In previous posts I have written on the importance of Padmasana (lotus posture) and how the right actions needed for this posture have to be imprinted in Janushirshasana A. Today we are connecting the dots. This new post implements the lessons learned in Janushirshasana while performing Baddha Konasana, which then prepares us for Padmasana.
Sitting in Dandasana, draw the feet towards you until you can draw a straight line through both knees and both ankles, while letting the knees sink out to the side. There is no set distance from pubic bone to heel; it varies from person to person depending on the ratio between length of femur and length of tibia. If your pelvis tilts posteriorly at this point already, elevate the sit bones by sitting on a folded blanket. This will help you to use gravity more.
Take the feet now by reaching with your thumbs in between the soles and then open the feet like the pages of a book. At the same time, use your abductors (gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, tensor fascia lata) to draw your knees down to the floor. Take a deep inhalation to sit as tall as possible, with sit bones reaching down into the floor, low back concaved and heart lifted high.
Exhaling, fold forward, keeping your back completely straight and the heart lifting forward.
This is a potentially difficult posture, which might not even be mastered through years of adjustments, but it can be mastered through right application of anatomical inquiry. We have to understand that Baddha Konasana is two Janushirshasana A’s put together. If we have understood and practised Janushirshasana A properly, then Baddha Konasana will unfold.
Let’s recall Janushirshasana A. When the right leg is folded back, we:
– point and invert the right foot
– draw the right heel into the right groin
– medially (inwardly) rotate the right thigh bone
– draw the knee down to the floor and backwards
– extend out along the inside of the thigh bone.
You need to perform all of those actions in Baddha Konasana simultaneously on both sides. In the set-up position you already inverted your feet, which means that the soles face upwards. Now point the feet, which leads to the heels moving apart from each other. This lengthens the inside of the thighs. The heels then reach towards the respective groins, which prevents the sit bones from escaping backwards as we fold forward. The most important action, however, is the inward rotation of the thighs. The thighbones should roll forward like the wheels of a cart (with the floor as a reference point). The thighbone has to inwardly rotate in Baddha Konasana to perform the same action as the tibia, which will close and protect the knee joint. The tibia rolls forward until its front edge points straight down. Since we externally rotated the femurs in vinyasa seven, we need to reverse this movement now in vinyasa eight to work deeply into the posture.
As in Janushirshasana A, the knees draw down and backwards. Finally, let the thighbones reach out to the side, a movement that will release the adductors. This isometric movement was initiated already by pointing the feet and separating the heels. Often there is a fear reflex here to suck the thighbones into the hip joints. This action is, however, performed by the adductors, and will prevent you from opening into the posture.
What prevents most students from going deeply into this posture is chronic tension of the adductors. This is often due to emotions such as fear, pain and shame held on to in these muscles. These emotions need to be acknowledged and then released with the exhalation. In order to do that, the intensity of the sensation in the posture needs to be still tolerable. If one overstretches one’s muscles a trauma is stored in the tissue. The muscles will prevent one from going again to that point as a mere protective mechanism.
The trunk actions for Baddha Konasana are the same as for Janushirshasana A and Pashimottanasana , that is drawing in the lower abdomen, lifting the heart forward, drawing the shoulder blades down the back and letting the crown of the head and the sit bones reach into opposing directions. Press the elbows against the inner thighs to keep the knees grounded. Draw the feet towards you while they maintain their action of pointing and inverting.
If your sit bones lift off and escape backwards in the process of folding forward, counteract this by sucking your heels into the abdomen using breath and abdominal muscles. The abdominals can do that by drawing the abdominal contents vigorously in against the spine, which lets the heart leap forward and creates a vacuum into which the heels are sucked. Finally place the toes on the chest, wearing them like a necklace. Stay in the state of Baddha Konasana for five breaths.
Practised in this way Baddha Konasana ideally opens up our hips for Padmasana, the most important of all yogic postures.
This is a modified excerpt from my 2006 text Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy.