What are binds and why do we do them in yoga?
In the Hatha Yoga tradition, binding refers to any action where one part of the body holds on to another part or when two body parts are intertwined. Binding, when done correctly, allows the body to relax, deepen into a pose, and hold for a longer period of time. Binds also help maintain the structural integrity of poses thereby providing an extra layer of safety. Of course, not everybody is able to easily bind.
While working towards a natural bind, practitioners can use a variety of straps, bolster, and other props to "bridge the gap". Of course, the YogaSphere™ is our unique binding systems of choice. One benefit of using the YogaSphere™ over traditional straps is that the circular shape allows for free mobility of the fingers, arms, toes, and shouders. Your extremities can move and rotate freely just as they would if you were naturally binding. In essence, your body moves as it would naturally, there is a reduction in tugging and pulling, and you acheive an anatomically correct bind for most positions.
Remember......the bind is not the goal of the pose;
The benefits are contained within the whole journey and expression of the posture.
Some common poses that employ binds include: Bound Head to Knee, Bound Lotus, Bound Side Angle, Revolved Bound Side Angle, Dancers Pose, and Gomukhasana.
Depending on which pose you are doing, binding provide additional flexibility and rotation which assists in the following areas.
Opening The Heart/Chest
Any pose that involves moving one hand around your back and the other under the leg externally rotates the arms and moves the shoulder blades closer together. The tension created by the bind spirals the chest open and upward deepening the posture and allowing the heart to shine outward. Conversely, in poses like Dancer Pose or King Pigeon the bind opens the front body causing the same heart expansion.
When using a bind in twisting posture (i.e., bound revolved angle, seated spinal twist, "noose pose"), you can maintain the twist longer which increase the internal benefits of the pose.
Mental Balance - Taming the Ego
Binding causes you to strike a balance between striving and struggling. Struggling towards a pose can cause injury and frustration. "Striving" is working towards the bind in a way that respects where your body and mind are at in that given moment.
Props, like the YogaSphere™, allow you to find the balance of working towards a pose while practicing kindness to yourself (otherwise known as Taming the Ego!).
Spine Elongation and Staightening
Cradling the feet with a bind or YogaSphere™ in seated forward folds or standing postures (such as Standing Head to Knee) ensures the spine is straight with the heart open and forward while sinking into the pose.
Relaxation of Muscular Tension
One of the biggest benefits of using binds is that they allow the muscles that hold the body in a pose to release, relax, and open. By relaxing in intense stretches you can gain more benefit from the posture. There are many other benefits to binds related to reflexology, meridian lines, and physiological alignment.
Explore for yourself and make the effort to advance into binds in your postures. Once you are able to attain them, you will discover that bound variations ultimately feel easier than being unbound. You will immediately notice how you can use the bind to work into areas of tightness and get the maximum benefit of the posture.