Binding yoga poses include positions where the arms are clasped around a leg.
I've also included positions, like some variations of lotus, where the hand grabs the foot.
Perhaps one of the easiest binding yoga poses is a modified marichyasana b.
Because this bind is relatively simple and relatively easy I often use it as part of a "warm up."
It's also great for people who can't bind in most "normal" or traditional binding poses.
In the modified version the non marichyasana leg is in a janu sirsasana position, tucked behind the foot of the marichyasana leg.
With the legs in position, the first action is to lift the hips and lean forwards. Either push back with the supporting arm to keep the hips lifted or lean far enough forwards that you can get rest the elbow on the non-marichyasana side on the floor.
These two pictures show the pose from opposite sides.
Note that in the first picture the arm that you can't see is being used to support the body with the elbow straight.
In the second picture it's obvious that I'm resting some of my weight on my elbow.
Reach your marichyasana arm forwards.
Focus on reaching your arm, shoulder and ribs forwards.
Make the arm (and neck) feel long.
Hold for a few breaths and get used to the feeling of length.
Then reach the arm to the side while keeping the feeling of length.
(You may find it helpful to pull the knee inwards, towards your torso using your other hand.)
Then, internally rotate the arm, bend the elbow and reach the arm back behind you.
Grab your other hand behind your back.
Turn your ribcage away from the marichyasana leg.
To stretch your binding shoulder, pull your ribcage back away from your marichyasana shin.
If you like, you can go from turning to the side to bending forwards.
You can keep your pelvis lifted or if you like let it sink down to the floor.
If you do want to sink your pelvis down, use the bottom leg to help lower your pelvis with control.
Other "easier" binding yoga poses include side angle pose.
I'd suggest that side angle is easier than the modified marichyasana bind since you only wrap the thigh. However it is harder in that it requires thigh strength to stay standing.
(This may be useful as a preparation for the Bird of Paradise Yoga Pose.)
Start in a normal non-binding version of side angle but with your down arm to the inside of the thigh.
Make your bent knee leg strong so that you can easily support your body with your hand off of the floor.
You can then lift your bottom hand, bend the elbow and reach the elbow towards the floor.
Work at getting your shoulder below the level of the bottom of your thigh.
From there reach the arm beneath the leg.
Internally rotate the arm.
Then bend the elbow and reach the hand up the back.
From there grab the other hand behind the back.
If you grab the bottom wrist (as in the photo above), you can try to straighten the bottom elbow by pulling the bottom arm down.
If you grab the top hand use the bottom hand to pull back and down on the top arm.
You can use this action to help roll the top shoulder back.
(To make it easier to grab your top arm move the top side of your ribcage back. Then move your top shoulder back (relative to the ribcage)).
The arm action in bound side angle pose is similiar to that in half bound lotus forward bend. However, in the half bound lotus binding yoga pose you bind by grabbing the foot as opposed to the hand.
Compare the right hand in bound side angle and bound half lotus.
In both cases the arm reaches behind the back, however in side angle the arm wraps around the thigh.
To bind in half lotus forward bend (the seated version) try to get your lotus foot onto the top of your other thigh with the center of the back of the foot on the center line of the thigh. Pull the foot back into the crease of the thigh.
As you are pulling your foot into lotus you may find it helpful to resist by trying to push your shin forwards. Resist as you gently pull your foot back into lotus.
If this causes knee pain (or any other kind of pain) then stop pulling.
For myself, I find that when I push forwards it sometimes (not all times) makes the knee feel more integrated. However, when I do pull forwards I apply the pressure gradually. And I pull the foot back gradually, mindfully.
When binding in lotus I like to reach the binding arm forwards first. I make it feel long. Then I reach it to the side and then back, keeping the arm feeling long at all times. As I reach it back I internally rotate.
If I can't grab the foot then I'll hook the foot with the fingers of my other hand and reach the thumb of that hand back. I'll then grab on to the thumb and then from there, using my other hand as an intermediary, bind the foot.
Once you've grabbed the foot keep your grip strong. You can pull the foot forwards and at the same time pull the shoulder back.
Lengthen your neck and if you like tilt forwards.
Even though you are pulling your shoulder back, you can also pull your hand back while you pull your foot forwards. Balance the amount of tension you use. Vary the tension and find an amount that makes the pose feel right. (This will come with more experience.)
This same bind can be used in bharadvajasana. However in bharadvajasana you are twisting as well and I find that this forces the forearm into the waist, I often get a few "releases" in the lower back area as I do this yoga bind. It may be working on the quadratus lumborum of the non-binding leg side.
I think the seated version of half bound lotus is easier than the standing since you are more stable. However, here's a look at binding in ardha baddha padmotanasana along with a substitute pose.
Earlier I talked about the side angle binding yoga pose.
I'd call it an open bind since your are wrapping to the inside of the inner thigh.
You can do an external bind in twisting side angle pose (parivrtta parsvokonasana). In this case you wrap from the outside of the thigh.
