Baddha is a Sanskrit word meaning “bound,” “fastened,” or “combined.” This “fastening” implies firmness, as Baddha is sometimes rendered “ensnared,” “trapped,” or “tied.”
It is often used to describe yoga asanas (postures) where the hands, feet, or hands and wrists, are strongly joined, such as Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose), Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound angle pose), and Parvrtta Baddha Parsvakonasana (revolved bound side angle pose).
Baddha Deep Dive
The binding or joining of the hands, feet, or hands and wrists, is an important practice in yoga. It is often known for simultaneously making a pose more challenging while also helping with alignment and self-adjustment. Baddha elements can be incorporated into asanas while seated, standing, reclined, lunging, and in many other positions.
Baddha is crucial for opening the chest and expanding the breath in some postures. The potential for release and relaxation in certain poses often depends on the way binding the hands can lead to deeper back bends, fuller folds, and increased rotation in twists.
In other asanas, applying Baddha provides a stretch in the shoulders that cannot be achieved otherwise without the use of props, for example, in variations of Baddha Hasta Parvottanasana (bound pyramid pose, or literally “bound hands extended side pose”), where the arms are outstretched behind you, and the hands are joined and raised towards the head.
Similarly, joining the feet in poses like Baddha Konasana or Supta Baddha Konasana, while a challenge for some, allows for comfortable yet intense hip openers and groin stretches. The pressure applied foot-on-foot creates the tension that gives these asanas their power.
Baddha is applied in several poses, including:
- Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose)
- Baddha Uttanasana (bound forward fold)
- Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound angle pose)
- Parvrtta Baddha Utkanasana (revolved bound side angle pose)
- Baddha Trikonasana (bound triangle)
- Baddha Parsvakonasana (bound side angle pose)
- Baddha Virabhadrasana (bound warrior pose)
… and many more.
Besides the physical benefits, Baddha provides an experience that you don’t often have in your day-to-day life. You consciously and securely grasp a part of yourself, or press your bare feet together, presenting a unique opportunity to connect with yourself in a tactile way and be in your body. Firmly holding onto yourself is also a chance to experiment with deep stillness during asanas.
The term Baddha may also apply to pranayama techniques, such as Sarva Dvara Baddha Pranayama (translated as “all doors closed whereby prana – life force – can escape”). In this position, the thumbs cover the ears, index fingers cover the eyes, middle fingers cover the nose (lightly), and the ring fingers and little fingers are placed on the top and bottom of the mouth respectively. Prana, our life force, is contained, restrained, and held within.
Baddha in Your Life
The flow of your life energy changes when you connect with yourself.
For beginner yogis, try incorporating some of the simpler Baddha asanas into your practice. Seated asanas are a good place to start.Check out Baddha Hasta Vajrasana and Baddha Hasta Sukhasana. These are basic seated postures that combine interlacing the fingers behind the back with a mild back bend. Move with your breath, inhaling to expand the chest, lengthen the spine, and lift your arms. Exhale to lower your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers. Feel your shoulder blades draw together, and your hands move down towards the floor. Now, notice the way the connection of your hands brings life to the pose. Connect to the stillness, and simultaneously the freedom of movement. This is the paradox that Baddha brings to your practice.
You may have already come across asanas like Baddha Konasana, commonly known as Cobbler’s Pose or Butterfly Pose, in yoga class. Without the connection of the feet, this pose would lose so many of its benefits: opening the hips and groin, stretching the thighs, strengthening the core. The next time you do it, notice your bare feet touch. Tune into the sensation of your skin on skin, and the firmness and evenness of the way you press your feet together. Feel the potential of becoming more connected to yourself.
If you are a more experienced practitioner, you may have already experienced a number of Baddha poses. Now may be a good time to focus on how binding intensifies those asanas. Check in to the way you are breathing when the pose is engaged. Pay attention to how it really feels when you’re bound to yourself, and explore poses where adding Baddha works for you.
The Baddha aspects of your practice, while certainly binding, are an important part of a yoga journey that leads to freedom.
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