From inversions to backbends, there is no limit to the number of impressive-looking yoga poses. But sometimes, the most simple poses can offer the most profound benefits. And more often than not, these seemingly simple poses prove to be more challenging than they appear.
Such is the case with Bound Angle Pose, or Baddha Konasana. This hip opening seated pose holds potential to be a deeply introspective and enlightening yoga posture. Although traditionally it is used before meditation or pranayama practice, it is a common pose found in many styles of yoga and fitness.
Even outside of a yoga class, Bound Angle Pose is an easy stretch to do in your own home practice. Here’s all you need to know about Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana).
- 1 What is Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)?
- 2 Benefits of Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- 3 How To Do Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- 4 Variations of Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- 5 Preparatory Poses To Warm Up For Baddha Konasana
- 6 Poses To Practice After Baddha Konasana
- 7 Common Questions About Baddha Konasana
What is Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)?
When learning new yoga poses or expanding your current knowledge, it serves any student to know a bit of background surrounding specific poses. If you are a yoga teacher, sharing this insightful information with your students will keep them engaged and curious.
Various Names of Bound Angle Pose
The name Bound Angle Pose is descriptive of the shape of the asana. The feet are “bound” together, and the knees are bent to create an angle. The Sanskrit name is a direct translation: “baddha” meaning bound, “kona” which means corner or angle, and “asana” or pose.
Another common name for this posture is Butterfly stretch, because the shape of the legs resemble butterfly wings. You may also hear your yoga teacher refer to Bound Angle as “Cobbler’s Pose,” as this position is supposedly how cobblers in India used to sit.
History and Practice of Bound Angle Pose
The origins of Baddha Konasana trace back to the 15th century text Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Originally called Bhadrasana (Throne Pose), the text names it as one of the four key poses in meditation. The asanas included in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika aim to bring about movement of prana, or the “life force” energy within the body.
More recently, Bound Angle Pose holds a place in virtually all styles of yoga. It is included in the Ashtanga yoga primary series of postures, but is also commonly practiced in other forms of workouts, due to its wonderful physical benefits.
Benefits of Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
For such a basic pose, Bound Angle Pose offers an impressive assortment of benefits. Generally, this seated pose helps improve posture and body awareness while stretching the groin and inner thigh muscles. Internally, it increases blood supply to the kidneys, abdominal and reproductive organs, and improves circulation throughout entire body.
As if those weren’t enough, here’s a more in-depth look at some major advantages of regularly practicing Bound Angle Pose.
Releases the Hip Muscles and Glutes
Bound Angle Pose helps stretch and release several muscles associated with low back pain.
The psoas muscles (hip flexors) and glute muscles can become tight over time both from overuse as well as underuse. Too much tension of these muscles — especially in the hip flexors — leads to low back pain. So, Bound Angle Pose is great for athletes after a tough workout, as well as for people who spend a considerable amount of time sitting.
Strengthens Pelvic Floor
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a looming concern for many women at some point in life, either postpartum or as a normal part of aging. It can cause incontinence, and can affect overall mobility as the pelvic floor play a supporting role to the core in maintaining posture. Many yoga poses like Baddha Konasana can actually help strengthen the pelvic floor. Yoga-based pelvic floor and core exercises can greatly improve quality of life for countless women facing this issue.
Eases Stress and Anxiety
Practicing Bound Angle Pose alleviates symptoms of stress and anxiety. The pose calls for an introspective approach, focusing on your breath and surrendering into the stretch. In this way, Baddha Konasana helps calm your mind.
Consequently, there’s also a physiological explanation for the reduced stress effect. When the psoas muscles are tight, they can compress and overstimulate the adrenal glands, which produce the stress hormone cortisol. By releasing your hip flexors, you can ease this effect.
In Yin Yoga, Baddha Konasana targets the kidney meridian, which is associated with the emotions of fear and stress due to its location adjacent to the kidneys and adrenal glands. Next time you notice yourself entering a stressful “fight or flight” response, try to slow down and spend a few moments breathing deeply in Bound Angle Pose and see how you feel.
How To Do Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
If you have tight hips, want to stretch out after a jog, or are seeking some calm and release after a long day, Bound Angle Pose will definitely help you feel your best!
To practice Cobbler Pose, follow these step-by-step instructions.
- Begin seated on your yoga mat with your legs extended in Staff Pose. Sit up as tall as you can with your spine straight.
- Bend one leg, bringing your foot towards your pubic bone, with your knee open to the side.
- Bend your other leg to create a diamond shape with your legs so your thigh bones are in external rotation at your hip joint.
- Bring the bottoms of your feet together with the outer edges of your feet on the floor. Press the soles of your feet firmly together.
- Tilt your pelvis forward ever so slightly, so you are on top of your sit bones.
