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Finding Freedom Within the Bind

The binds in the physical yoga practice can teach us much about the balance between freedom and containment.

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“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road” -Jack Kerouac

To me, binds are the perfect metaphor for balance. The bind exists to create safety when we’re ready to open up, and to add another layer of strength through vulnerability and our practice of life. It only truly feels good when one has reached the right balance between freedom and safety, openness and strength. When we are too willing to overachieve, the bind works as a boundary to keep us safe. When on the other hand one is fearful in taking a little step further, the bind reassures the body that things are okay and a little risk can be taken.

Just like anything in life, binding requires a commitment, a desire to keep showing up. Both physically and psychologically a bind symbolizes a relationship, a connection, a commitment. In creating a bind when practicing yoga, you are revealing something about your willingness to commit to the practice, which will then resonate in the way you commit in life. What is extraordinary is that the physical practice mirrors so honestly the way we live our lives. Sometimes, in fact, a bind might be a little premature. The practice of yoga begins with learning to listen to the body’s needs rather than the mind’s desires. Just like in life, there are some moments where we feel unprepared, unsafe, scared to commit, uncertain, tired, underprepared, or simply not ready. When one is able to truly listen to the body’s needs, the wrap will come effortlessly; that commitment toward opening up through the wrap of the arms will set you free and keep you safe from the mind’s tricks to tempt you into unsafe circumstances.

Photo by Caitlin Steuben

The bind also teaches us how to cultivate patience. If, for instance, you are trying to bind on your mat and your shoulders are still a little too closed, or perhaps your back leg is not truly supporting your torso, or even your hips are not truly stacked, so instead of rotating your torso you are collapsing into your hips—in these and even more cases, the bind will close you up instead of creating an opportunity for growth and awareness. It’ll become an obstacle instead of a tool to empower your practice. You could have a hard time breathing, and a lack of breath and space could make you feel a little angry and impatient. In these and similar cases, you are letting desire get in the way of your truth and ability to truly create an opening. Sounds very similar to relationships that feel claustrophobic, relationships that prevent us from feeling the duality of freedom and safety. In this case the incapability to bind reflects how the head and the thoughts are taking over. How our desire to achieve the shape is actually detaching us from the whole purpose of the practice, the loving, safe, and freeing bind.

When committing to anything in life, whether a person in marriage, or signing a contract, it is that very gesture, that bind through words, and the symbol of a ring on your finger that in someway reveal a truth you are willing and proud to show.

What I find beautiful about binding is that when the intention behind the goal is truthful to one’s dharma, or lawful duty, it works like a personal compass that helps redirect us toward balance. Your arms work like a boundary that help you take more space if you are indecisive or unsure, or as a boundary from going too far if you are pushing your body in a direction that is unsustainable. I like to think of life like a big see-saw, and our goal is that of getting better and better at creating that long and balanced straight line. Because nature does not produce straight lines and because our body is in fact made out of curves, it is only natural that the process of coming into a bind involves constant adjusting and readjusting. The human intellect has created straight lines to help orient us. Think about maps and compasses: When binding we are creating that holy map within ourselves. With our own hands and arms we are learning how to find our way through the wonderful unknown of our physical and inner world.

Photo by Caitlin Steuben

Whether it is with a partner, a friend, or our carrier, our goal is that of practicing truth. The bind then becomes this great reflection of that very truth. If one is really ready to open up to possibility it will be revealed through the magic duality that the wrap has to both protect and set us forever free.

Author’s note: I thank my teacher Nevine Michaan for being the first to introduce this amazing truth into my yoga practice through her teachings.

 

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Sometimes it’s difficult to cultivate lucidity during troubling times. Patanjali Yoga Sūtras offers 4 practices to help keep the mind steady: 
Friendship, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity. 
These four practices are also praised in various Buddhist suttas.
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