forehead. Bring your elbows down towards the mat. For a deeper stretch, press the heel away even further as you bring the toes even closer towards your head. Hold the pose as instructed and then switch to the other side. 

Benefits of Seated Head to Knee Pose

Seated head to knee pose benefits the body physically. But the magic shows up as calming introspection with a sense of surrender. 

Spinal Flexibility and Low Back Pain Relief

A flexible spine indicates a person’s wellness on several levels. This is according to Ideal Spine Health Center. Because the spine is integral to all areas of the body, keeping it flexible is key to staying well. A flexible spine means you can move around in a comfortable manner however you wish. This proves to be an important way to stay healthy while getting older. And Yoga Journal mentions how this pose can relieve low back tightness and pain.

Better Kidney Function

Yoga Journal lists seated head to knee pose as one of the best poses for keeping your kidneys healthy. This pose stimulates those vital, blood-purifying organs. University Hospitals explains how the kidney is the major player in the regulation of your blood pressure. And the kidneys maintain many hormones that are vital to our very existence.

Benefits Hamstrings and Hips

Our friends at VeryWellFit say this pose stretches the hamstrings and hips. It can be especially beneficial to runners with tight muscles.  And hip mobility is important. NRG Sports Therapy points out that poor hip mobility can lead to poor movement. It also leads to poor posture and inhibited muscles – which can lead to injury and distress.  

Encourages Introspection and Calms the Mind

Once again, Yoga Journal weighs in by mentioning how this pose can help calm your mind. They even suggest closing your eyes in this pose while you cultivate a sense of inner peace. It’s not about touching your toes. It’s about slowing down and focusing on your breath. 

Eckhart Yoga declares that forward folds are calming and introspective postures. Why? Because they mimic the protective fetal position, drawing our energy and attention inwards. 

As mentioned before, judgmental thoughts might arise. I ride the wave of that thought all the way through the introspection while settling in. After all, things are slowing down as it’s now the end of the practice. I can see the calm and I am in the essence of my yoga practice.

I am fully human. And I have found that peaceful surrender which brings me back to my mat time and time again.

Bikram Yoga Class members in sit up pose with first two fingers around big toes



1. I’m not very flexible. What if I’m the only one who can’t hold the pose for as long as everyone else?

It’s completely natural to feel that way, especially when you’re trying something new or challenging. Remember, yoga is not about comparing yourself to others or competing with anyone else in the room. Each person’s body is unique, and everyone has their own journey in their practice. The beauty of yoga is that it’s a personal journey of growth and self-discovery. It’s not about how perfectly you can hold a pose or how long you can maintain it. It’s about connecting with your body, listening to its signals, and gradually working towards your own progress.

2. What if the instructor corrects my form in front of everyone?I hate feeling like I’m doing something wrong.

It’s not uncommon to feel a bit self-conscious when it comes to receiving corrections in front of others. But please know that yoga instructors are there to help and guide you, not to make you uncomfortable. When an instructor offers a correction, it’s not a judgment of your abilities. It’s an opportunity for growth and improvement. They want to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your practice and avoiding any potential discomfort or injury. Corrections are actually a sign that they care about your well-being and progress.

3. I don’t want to compare myself to others, but I can’t help feeling like I’m not good enough for this.

Having moments of self-doubt, especially when trying something new or challenging like yoga, can come. Remember, your journey is entirely your own, and it’s not about measuring up to anyone else’s standards. Each person’s body is unique, and we all start from different points in our practices. Comparing yourself to others can be discouraging and undermine your progress. Instead, focus on the progress you’re making personally, no matter how small it may seem. Every step you take in your practice is a step forward, and that’s something to be proud of.

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