- Grasp your feet or ankles with your hands. Or, wrap the first to fingers of each hand around your big toes.
- Grow taller through the crown of your head, torso long and spine extending.
- Stay in this upright version of Cobbler’s pose for a couple deep breaths as you feel your groin stretching and hips opening gradually.
If you have especially tight hips, this upright version of Bound Angle Pose might be enough of a groin stretch and hip opener for you. In this case, hold the stretch for 5-10 breaths, then gently release your feet or ankles and slowly extend your legs out in front of you, returning to Staff Pose.
Otherwise, you may continue the deep stretch of Baddha Konasana, continue with the instructions below, which add a forward bend to the pose.
- Sit upright in Cobbler Pose, with your spine long.
- With an exhale, begin to lean your torso forward while keeping your spine straight.
- Think about bringing your chest forward, rather than bringing your forehead towards your feet.
- Reach your arms forward, placing your palms flat on the floor in front of you.
- When you can hinge no farther forward, stay in the deep stretch for a few breaths.
- To exit the pose, walk your hands back in towards your fit to sit upright, then carefully extend both legs in front of you.
Generally, Baddha Konasana is a safe, restorative pose and is easily modified with props (see below). However, Cobbler’s Pose can feel intense if you have tightness in your low back, hips, and legs. Due to the external rotation of the legs, pay special attention and move gently when entering and exiting the pose to ensure you feel no pain, pulling, or pressure in your knees and hip joints.
There are special cases which warrant avoiding even modified versions of Bound Angle Pose. If you’ve had recent knee or hip surgery, for example, definitely check with your physician or physiotherapist before practicing this hip opening pose.
Similarly, if you experience chronic pain in knees or hips, or are recovering from a groin or knee injury, you should skip Bound Angle Pose until you are fully healed.
Variations of Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
While it may seem like one of the more basic yoga poses, even more advanced students will agree that Baddha konasana is a powerful pose in the way it takes you deep into your own body awareness. Depending on your level and desired intention, there are many ways to practice Bound Angle Pose.
Here are some modifications and variations you can try to deepen your experience in this yoga pose.
Modify your Butterfly Pose With Props
- Hands: make a fist with each hand. Place your right fist on top of your feet, and stack your left fists on top of your right. Then, fold forward and place your forehead on top of your stacked fists.
- Blanket: if you feel pulling in your lower back or have difficulty sitting up tall, try placing a folded blanket under your sitting bones, which will help elevate your hips.
- Bolsters or blocks: for a more gentle and restorative hip opener, place a yoga block, bolster, or pillow under the outside of each knee.
- Wall: if you find yourself rounding your spine rather than sitting tall, practice Baddha Konasana with your back against a wall for extra support.
- Strap: this is another trick for supporting your posture in Bound Angle. Loop a strap around your low back, outside your thighs, and under your feet to help yourself sit up tall and lengthen your spine.
Bound Angle Pose with a Spinal Twist
Adding a gentle twist to this pose will help relax your back muscles, so this is a great variation to try before or after folding forward.
- Bring yourself into upright Bound Angle Pose.
- As you breathe in, reach your arms up over your head.
- Exhale and turn to your right, bringing your left hand to your right knee, and your right fingertips to the floor by your hip. Turn your head to look over your right shoulder.
- Press into your right fingertips to keep yourself sitting up tall.
- Hold your twist for 3-5 breaths, then carefully release and face forward, your spine returning to its neutral position.
- With your next breath, repeat your spinal twist on the other side, turning to your left.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
This restorative version of Baddha Konasana enhances the stress-releasing effects of the pose. Some yoga classes might even use Reclining Bound Angle during Savasana.
- Begin lying flat on your back, with your legs straight.
- Bend your knees and bring your feet up a comfortable distance from your pubic bone. Let your knees fall open to the sides,
- Rest your arms at your sides, palms facing up.
- For a more supported experience, place a folded blanket, bolster, or yoga block under each knee.
- Stay in Reclining Bound Angle for at least 10-15 breaths, or take a 10-minute Savasana in this meditative pose.
Ashtanga Yoga Version of Baddha Konasana
The main difference in the Ashtanga Yoga Bound Angle is is to bring the feet as far in as possible. This requires more flexibility and greater range of motion in the hips, so this variation is recommended for more advanced students, or those who regularly practice Ashtanga with a yoga teacher.
- Begin in traditional Bound Angle Pose as described above.
- Bring your hands to the floor behind you. Press into the floor as you lift your hips and scoot yourself closer to your feet.
- Take hold of your ankles and bring your heels as close to your pubic bone as possible.
- Now, grip the inner arches of your feet, with your thumbs in the center of the soles of your feet.
- Gently rotate your feet open as if you are opening a book. Be mindful you feel no pain or pulling sensations in your knees.
