Shoelace Pose (Padukabandhini Asana)

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Shoelace Pose, Padukabandhini asana, (pa-du-ka-ban-dhee-nee-ah-suh-nuh)

Paduka (footwear) + bandhini (lace) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Cow Face Legs

Pose Type: Seated, Stretching

Difficulty: Intermediate

a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing a shoelace pose

Feel a deep release in the outer hips in this replenishing Yin Yoga pose.

Shoelace Pose Fundamentals

Shoelace Pose is a deep hip stretch that offers noticeable progress in hip, spinal, and shoulder flexibility – if you keep at it.

This is a Yin Yoga Pose, named after the bind of the legs and arms.

Although this pose brings tons of benefits and in our opinion – is one of the best ones to add to your regular practice – you should practice it with caution.

It is a deep hip opener and places the legs and knees in a weird position. It’s easy to overdo it, so continue connecting the breath and movement and remain conscious.

The shape of the pose is the same as the Cow Face Pose or Gomukasana. However, Yin yoga gives asanas a different name to highlight that the intention and the method of practice are not the same as in other yoga styles.

Yin yoga is about reaching the deeper tissues. To achieve that, we’re holding the poses completely still for at least 3 minutes. To move the action away from the muscles, we are not forcing our edge.

That means you’ll never go as deep in a yin yoga pose as you would go when you’re warmed up in a Vinyasa class.

The thing is – holding the pose becomes really difficult after a while. Since you want to remain still, it’s essential to find an edge that you can hold for time.

Mentally, Yin yoga is a contemplative practice, and you can use this asana to not only find stillness in the body – but also within yourself.

Energetically, Shoelace Pose mainly focuses on the Sacral Chakra, which is responsible for our sexual energy, ability to enjoy pleasure, and creativity. Working with this chakra may also help us heal the way we relate ourselves with others.

Shoelace Pose Benefits

  • Very deep release in the hips, improving hip mobility – especially in the outer hips.
  • Decompresses the spine and the lower back, especially when paired with a forward fold.
  • The wrap of the legs and the forward fold massage the digestive organs, boosting metabolism and digestion.
  • Yin Yoga poses are intended to stimulate specific meridians, and Shoelace Pose works on the Gallbladder and Urinary bladder meridians.
  • Strengthens the ligaments and the surrounding soft tissues of the knee joint.
  • Practicing in a yin-like manner will access the deeper tissues for a massage-like experience. You’ll feel much better in your body after this pose.
  • Relaxes and stills the body and the mind. It can be a great preparatory practice for meditation.

How To Do Shoelace Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

  1. Start in a seated position with knees bent and the feet on the floor. 
  2. Slide the left foot under the right knee and place it next to the outer right hip. 
  3. Place the right foot next to the outer edge of the left hip, trying to stack the knees.
  4. You can place the hands on the feet and use them to slide the feet further away from the hips. 
  5. Hold this pose for a moment, then fold forward. You can choose to hold the pose for 3–5 minutes in a forward fold or the upright spine position. 
  6. When you’re ready, release, and shake your legs a bit before you move to the other side. 
an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing a shoelace pose

Tips And Tricks:

  • Everyone will look a bit different in this pose focus on how it feels and not how it looks.
  • Both hips should be on the ground. If they’re not, then prop the hips up on a cushion or a block. Also, lift the hips if you have sciatica.
  • If you have any issues in the lower back, stay upright and don’t fold forward.
  • In Yin yoga, this pose is often sequenced together with Sleeping Swan – you do both poses on one side, and then the other. You can also pair it with a sitting twist.
  • Start with your “better” side – the side that’s more open. For example, if your right hip is more open, place the right knee on top of the left.
  • When you fold forward, keep the hips even and manage the weight on the sitting bones.
  • Read our arm variations section below to find fun things to do with your arms while holding Shoelace Pose.
  • You don’t want to feel a strong sensation right away. You’ll hold this pose for between 3 and 5 minutes, so you want to start easy. You’ll certainly feel it by the end.
  • Do your best to remain completely still when you find a variation of the pose that works for you.
  • Release the pose slowly and with great care – our body is very vulnerable when it has been in the same pose for a while.

Shoelace Pose Variation:

Shoelace Pose Variation: With Props

In Yin Yoga, props are your best friends, and you should always have some by your side. 

There are many ways in which you can make this pose more efficient with props. Here are some ideas:

  • Place a block or a folded blanket underneath the hips, especially if the sit bones are not on the mat and if you have sciatica.
  • Place a folded blanket between the knees to support the top knee, especially if you feel pain or discomfort.
  • If you can’t fold deep with your sit bones on the mat or if you want to relax the upper body more, place a bolster or a large cushion on top of the legs and rest your chest on it in the fold.
  • You can also place one or two blocks underneath your forehead or forearms when you fold forward. 

Shoelace Pose Variation: Half Shoelace

a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing half shoelace pose

Half Shoelace Pose is the best alternative for Shoelace Pose if you have tight hips or are still learning. It is still an intense hip opener and maintains the benefits of the full Shoelace Pose. 

Sitting on your buttocks, extend the right leg forward and bend the left. Cross the left leg over the right, place the ankle next to the right hip, and stack your left knee over the right

You want your left hip to remain on the ground. When you’re ready, fold forward and hold the pose for 3-5 minutes. 

Shoelace Pose Variation: Arm Position

There’s a lot you can do with your arms in this asana. You can push them into the feet to keep them separate. 

You can place them in front of you to include them in the forward fold. You can lift one arm and bend it, so the hand hits the upper back, then bend the other arm behind your back to meet the hands. 

If you’re practicing this bind, it will intensify the action in the upper body. Make sure you bind the arms in the opposite way when you switch sides. 

Shoelace Pose Variation: Active or Passive Fold

  • a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing a folded shoelace pose
  • a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing a folded shoelace pose side on

You can make the Forward Fold in this pose more active or passive.

For an active fold, you’ll want to hold your feet with your arms. Then move your chest forward, and try to keep your spine as straight as possible when folding. With a long spine, you naturally won’t fold down as deep.

For a more relaxing version, allow your spine to round over the legs. You can combine that with one of the propped suggestions above, like resting the head on a block or placing a bolster on the legs to support the torso. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Holding with pain. The main mistake in Yin Yoga is to approach it in the same way as other types of exercise, thinking that pain is gain. In Yin Yoga, you are not receiving any benefits if you feel pain – the muscles can’t relax, and you won’t access the deeper tissues. Also, you could easily injure yourself. You should only feel a slight dull, achy, stretching sensation and no pinching, throbbing, tingling, or anything similar. If you feel pain, back out immediately. 

Injuries and Conditions 

If you have injuries in the knees or feel discomfort in the knees when practicing, replace with another hip opener like the Eye of The Needle Pose. Shoelace Pose can aggravate sciatica – refrain from practicing or lift the hips up. Don’t fold forward in case of back issues and if pregnant. 

Related Poses

Eye of the Needle

Swan Pose

Square Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Sleeping Swan Pose

Bound Angle Pose

Half Cow Face Pose

Counter Poses:

Windshield Wipers

Reverse Table Top Pose

Deer Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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