Pelvic Floor & Poses I Love to Hate

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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Posted in asana, core, restorative
7 comments on “Pelvic Floor & Poses I Love to Hate
  1. R. H. Ward says:

    This pose has changed drastically for me since my pregnancy. At this point I don’t pull my feet close to my body at all – just sitting tall in this pose doesn’t stretch me fully, and with my heels close to my body I can’t fold forward without anywhere for my belly to go. What I’ve been doing is extending my legs into a diamond shape, which gives me some room for my belly so I can bend while still getting some stretch in my hips and thighs. I’d recommend playing with the position of your legs a bit to see if that could relieve the tension you feel in the pelvis.

    I’ve been meaning to try this pose with a folded blanket under my tush, since most things feel more comfortable with some padding these days. I’ve also never tried the supported reclining version of the pose – mostly because it just seems like so much trouble to get there. Not the best excuse ever, but ce la vie.

    • Tori says:

      Thanks. I’ve tried it before, with minimal difference in how far I can lean forward (and I can actually fold farther forward with my heels closer in). I’m pretty sure this has to do with the fact that I’m not feeling soft tissue tension but rather compression from the head of my femur hitting my what’s-it-called… acetabulum? (Instead of any kind of gradual sensation, no matter how slowly I move, it goes “fine, fine, fine… nope, could not go farther without cracking bones.”) I think part of why lifting and tilting (and I think both actions are at work here) my pelvis helps is that it may allow my femur head to… maybe not slip out, but at least not be so very jammed in there as the would otherwise be.

  2. theplayfulteacher says:

    Recently I had a huge breakthrough in this pose, though I don’t know if this is helpful information because I tend to have pretty open hips. But pushing my two feet strongly together, especially through the big toe mound, has helped root my femur & widen my thigh bones back and apart — and release so much tension anywhere in the hip socket. And I mean, very much pushing the soles of my feet together. In Anusara, the tradition that I practiced for several years, they call this “shins in, thighs out.” It took so much binding out of the pose for me and really let my pelvis area widen & relax in a way that I had never experienced.

    And, thanks for reminding me of the reclined version… I don’t know why I always forget to include it in my practice more regularly. It is simply scrumptious.

    • Tori says:

      Thanks. I just tried it, and my femur heads still seem to hit — thunk! — against something in my hip socket before there’s noticeable stretch along my inner thighs/groins. I’m starting to wonder if, in addition to what might be some odd pelvic bone structure, I might just have stretchy inner thighs. Doing a quick mental scan of how my body feels in poses, I can’t think of any where my groins are a primary limiting factor.

      Also, I am a fan of what I call the “legs up the wall variation” of bound angle. That is, it’s technically reclined, but with the legs on the wall instead of the floor. That angle against gravity does help me get into the groins a little more, though it reduces the stretch I feel on the outer hip. Win some, lose some. ;)

      • theplayfulteacher says:

        Ha, isn’t that always the way? I was reading in my anatomy book about the hip last night, by chance actually, and it was illustrating all the different ways that the structure of the femur head alone can translate into people having greater or lesser range of motion in adduction, abduction, etc… It was pretty interesting. I love that you post these pieces about how your own structure affects your practice, as I hope it opens more people’s eyes to the fact that our very BONES make our poses all look (and sometimes feel) different — and that’s okay!

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