A preparation to binding (and a possible prerequisite) is getting the hand to the floor with the arm crossing the outside of the thigh in twisting side angle pose.
The next step is to internally rotate the arm, bend the elbow and use the other hand to help push the forearm under the thigh. When doing this first make sure that you get the elbow past the bottom of the thigh.
The full pose is with the back knee straight and back foot turned out, heel on the floor. However, to begin with you can try binding with your back knee bent and on the floor.
Try to reach the elbow past the bottom of the thigh before bending the elbow and passing the forearm beneath the thigh.
In the full pose you may have trouble balancing. Try to stabilize your front leg by pressing the inner thigh down. Press down through the root of the big toe at the same time.
To deepen the twist as you bind, keep your outer thigh strong and press your arm against the outer thigh. Use your bottom shoulder to help pull the bottom side of your ribcage past the thigh. Pull the top shoulder and the top side of the ribcage back.
You may also find it interesting to try and bind the thoracic and lumbar spine back slightly using the spinal erectors.
You can use a similiar bind in ardha matsyendrasana. However as a first step you can grab the top of the knee of the lower leg (with your arm crossing the thigh!) You could go deeper by then grabbing the inside of the foot. This can give a nice stretch to the front of the arm.
Then from there you can try to pass your forearm under the thigh in the same way that you do in the twisting side angle pose. Get the elbow "below" the bottom of the thigh, then push the forearm under.
Notice that to push the elbow down, the shoulder also has to go down. And that may mean "sinking" the same side of the ribcage.
One of my favorite binding poses is bharadvajasana. I find that with the lotus foot bound in this twisting binding yoga pose my lower back is released. That seems to come from the binding forearm pressing into the side of my lower back.
In the marichyasana series of binding yoga poses you generally bind the marichyasana leg either from the inside (and bend forwards) or from the outside (while twisting.) These binding yoga poses can be a little bit challenging because you are binding both the thigh and the shin.
In marichyasana a, the non-marichyasana leg is straight and the bind is accompanied with a forward bend.
Actually, the further forward you can bend in this yoga bind, the easier it is to bind since bending forward brings the shoulder of the binding arm past the knee.
As in the easy marichyasana b pose mentioned above, your can lean forwards with your pelvis off of the floor. Place your other hand on the floor behind you to help lift the pelvis. Reach your torso and binding arm forward. Make the arm long. Hold for a few breaths and when you are ready, reach the arm to the side. Internally rotate, then reach the arm back and bend the elbow. Sit down and sweep your other arm behind you.
In ashtanga yoga, in all of the marichyasana positions the binding arm (the arm wrapping in front of the leg) is the grabbing hand. That being said, you may find it interesting to switch grips and notice the changes that this creates. You may find it easier to grab the other way. You can then use this "reversed" grip to pull the arms deeper and then from there switch back to the "proper" grip.
As you bend forwards in Marichyasana A you may like to reach your hands back as if to straighten the arms. This may give you more leverage to bend forwards, using the arm to push back against the leg. In addition you can shift weight onto your marichyasana foot and press forwards with the shin.
When binding in proper marichyasana b binding yoga pose, take time to make sure that your lotus foot is comfortably clamped by the marichyasana leg. You could think of this as a double bind, first the marichyasana leg binds the lotus foot, then the arms bind the marichyasana leg.
Prior to bending forwards you may find it more comfortable to lift the lotus leg knee. Then as you bend forwards let the knee move down.
In marichyasana C, the non-marichyasana leg is straight. You twist and bind the mari leg from the outside.
This pose can be challenging if your thighs are short compared to your body.
First focus on making your arm long as you reach past our knee. Keep it long and then work at internally rotating your arm. Then try to bend the elbow and bind.
The trick in this pose is on staying balanced. You may find a tendency to fall back. It may help if you try to shift your weight as it you are trying to stand on your marichyasana foot.
Click on this link to read about getting into marichyasana D.
As far as twisting goes, pashasana might require more of a twist than marichyasana d. The nice thing is that lotus isn't involved in this binding yoga pose.
An easy preparation for pashasana is prone twist (picture on left). You might find it helpful to point the forearms down in this pose (picture on right) to help get your ready for the internal rotation aspect of this yoga bind.
But you could also prepare for pashasana by doing an easier version where you wrap your arms around one thigh. Do the open twist thigh first, and then try the closed twist thigh next. Then try both thighs together.
As part of the prep, try pushing your knees to the side, out of the twist. Then focus on making your arm feel long and reach your elbow past the shins. To make your arm long, reach the shoulder blade away from the spine. Try locking your hand against your thigh and focus on lengthening your neck, opening your chest, and opening the shoulder. Then try to go deeper from there. Work at internally rotating the arm enough that your hand can reach past your buttocks and behind your lower back.
So that your other arm has more room to reach back, swing the other side of your ribcage back and move that shoulder back also. With luck you'll be able to touch fingers or even grab. From there you can claps the fingers of the other hand.
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