Reclining bound angle pose, known as supta baddha konasana in Sanskrit, is a restorative hip opener that increases flexibility in the hips and range of motion in the legs. While the relaxing pose stretches the abdominal and gluteal muscles as well, its benefits are mostly concentrated in the hip flexor and rotator muscles, where the pose builds the most flexibility.
This reclining posture is also a deeply restorative pose that releases tension from, particularly, the hips. Women, especially, tend to store the body’s stress and muscle tension in the hips. Hip openers like reclining bound angle pose combat this tendency by externally rotating the hip joint and building long, lean flexor and rotator muscles.
- Begin lying supine on the mat. Rest your arms by your sides, palms facing up.
- Inhale. Scoop your tailbone toward your navel to close the space between your lower back and the mat. This spinal extension will protect your lower back and engage the oblique muscles on either side of your abdomen.
- Exhale. Press the bottom corners of your shoulder blades up toward your heart center to bring your shoulders down onto the mat.
- Inhale. Bend your knees straight up and draw your heels toward your body. When your feet are one or two feet from your buttocks, stop.
- Exhale. Gently drop your knees to the sides of your body (right knee to the right, left knee to the left). As your legs open outwards, bring the soles of your feet together. Nestle your heels as close to your hips as is comfortable.
- Keep your arms by your sides, palms facing up, or place your hands, palms down, on your belly. Close your eyes.
- Inhale. Gently press your lower back and shoulders down into the mat.
- Exhale. To drop your thighs lower to the mat and to, ultimately, stretch the hip rotators further, imagine you are drawing your inner groins into your hip joints. Use this motion, concentrated in the inner hips, to press your legs closer to the mat. Forcing the knees to the mat (the natural tendency in this pose) gives a less comprehensive stretch that is actually dangerous for your knee joints.
- Breath and hold the pose. Extend the spine and press the shoulder blades up with every inhale. Draw the groins into the hip joints with every exhale.
- Inhale. Lift your legs and bring your knees together. Exhale. Straighten your legs and come back into a supine position.
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Reclining bound angle pose lengthens the external hip rotators and the hip flexors for all around flexible, open hips. Along with other intense hip openers like pigeon pose (eka pada rajakapotasana), it is one of the most comprehensive and effective cures for tight hips. If practiced consistently, the pose improves pelvic alignment and prevents pulled groin muscles.
Because it focuses on the hip muscles, bound angle pose is traditionally thought to improve urinary, digestive, and reproductive health by stimulating circulation to those systems. At the same time, the seated pose mimics meditative asanas thought to facilitate meditation, scholarship, and enlightenment.
The reclining version of bound angle pose reverses the relationship between the lower back and abdominal muscles. The pose stretches the abdominal muscles and, as the muscles lengthen, massages the abdominal organs. The pose also gently strengthens the erector spinae and gluteal muscles, relieving lower back and sciatica pain.
Reclining bound angle is also a powerful restorative pose that releases muscle tension, relaxes the mind, and relieves stress. The posture includes an intense, simultaneous external rotation of the hips, which effectively releases the muscle tension built up in the hips.
Do not attempt reclining bound angle pose if you:
- have a lower back injury or have serious, persistent lower back problems.
- have a hernia.
- have a groin injury.
- have a knee injury.
- have iliosacral instability.
Flexible, open hips are key to accessing the benefits of reclining bound angle pose, but this restorative posture could just as likely be an introduction to stretching the hip flexors and rotators as the pose you relax in to reap the benefits of open hips. This pose doesn’t need much preparation, which is why it’s a great pose to practice while you wait for your yoga teacher to start class.
Because reclining bound angle pose is an intense external rotation of the hips, it makes sense to balance the pose with an internal rotation (although it is by no means essential to do so). Consider pairing reclining bound angle pose with lion pose (simhasana). Lion pose is a double internal rotation of the hips, so the exact opposite of bound angle pose. Pairing these two stretches the hip rotators more comprehensively.
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana). Reclining bound angle pose is a variation of this original, seated posture. Begin seated on the mat with both legs extended out in front of you (in staff pose; dandasana). Extend your spine and press your shoulder blades forward. Arrange your legs as in step four and five (above). Take hold of your feet with your hands. Exhale and draw your groins into your hip joints as in step eight. Use your hands to gently pry the soles of your feet apart, as if you were reading a book, to intensify the hip opener. Breath and hold the pose. Exhale and release your legs.
Hip rotator muscles. The hip rotator, or lateral rotator, muscle group includes six small muscles in the hip that control external rotation of the legs. Short hip rotator muscles contribute to poor pelvic alignment. In reclining bound angle pose, both legs are externally rotated. This rotation, and the stretch to the hip rotators it provides, contributes to good pelvic alignment and improved range of motion for kicks, jumps, and splits.
Hip flexor muscles. The hip flexors are a large group of muscles located deep in the thighs, hips, and buttocks. They connect the leg, pelvis, and abdomen and allow you to lift your upper leg towards your body or bend your body over your upper leg. Sitting for long periods of time weakens the hip flexors, making it difficult to lift the upper legs and to bend over. In reclining bound angle pose, the hip flexors lengthen.
Gluteal muscles. The gluteal muscle group includes the three buttocks muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The gluteal muscles are some of the body’s strongest and are the primary movers of the hips and thighs. Reclining bound angle pose stretches the lesser gluteal muscles in the sides of the buttocks.
Erector spinae muscles. The erector spinae is a bundle of muscles and tendons in the back that control extension and rotation. Because they are responsible for straightening the back, the strength of the erector spinae muscles is closely linked with posture. Reclining bound angle pose gently strengthens the erector spinae muscles in the lower back for better posture and a back less prone to pain and injury.
Abdominal muscles. The abdominals are located in the lower belly, between the ribs and the pelvis. They control the tilt of the pelvis and the curve of the lower spine. Reclining bound angle pose stretches the abdominal muscles. For best results, tilt your pelvis upward to engage both your rectus abdominus (your “six pack”) and the obliques on either side of your stomach, drawing your entire belly in.