Asana of the Week: Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

 This week's pose is Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Bend), otherwise known as "the knee slayer."  (Okay... maybe I'm the only one who calls it that, but I have my reasons.)

This surprisingly complicated posture, when practiced with precision and great care, opens the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, and shoulders while strengthening the stabilizers of the standing leg.  However, because of the standing half-lotus position, both knees are subject to strain if the hips are not sufficiently open.  The bent knee must be watched carefully for sensation as the leg is placed in half-lotus.  The standing knee is at risk of hyper-extension not just because of the forward bend but because the lotus leg may press against the thigh and place even more pressure on the extended knee.  This is not a posture to be attempted without ample warm-up or confidence in one's ability to proceed with compassion toward oneself.

To enter the pose, begin standing and lift the right knee toward your chest.  Completely close the knee joint by rolling the flesh of the calf muscle out to the side and squeeze the shin to the thigh until your heel touches your buttocks.  DO NOT PROCEED if you cannot fully flex the knee.  Instead, move on to the modification described at the bottom of the post.

Once the knee is completely closed, keep the knee sealed and bring the sole of the right foot against the inner thigh of the standing leg with your heel against the perineum in Vrksasana (Tree Pose).  From here, take hold of your knee with one hand and your foot with the other and then lift the knee and foot on the same plane as you draw the right heel in toward your navel, keeping the knee and foot at the same level the entire time.  If the heel reaches the navel without any strain felt at the knee whatsoever, fold the right foot into the left hip crease and reach the right arm behind the back to grab hold of the big toe with the first two fingers and thumb.  If the foot will not lift up into the hip crease but rather is resting against the upper thigh, DO NOT PROCEED.

If your half-lotus is comfortable and you have taken hold of the big toe with your right hand, fold forward on an exhalation and plant the left hand down with the fingertips in line with the left toes.  Exercise caution as you fold by taking a microbend in the standing knee to prevent hyper-extension.  Keep your standing leg steady and strong and press forward and down into the left palm to deepen your fold as you draw nose to knee.  Spend at least five deep breaths here, moving into the fold with every exhalation.  To exit the pose, inhale to a flat back.  Stay for the exhale to firm the belly and steady the standing leg, then inhale the body to standing, maintaining your grasp on the bound foot the whole way to encourage even greater opening of the hip and thigh.  Gently release your grasp and stand firm on two legs with the arms at your sides.  Repeat the posture on the opposite side for the same number of breaths.

If the above steps cause any discomfort in the knees whatsoever, cross the right ankle over the left thigh instead of taking the half-lotus position.  Take a soft bend in the standing knee and press the right knee open to achieve a stretch in the hip.  Be sure to activate the right foot by flexing the toes and press through the inner heel in order to protect the knee.  From here, you may rest your left hand on the left thigh and then wrap the right hand behind the back to take hold of the opposite elbow or forearm.  Keep both shoulders sliding down the back.  Stay for five deep breaths, then switch to the other side.

1 comment:

  1. Knee slayer sounds about right! I only have to look at the photo and my balance takes a running leap out of the window!! Still, it's nice to have a goal...one day :)