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Binding Yoga Poses

Using the strength of one part of the body against another

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Binding Yoga Poses

binding yoga poses

In general, binding yoga poses are those where one part of the body grabs and pulls against another part. So for example, if you are grabbing the big toe or side of the foot, that's a bind.

Binding poses allow you to use the strength of one part against another. So if grabbing a foot, you can use your arm muscles against your leg muscles.

It's worth noting that because of the way that you connect limbs when binding, the muscular strengthening action when binding is different than when doing a similar shaped pose that isn't bound. For this reason it can be worthwhile to practice both binding poses and poses that are similar in shape but non-binding.

Binding yoga poses index

Binding poses defined

Open twist binds

Preparation position for Marichyasana B. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Modified marichyasana B

Ardha matsyendrasana yoga pose,  Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Bound side angle pose

Preparation position for Marichyasana B. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Marichyasana A pose

Preparation position for Marichyasana B. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Marichyasana B pose

Half Bound lotus, standing forward bend. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Seated bound half lotus

Half Bound lotus, standing forward bend. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Standing bound half lotus

Bharadvajasana yoga pose, a twist for the spine and a stretch for the hips. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Bharadvajasana binding pose

Arm pit pose, a binding pose with the foot near the armpit. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Armpit pose

Close twist binds

Ardha matsyendrasana yoga pose,  Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Variation: Ardha matsyendrasana

Ardha matsyendrasana yoga pose,  Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Bound twisting side angle

Marichyasana C. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Marichyasana C yoga pose

Marichyasana D, not quite bound. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Marichyasana D attempt

easy compass pose, knee bent, hamstring stretch, knee straight, spine long, yoga pose, head pulled back and up, chin down towards chest.

Compass yoga pose prep

Binding poses: Compass yoga pose. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Compass yoga pose

Defining binding yoga poses

Any pose where one part of the body presses against another body part could also be considered a binding pose. For example, in tree pose, a foot presses against the opposite thigh.

The key point about binding poses is it causes your muscles to act in different ways. If you press your foot against your thigh in tree pose, you get a different muscular activation than if you pull the foot away. If you clasp your hands behind your back and work at pulling them apart (or pushing them together), the muscular activation is different from that which occurs if you just reach your arms back.

For that reason, you may find it beneficial to practice both binding poses and their non-binding counterpart. Or practice one type of bind with an opposite bind for balance.

As an example, if you clasp the hands behind your back and work at pulling them apart, repeat the exercise with arms clasped in front of your body.

Many binding yoga poses are also spinal twists. Some aren't.

Spinal twists without binds are included in the spinal twist section.

Open Twist Binding Poses

The following binding yoga poses include leg binds and foot binds. In all cases the same side foot or leg is bound. This makes it easier to turn away from the bind, creating space.

Modified Marichyasana B

Preparation position for Marichyasana B. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

In the usual marichyasana b position, the non marichyasana foot is in lotus position. InModified Marichyasana B it is not. This is a nice pose to practice the non-twisting marichyasana binding position without worrying about lotus pose.

Bound Side Angle

Ardha matsyendrasana yoga pose,  Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Bound side angle pose is perhaps one of the easiest standing poses to bind in from the binding perspective. Holding the pose for awhile however, you may find your thigh starts to protest.

Marichyasana A

Preparation position for Marichyasana B. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Binding in Marichyasana A requires a little bit of hamstring flexibility in the straight leg and hip extensor flexibility in the marichyasana leg. You'll also need the ability to internally rotate the shoulder of the binding arm.

Marichyasana B

Preparation position for Marichyasana B. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Marichyasana B is a bit more difficult than marichyasana a because the non-marichyasana leg is in lotus position. That being said, at least you don't have to worry about having flexible hamstrings as you do in the A position.

Seated half Lotus

Binding in seated half bound lotus, if you can do the lotus pose leg position relatively easily, then focus on creating length in order to bind easily. If you can't do lotus pose or have some difficulty with it, then half bound lotus yoga pose includes some preparation exercises that can help you work towards the lotus foot position without hurting your knee in the process.

Ardha baddha padmottanasana

Ardha baddha padmottanasana is a standing half bound lotus forward bend. I'd suggest that you may be better working towards this after having practiced the same pose while sitting, particularly if your balance isn't that good. Failing that, work at binding the lotus foot without doing the forward bend.

Bharadvajasana

Bharadvajasana yoga pose, a twist for the spine and a stretch for the hips. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Bharadvajasana is one of my favorite binding twists. It can feel really good on the lower back, perhaps because of the way the forarm of the binding arm presses into the back corner of the lower back and waist.

Armpit pose

Arm pit pose, a binding pose with the foot near the armpit. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Armpit pose is a somewhat ridiculous but fun binding yoga pose. If you can get the bind, then you can try hanging from the bind while resting on the knee of the bound leg. It can provide an interesting stretch for your shoulder.

Closed Twist Binding Yoga Poses

The following binding yoga poses include leg binds and foot binds. In all cases the opposite leg is bound so that the twist is towards the bound leg.

Ardha Matsyendrasana

The usual or classic bind in ardha matsyendrasana is to grab the foot with the arm outside the leg. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
Ardha matsyendrasana yoga pose,  Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

There are a couple of ways to bind in Ardha matsendrasana. The usual method is to grab the foot with the arm outside the leg as shown in the first photo. Another method is shown in the second photo above.

Twisting Side Angle Pose

Ardha matsyendrasana yoga pose,  Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Bound twisting side angle is perhaps one of the more challenging of binding poses in general. Use caution when attempting it.

Marichyasana C

Marichyasana C. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Binding in Marichyasana C can be challenging because it combines a closed twist with a bind that includes the thigh and lower leg.

Marichyasana D

Marichyasana D, not quite bound. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

I've only bound successfully in Marichyasana D a couple of times. I'd suggest working towards this binding yoga pose with extreme caution. The article Marichyasana D includes exercises to help you work towards this pose intelligently.

Marichyasana Poses

Here's an overview of the Marichyasana Yoga Poses.

Non Twisting Binding Yoga poses

The following binding poses all involve a straight leg.

Compass Pose Prep

Compass pose prep can actually be used as a hamstring stretch as well as a shoulder stretch. Because you are grabbing the foot and can use your arms against your legs, it counts as a binding pose.

Compass Yoga Pose

Binding poses: Compass yoga pose. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Compass pose is a natural progression of the previous pose. A key factor in straightening the leg is to gradually relax the shoulder of the binding arm. But actually, what you are doing is allowing particular muscles to lengthen while they stay active.

Published: 2012 06 01
Updated: 2021 01 24

Neil Keleher

Hi, I'm Neil Keleher

I have a bachelor's degree in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo.

I've taught yoga for over 20 years with a focus on force perception and using it to improve body awareness, stability, strength and flexibility.

My main interest is in basic principles that can be applied in any endeavor to make learning and doing easier and to make problem solving easier.

You can find more by me on my other website zeroparallax

Clearly defined poses, exercises and stretches for improving stability, body awareness and flexibility.

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