- Stay upright, sitting tall, or take a fold forward.
- Hold for several breaths, then bring yourself to an upright seated position (if folding forward), and release the pose. Extend your legs in front of you.
Preparatory Poses To Warm Up For Baddha Konasana
Here are a few stretches you can do to prepare you for Butterfly Pose. These poses will help bring awareness to your spine, hips, and legs.
- Come to a seated position on your yoga mat, with your legs folded in.
- Rest your hands on top of your thighs, or bring your palms together at your heart center.
- Grow tall through your entire spine and spread your shoulder blades wide across your upper back.
- Lower your gaze and focus your attention on your breath. When you feel centered after a few mindful moments, lift your gaze and move on to your next chosen pose.
- Begin standing with your feet at the outer edges of your yoga mat, or a little wider than your hips.
- Turn your toes slightly out, heels in. Press your palms together at your heart center.
- Bend your knees and squat all the way down, dropping your hips toward the floor.
- Squeeze your upper arm bones with your inner thighs as you press your arms out, creating resistance.
- Keep your sit bones pointing toward the floor as you reach the crown of your head up toward the sky to make your spine long.
- Hold this squatting position for 5-7 breaths, the release by placing your hands behind you and lower yourself to the floor gently.
Head To Knee (Half Butterfly) Pose
- Begin in a seated position with both legs extended in front of you in Staff Pose.
- Sit up straight and tall with your spine long, sitting bones rooted into the floor.
- Bend your right knee and bring the bottom of your right foot to your left inner thigh.
- Flex your left foot, drawing your toes back toward you.
- With an inhale, reach your arms up over your head.
- As you exhale, hinge your upper body forward and bring your hands to either side of your left leg.
- Hold your forward fold on your left side for 7-10 breaths. Then, walk your hands in towards you and sit up. Extend your right leg out and switch sides, this time keeping your right leg extended and folding your left leg in.
Poses To Practice After Baddha Konasana
There are many places to go from Butterfly Pose. After doing a forward bend in Bound Angle, you may feel like opening the front side of your body with Reverse Table Top. Or, if your lower body is feeling really open, you can move on to another lower body stretch, like Wide Legged Forward Fold.
Reverse Table Top
- Sit flat on the floor with your knees bent and feet firmly planted at a hip-width distance.
- Bring your hands about a foot behind you and ground your palms into your mat, fingers facing the same direction as your toes.
- Squeeze your glutes, engage your hamstrings, and lift your hips. Keep your knees aligned over your ankles, and maintain a 90-degree bend.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and open your chest. Take your gaze toward the sky and keep your head aligned with your spine.
- Hold your Reverse Table Top for 5-7 breaths, then lower your hips to the floor and return to an easy cross-legged sitting position.
Wide Legged Seated Forward Fold
- Begin in Staff Pose, sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Open your legs as much as you can without straining, and still being able to maintain a straight back.
- Flex your feet. Keep your toes and kneecaps pointing up toward the sky.
- Hinge forward from your hips and keep your spine long as you walk your hands forward.
- When you can walk your hands no farther forward, pause and hold your forward fold for 7-10 breaths.
- Take your time coming out of the stretch. Gradually walk your hands in and return to an upright position. Then, carefully close your legs.
Common Questions About Baddha Konasana
How far out in front of me should my feet be when practicing bound angle pose?
Try to start with your feet about 30-60cm (1-2ft) in front of you.
However, a more appropriate answer might be: listen to your own body! Flexibility and range of motion vary greatly from person to person, so what feels like an intense stretch for one individual might not have the same effect for the next.
The physical intent of Bound Angle Pose is to open your hips and stretch your inner thigh muscles. Try to release your idea that the pose must look a certain way. Instead, tune into your own experience and feel free to experiment with your position until you find the variation that feels best in your own body.
How can I get my knees closer the floor in Bound Angle Pose?
First, remember the intention of this pose is to promote body awareness, prepare yourself for meditation, and then, yes — open your hips. However, having your knees resting on the floor is not the ultimate goal of the pose. If you try to force your legs open before you possess the required flexibility, you could suffer a hip, knee, or groin injury.
That being said, it can be fulfilling to set goals for yourself in your asana practice. If you are working on increasing your range of motion and opening your inner thighs, you can do so safely in a couple of ways.
While sitting upright in Bound Angle Pose, you can use a prop such as a disc weight: place one on top of your thigh bones and relax as much as you can into the passive stretch, letting the weights do the work.
Another technique is to use your own arms: while folding forward in Baddha Konasana, align your forearms with your shin bones, elbows by your knees. As you hinge forward from your waist, press your elbows down with gentle resistance to feel a slightly more intense opening of your hips and inner thighs. Again, always be mindful to avoid any pulling sensation in your knees.