It may be odd for me to end this core series with a pose I love to hate, but it may also leave me something to grow on. After all, if I only practice poses that are perfectly wonderful every single time I do them, that doesn’t present too much opportunity for my practice to grow.
So — baddha konasana, bound angle pose. With the hips externally rotating and the thighs moving outward, there’s a lot of room for the pelvic floor to open and relax. I’m told there’s a lot of room for the groins and inner thighs to open and relax as well, but my anatomy doesn’t play that game, so I’ll have to take others’ word on that one. My femurs go thunk against the back of my pelvis well before my groins feel any stretch, which is most of what makes this pose an ongoing source of frustration for me.
[Clip from Real Bodywork via YouTube.]
That said, the frustration has come with some benefits, one of which is that I’ve tried a lot of different versions of the pose in figuring out what works best for me. Individual mileage will vary, of course, but some general guidelines might be:
- Position your pelvis for maximum hip relaxation. — For some people, this is sitting flat on the floor. For others, it might be sitting on a little padding (like a folded blanket), sitting on a lot of padding (like a bolster), sitting with one’s back against a wall, or taking a reclining version of the pose. Some of these work in combination (e.g., padding and against a wall) while others might not.
- Keep your knees happy. Positioning the pelvis helps with this; allowing the hips to truly relax often means you’re not just referring tension down to the knees. This might also mean adjusting the foot position (i.e., pulling the heels as close in as possible without strain in the knees) or supporting the knees with blankets, blocks, or bolsters. Pretty much the big “no” in this pose is forcing the knees down toward the floor; that tends to end poorly for both the knees and the hips, not to mention sort of defeats the purpose of “relaxing” into this posture.
- Folding forward is completely optional. (Though if you do it, it’s generally good to do so with a straight spine rather than rounding.) The intent of the pose is to allow stretch and opening through the groin, hips, and pelvis. The only real purpose of the forward folding, then, is to facilitate that hip/groin/pelvic sensation, and it’s only necessary to fold forward (or not) to the extent that it aids that pelvic and hip stretch. As a stand-alone thing, the only guaranteed result of folding forward is that the people who do it can more easily smell their own feet. ;)
[Video by Esther Ekhart via YouTube.]
Still, in the seated version of bound angle, sometimes I get too focused on wanting to feel a stretch along my inner thighs (which is, yes, one of the focal points of the pose but which is also something my pelvis wants to disallow) that I can’t let my pelvic floor relax. In times like this, the best thing for me to do is to take baddha konasana as a reclined pose — which at least takes the temptation to just fold forward a little more out of the equation.