Practising sitting poses such as Cobbler Pose or Baddha Konasana takes us to the essence of what yoga is all about. Although many of us think of the word asana as meaning a pose or posture, the literal translation is “a comfortable seat”. This, of course, is essential in order to practise meditation, as you need to be able to sit and focus your attention inwards without being distracted by physical discomfort.
Baddha Konasana is often translated into English as Cobbler or Tailor Pose, because this is the position they would traditionally sit in to do their work. However it really means “bound angle pose”. The angle referred to is that between the legs and the torso and in Iyengar Yoga a strap is often used around the lower body to help to achieve this feeling of binding. It’s a powerful stretch for the inner thighs and groins and also activates the muscles of the pelvic floor. This is why the pose is regarded as beneficial for menstrual and bladder problems as it stimulates the lower abdominal organs, including the ovaries and prostate, bladder and kidneys. It is safe to practice all through pregnancy and can help relieve fatigue and anxiety.
How to do the pose
To sit in Baddha Konasana, bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet together, keeping your back straight. Allow the knees to drop out to the side and place your hands on your feet or ankles. Gently draw in your lower abdominal muscles to give support to your spine. Keep your spine long and your chest open. If you feel you’re rounding in the lower back try sitting on the edge of a block. Stay here for several breaths allowing the hips to rotate outwards.
Experiment with moving your feet closer or further away from your body and you’ll find you activate different external hip rotators and lengthen different adductors (inner thigh muscles). However keeping the soles of the feet together with the outside edges pressing into the floor, rather than with the soles facing upwards helps protect both the knee and ankle ligaments from being over-stretched and will direct more of the pose’s action into the hip joints.
To take the pose further, hold the feet and fold forward from the hips . Keep the chest lifted – feel as if you’re trying to bring your navel over your toes – so you keep the length in your spine as you increase the stretch in the inner groins. Or see how it feels with a block under your feet.
If you’re very stiff or maybe recovering from an injury, then working one side at a time, i.e. with the legs in a Janu Sirsasana position, is more gentle and can help you to spot imbalances between one side and the other. Having done this once or twice, staying for several breaths each time, then try coming into Baddha Konasana and see what if feels like.
A neat trick to open your hips
Tightness in the hips and inner groins means that for many of us, especially horse riders, this pose is particularly challenging, so I’m indebted to Gary Carter www.naturalbodies.co.uk for showing me amazingly simple and effective way of getting the hips to open.
Begin in a Baddha Konasana position. Just stay here for a few moments and use this as a baseline, observing how it feels. Then cup one foot inside the other, soles of the feet facing upwards. You will feel your hips starting to open and the knees dropping down to the floor. The feeling might be slightly stronger in the upper foot side. Stay here and notice how body yields and softens with minimal effort. Then switch sides and repeat with the other foot on the top. Afterwards sit in Baddha Konasana again and notice if there’s any difference.
I’ve been experimenting with this in my own practice and have been introducing it to all my students receiving lots of positive feedback, so it’s well worth a try.