Bound Tree Pose
I now have a lot of yoga books. But when I started doing yoga many, many moons ago, there were very few books explaining or illustrating asana practice (and precious fewer discussing pranayama or chakra anatomy). The Vishnudevananda and Iyengar folks put out several seminal works in the 1960s and 1970s that contained LOTS of postures and since then of course there have been thousands of books stoking that flame. But there’s one posture that really feels good to me that I’ve never seen illustrated or discussed in print. I’ll try to describe it here.
“Bound tree pose” is a variation of vrksasana, commonly known as just “tree pose”. In the latter, you stand on one leg with the bottom of the opposing foot placed somewhere on the inside of the standing leg. In many ways, this is the ultimate balance posture, depending, as they all do, on your alignment, (in this case) leg and foot strength and your constant attention to and sensory dialogue with gravity. Common variations usually involve your arms, with palms together at your chest, your arms spread wide for better balance, or arms overhead reaching your entire body upward. Each of these arm positions materially affect your center of gravity, making it harder or easier to maintain the posture.
To perform the bound variation, begin balancing on your right leg, and bring the top of your left foot into your right hand so that the left knee is pointed down-ward and your left heel is nestled at the top of your right thigh. Maintaining that grip, stand up straight and feel the whole of your right foot really anchor into the floor while your left knee comes close to your right knee. Your left hand can remain at your waist or (here comes the bi nd) snake across your back so that it takes hold of the inside of your right elbow, probably causing your spine to arch a bit and your shoulder blades to come closer together. Again, think about standing up straight, upwardly extending the trunk another inch and keeping your ribs soft, not jutting out. Hold for however long you’d like and then, as Mr. Kaminoff would say, repeat on the other side so that you don’t go to yoga hell.
This, I think you will find, is a very solid posture. If regular tree pose, with arms overhead, is like an elegant pine tree or swaying aspen, bound tree pose is like a large oak stump, immovable perhaps. And it is a more stable position in which to consider your proprioception (close your eyes if you’d like). If, like me, you have a tight shoulder girdle, it’s an opportunity to loosen that underwear. You might also find that the sore knee of the lifted leg gets a gentle stretch while all the other muscles stabilizing the standing knee get a good workout. Consider how this pose may prepare you for lotus. Observe the movement of your diaphragm-led body and the calm attention you must pay to maintain a dynamic balance.
Got a favorite asana? Practice it joyfully but don’t overdo it. Like many yoga positions, deeper and more frequent is not necessarily better and better.