Advanced Challenge Poses

5 Shoulder-Opening Binds to Ground & Cleanse the Body

Binds are a wonderful way to open the shoulders, create a safe, stable haven in a pose, and build prana in the body. Within these 5 binds, you’ll find some of the most elegant, graceful shapes that ask you to rise to the occasion.

Binds are a wonderful way to open the shoulders, create a safe, stable haven in a pose, and build prana, or energy, in the body. Often after holding a bind, upon release, a flush of blood moves through the body and feels quite cleansing. Binds are also helpful in increasing your flexibility, patience, and resolve because they take practice, determination, and perseverance to achieve. Within these 5 binds, you’ll find some of the most elegant, graceful shapes that ask you to rise to the occasion.

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Half Lord of the Fishes Pose II

Amy Ippoliti performs Half Lord of the Fishes Pose II.

Ardha Matsyendrasana II

This pose is one of the most challenging twists coupled with one of the most formidable binds (make sure you get a solid warm-up of twists before you attempt the pose).

Try It

Fold your right leg into Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose), keeping your left leg extended. Reach your left hand behind you and hold the outside of your left foot with your right hand. (TIP: To get the bind, the key is to lean way forward and inch your left hand onto your inner thigh first, or as a modified version. Then, the more you lean forward, the easier it will be to eventually inch all the way onto the shin with your fingers.) Once bound, you’ll actually feel quite solid and steady in the pose. Turn your belly and chest to the left and gaze over your left shoulder with your chin slightly lifted. Repeat on the other side.

See also Feel Your Way Into Half Lord of the Fishes Pose II

Bound Revolved Half Moon Pose

Amy Ippoliti performs Revolved Half Moon Pose.

Baddha Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana

This bound version of Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana takes concentration to stay balanced. The standing leg can be bent or straight depending on your body proportions and where your arm ends up on the leg.

Try It

Enter this pose from Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) with the right foot forward and come into the bound arm variation by wedging the left elbow to the outside of the knee and internally rotating the arm to reach below your thigh. Bring your right hand behind your back and reach for the left hand, clasping your hands under your thigh in the bind. Once bound, shift your weight into the right foot, hug your legs in, and lift your back leg up as high as you can and start to straighten your right leg. Gaze at the floor. Repeat to the left.

See also Kathryn Budig Challenge Pose: Bound Hand Headstand B

Bharadvaja’s Twist

Amy Ippoliti performs Bharadvaja’s Twist.

Bharadvajasana I

The Bharadvajasana series of twists is quite elegant. This bound variation is a healthy, profound twist because the hips are so grounded. It hooks the hand above the elbow and can be done with the other hand either on the knee, or if your body proportions allow, on the floor under the knee.

Try It

Come into it by kneeling and bringing your hips to the right as you cross your left ankle over your right foot. Reach your right arm behind you and grab your arm above the elbow to bind. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale, quickly twist to the right in one motion to catch your left hand on your right knee (or place the hand on the floor beneath your knee). Repeat on the other side.

See also 3 Steps to Get Into Bharadvaja’s Twist

Bharadvaja’s Twist II

Amy Ippoliti performs Bharadvaja’s Twist II.

Bharadvajasana II

Another elegant twist in the Bharadvajasana series, this pose puts you in Half Lotus and not only twists you but opens the hips.

Try It

Start by putting your right leg in Virasana (Hero Pose) and your left leg in Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose). Take your left arm behind you and lean forward to catch the left foot in Lotus. Reach your right arm out toward either your left knee or the floor under your knee. Bring your throat back and twist to the left, looking over your left shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

See also Amy Ippoliti on the Pros and Cons of Delving into Politics as a Yoga Teacher

Bound Lord of the Dance Pose

Amy Ippoliti performs Bound Lord of the Dance Pose.

Baddha Natarajasana

A satisfying standing backbend, this pose is actually easier than full Natarajasana because only one hand has to hold the foot in the intense hand-to-foot backbend. But you still need to hold full Natarajasana for a little bit!

Try It

To achieve this bind, come into full Natarajasana first, holding the left foot with both hands, then release the left hand and reach it back to catch the left knee. Once bound, you will instantly feel more stable and grounded. Repeat on the second side.

Note: this is an advanced backbend and can be modified using a strap between the top hand and the foot.

See also Challenge Pose: King Dancer (Natarajasana)

About Our Expert
Amy Ippoliti is the co-author of the new book, The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga. She is known for bringing yoga to modern-day life in a genuine way through her intelligent sequencing, clear instruction, and engaging sense of humor. A teacher on, she is a pioneer of advanced yoga education, co-founding 90 Monkeys, an online school that has enhanced the skills of yoga teachers and studios in 65 countries. Follow her on:

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