Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Fold is a deep hip opener and hamstring stretch that can be challenging even for those with a consistent and long-term yoga practice. It is not recommended for absolute beginners, though, as the depth of flexibility and stability required may be too demanding. In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, it is a basic standing posture that is part of the Primary Series. However, it is not exactly a “basic” pose, as it requires significant flexibility in the hips and hamstrings, as well as heightened body awareness and the ability to concentrate.
This pose is also sometimes referred to as “Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose,” “Standing Half Bound Lotus,” and “Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Bend.” In Sanskrit, it is called “Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana” (ARD-uh BAHD-uh PAHD-mo-tun-AHS-uh-nuh), which comes from six Sanskrit words:
- “Ardha” — meaning “half”
- “Baddha” — meaning “bound”
- “Padma” — meaning “lotus”
- “Ut” — meaning “intense”
- “Tan” — meaning “stretch”
- “Asana” — meaning “pose”
The pose can definitely be intense, so it is important to be certain that you are not pushing your body beyond its current level of capability. Injuring yourself is not the goal of yoga! Though it is not required to be able to sit in full Lotus Pose (Padmasana) to do this posture, you will need to incorporate a good amount of hip- and hamstring-opening poses into your regular practice before attempting this pose. A few good ones to include are Head-of-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana), One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), and Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana).
Benefits of Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Fold
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This pose stretches and strengthens the hips, hamstrings, shoulders, and knees. It cleanses the liver and spleen, and improves and regulates the digestive system. It also improves circulation. This pose strengthens your ability to concentrate, keeping your mind calm and centered in the face of difficulty and imbalance. Learning to intensely focus your mind enhances your ability to meditate deeply, which will strengthen your ability to discover the “unity” between mind, body, and spirit — that is the meaning of yoga.
Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic knee or hip injury. Also avoid this pose if you are currently experiencing headaches, glaucoma, high or low blood pressure, or if you are lightheaded and/or dizzy. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your arms at your sides.
- Shift your weight onto your left foot and ground down firmly.
- Moving slowly, bend your right knee up toward your chest. Raise your right foot and gently bring your right heel to rest as high as you can on the front of your left thigh or hip. The sole of your foot should be facing the sky, and the top of your foot should rest on your leg or hip.
- If you have no knee pain, allow your right knee to drop down. Eventually, your bent knee will be in line with the knee of your standing leg, but be careful never to force it.
- Keep your gaze focused on one spot on the floor, about four feet in front of you. This is Half Lotus Tree Pose (Ardha Padmasana Vrksasana).
- Hold onto your right foot with your left hand. Draw both hips forward. Lengthen your spine. Inhale and reach your right arm to the sky, then reach it behind your back. Take hold of your left elbow, or clasp your right toes with your right hand.
- Inhale and lift your left arm straight up. Exhaling, fold forward, hinging at the hips. Place your left hand on the ground. Draw your chin toward your chest and concentrate on bringing your forehead to your shin.
- Hold for five breaths. With an inhalation, press down firmly through your left foot and lift your torso back to an upright position. Unbind your right arm, then gently release your foot to the floor. Come back into Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and repeat on the opposite side for the same amount of time.
Modifications & Variations
Practicing Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana will greatly challenge your balance, flexibility, and serenity. Try these simple changes to adapt the pose to your current abilities:
- Observe the “no binding, no bending” instruction: Only fold forward if you are able to hold onto your raised foot with the opposite hand. If you are unable to do so, continue to practice the upright version. With patience and diligence, you will be able to make the bind and then fold forward.
- If the standing leg bends when you fold forward, practice the upright version until you have built up enough strength to fold with a straight leg.
- If you are close to making the bind, try bending your standing leg slightly and folding forward a bit. This can help you reach the foot. Once you have made the bind, straighten your standing leg and fully return to the upright position. Make sure your shoulders are parallel and not slouching forward.
- If you cannot touch your fingers or your palm to the floor, place your hand on a block or stack of blocks, instead.
- If you can easily place your palm flat on the floor, you can deepen the pose by wrapping your forearm around your standing-leg shin and clasping the heel of your standing leg.
In order to fully gain the benefits of Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, it’s important to keep your mind calm while maintaining alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Take your time. As with any balancing pose, it’s often easier to come into the pose slowly and with awareness. If you enter the pose too quickly, you are more likely to lose your balance, and it’s more difficult to re-gain your balance once it’s been lost.
- Half Lotus Tree Pose (Ardha Padmasana Vrksasana) and Mountain Pose (Tadasana) provide the structural foundation for this pose. Thoroughly review the instructions for those two poses before attempting this one.
- Work to get the knees aligned when you are upright. If the knee of your bent leg is in line with the knee of your standing leg, it will be easier to fold forward.
- Keep your neck relaxed.
- Keep your shoulders parallel to the floor.
- Keep your standing leg straight, not bent.
- Keep your ego in check. If you are getting frustrated, take a deep breath, realign your focus, and let go. Then, try again.
Bind & Fold into Yourself
Practicing Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana can be challenging on many levels. Learning to focus, balance, bind, and fold can cause distress — and a very wobbly pose — if your pride gets in the way. Remember that yoga is not a competition. There are no prizes for poses. Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana is a pose that you can gradually work up to, perhaps over many years. With patience and a dedicated practice, you may begin to unravel deeper patterns of your mind, body, and spirit, which are attainable when you practice yoga.