I was first introduced to poses associated with yoga in grade school, when my sisters and I took ballet lessons. I remember practicing Baddha Konasana—called “Butterfly” in girls’ ballet classes—every day. With ballet’s emphasis on turnout, Butterfly is one of its important warm-up exercises.
Practicing Baddha Konasana requires and develops outward rotation of the hip joints—that is, if the hip joints are shaped in such a way that outward rotation is even possible. The pose develops outward rotation by stretching the adductors (the muscles that draw the leg in toward the center) in the groin and inner thigh. In yoga, Butterfly is touted for its internal benefits: it stimulates the abdominal organs, improves circulation, soothes menstrual discomfort and sciatica, and helps relieve menopause symptoms.
One of the challenges of practicing Baddha Konasana is maintaining your natural spinal curves. Because not everyone’s hip joints turn out easily, for some, the low back will have in order for them to be able to maintain balance. This is especially true for people whose knees end up quite a bit higher than their pelvic bones.
There are several ways of alleviating this problem. One is to sit higher on one or two folded Yoga Blankets or a Meditation Cushion. Another way to work with Baddha Konasana is to use a Yoga Strap to support your pelvis.
How to Practice
To practice Baddha Konasana, have a few Yoga Blankets handy. A thick mat, like the Para Rubber Mat in the photo, should provide enough padding under your anklebones. If you’re on a thinner mat, you may want to place a blanket on top of your mat. Bend both knees and place the soles of your feet together, allowing the legs to release out to the sides. Reach back and check your lumbar spine by placing a few fingers on the spine. If your vertebrae are poking out in your low back, this means that your back is rounded (in flexion). Fold your blanket and sit on it with your pelvis on the blanket and feet on the floor. Check your spine again. If your vertebrae are still poking out, you might want to try sitting up even a little higher.
Now take a yoga strap, make a large loop in it and place it around your body. I recommend using an 8- or 10-foot strap for this, unless you know that your heels come quite close to your pubic bones in this pose. Place the back of the loop around your pelvic rim—not your waist. Then take the loop over your ankles and under your feet. Tighten the loop on your yoga strap so that your feet move closer in to the body—there can be a very wide disparity here, as some practitioners will have a lot more space between the ankles and pubic bones. Tighten the strap until it is snug around your pelvis and helping you sit up straighter.
You may also want to try lying down with the strap in position. If so, lean back on your hands, lift your pelvis and extend your tailbone toward your heels. Set your pelvis back down and lean onto your elbows. Here, you may want to loosen your strap a bit. Then lie all the way back onto the floor.
I’ve found Supta (Supine) Baddha Konasana to be excellent for relieving cramps and general abdominal distress. You can remain in Supta Baddha Konasana for a few minutes if you like, as long as your knees feel comfortable.
Here’s a post that explains Baddha Konasana in more detail.
Here’s another post that explains the benefits of Supta Baddha Konasana.
If you’d like to see more uses for Yoga Straps, as well as how to use Hugger Mugger’s other premium props, please visit the Yoga Props Guide.