Back in my high school days when I was running cross country (and sleeping on an old mattress, which didn’t help), I developed chronic back pain. That is how my yoga practice came to be — my mom had me do sun salutations to relieve lower backaches. I have continued my yoga practice throughout the years, because it so effectively connects my mind and body.
Here’s the skinny on yoga: there are very few activities that actively connect you to your body the way yoga does. Think about it … when was the last time you remember being acutely aware of muscles, balance and your mind as you moved? Four activities that achieve this for me are dancing, mountain biking, yoga and … I’ll let you think of the other (wink, wink). But really, when do you get to sit with yourself and check in with what’s REALLY going on?
My yoga practice now spans almost three decades. These days I embrace first series, with its graceful forward bends, standing balance, and deep twist. Baddha konasana is in the first series of my practice, coming after all the challenging balance and forward bends, right before my final poses and then … ahhh … savasana. Now I’m getting ahead of myself. If you are seated, relaxed and present, I would like to introduce you to baddha konasana, known as the bound angle pose in yoga.
Baddha konasana is like a deep tissue massage — intense, deep, relaxing and soothing. It stretches the adductors (groin muscles) of the hips while also lengthening and opening the lower back. It lets you really focus on your breathing and awareness. Activating and engaging your core (uddiyana bandha) while in this pose allows you to focus on the length of your spine, from the tailbone all the way up to your head. You notice muscles that are tense that should be relaxed and heavy (shoulders, jaw), and other muscles that are relaxed (core, perineum) that should be engaged. Put it all together and it is a little piece of magic. Sound good? Let’s get to work!
Baddha konasana/bound angle pose/butterfly
- Be sure you are wearing loose-fitting clothing.
- Start with either some cat/cow movement or 5 sun salutations to get the body warmed up and give your mind some space.
- Sit on the floor.
- Fold your legs so that the soles of your feet come together close to your hips and your knees are spread out and hovering (or touching) the ground.
- Sit tall with your shoulders over your hips and make your waist as long as possible.
- Notice the weight in your pelvis and rock your weight forward so you are on your sitz bones (and not your tailbone).
- Take a breath in (a very deep long breath in) and exhale without moving. Check in with your shoulders and your neck. Stay relaxed and long in your neck and shoulders.
- Take another deep breath in, and as you exhale, hinge from your hips and fold forward.
- Take 5 long deep breaths, letting go of tension in your shoulders and hips.
- Come out of this pose slowly and reap the benefits of this deep stretch. Ahhhhh…
Modifications & Variations
- If you have knee issues, this knee bend won’t feel good. Instead, sit with your legs spread like a “V.” Sit tall and hinge forward any amount. Go until you feel a stretch but not so much that it steals the good feeling of the stretch.
- Have more time and want to seriously chill? Do this one lying down (supta baddha konasana, for you yogis).
- Grab some pillows and sit as described above, with the soles of your feet touching and feet close in to the pelvis.
- Use the pillows under your knees if they don’t touch the ground, and place more pillows behind you. Slowly lay back onto the pillows.
- You can place your arms out wide, or place them on your chest or belly.
- Then, just let go. Just like a deep, relaxing massage, you will want to take your time getting out of this pose. This one’s a keeper for sure.
Baddha konasana is one of those poses that is easy to get into but also instantly intense. Once you get in this pose, your first response may be, “that’s enough of that!” Rather than run away from the intense stretch of your inner groin, marinate and hang out for awhile. Take a deep breath (I know, so cliché of a yoga teacher, but really take a deep breath in), exhale and RE…LAX…. This is your solitude, your personal time. Embrace it.
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