I’m not talking about anything too kinky here, once again I’m talking about Yoga. In Yoga we have a practise called binding, basically its using one part of the body to hold on to or intertwine with another. Like this….
In Sanskrit “yoga” is usually defined as: Yoke, join, unite, …. or my favourite “connect”. It’s pretty straight forward to see how binding (tie, fasten, stick together) might be a relevant concept. When done correctly a bind will deepen our experience of a pose while assisting to maintain structural integrity. It can give support to relax deeper into a certain shape as well as providing a set of restrictions or leverage, to self adjust and explore familiar postures in new and interesting ways.
Binding hasn’t come easy for me in my practise, and theres still plenty of room for growth there. Yet for a long time I was convinced that I didn’t have the right body type for it, so had given up even trying. It wasn’t until another yoga teacher showed me I could by physically pulling my body into these shapes, that I began to discover the rich possibilities here and explore this interesting push and pull dynamic that binding offers.
You know the saying “in a bind”, finding oneself stuck in a difficult, or awkward situation? Well it is a bit like that, however when we carefully chose “how, where, and when” we apply stress to an asana, we can use it as a tool to develop and understand desired outcomes and effects.
Science that tells us that stress can be good for us, it only becomes unhealthy when it is chronic and traumatic. When we apply stress in the controlled and meaningful context of our practise it gives us the best possibility to experience how it can ultimately make us stronger, more compassionate and more resilient over time.
The Astanga primary series includes a sequence of seated bound folds and twists. I’d like to go deeper into my feelings on Marichyasana in another post soon for now I’ll just say I used to dread this section of the practise. However theres something in the relentless repetition of the astanga approach that is also what got me through it, to a point where now I Love it. Once you appreciate that going through stress makes you better at it, it can be easier to face each new challenge.
So while yoga is not just about tying ourselves in knots, it is a little bit about just that. Mentally and spiritually we can use these knots to bind our attention to the things that are important to us, to anchor us to reality with a firm grasp of what it is that matters.