Shoelace Pose is a deep binding hold, and part of its allure is in how much progress you can see in your hips, spine, and shoulders if you practice it regularly. It gets its name from the way the arms and legs tie themselves into dramatic knots -- much like your shoelaces.
This pose has so many different elements to it that it holds an entire world of benefits.
The optional Forward Fold in Shoelace Pose increases intestinal movement and benefits overall digestion. The arm and shoulder stretch opens the shoulders and upper back to reduce tension, and the leg position compresses the hips and stretches the lumbar spine to help curb back and sciatic pain.
The limb entanglement is great for heart health, and in fact encourages better circulation overall while calming the mind and rinsing the body of any frustrations.
When first starting out, try isolating each movement -- first just do the arms, then just do the legs, then perhaps add in the Forward Fold to each individual part. Practice this until you feel comfortable joining all three aspects together.
Shoelace Posture can be taken in a relaxing Yin format (soft and loose, without muscle engagement), or with a more strengthening intention (engaging the muscles and contracting the stomach inwards).
Either way, the basic set-up is the same:
The Legs: Often Called "Spaghetti Legs"
- From seated, line your right knee up in front of your navel as much as your body will allow. Bend your leg so your right foot relaxes at the side of your seat.
- Next try to stack your left knee on top of your right as much as you can with your left foot relaxed by your side. They are probably not completely stacked -- that's ok.
The Arms: a.k.a "Cow Face Arms"
- Take your right arm and reach it up and back to pat yourself on the back between your shoulder blades. Then take your left hand and bring it down by your side then back to your low back area, slowly walking your left hand up your back towards the right hand, eventually interlacing your fingers.
- Once you’re in position, begin to lean your heart forward in a fold, dropping your chin to your chest and closing your eyes.
There are so many modifications for Shoelace Pose, which is part of what makes it such a great choice.
Other Leg Options:
- You could take some of the fold out of your legs, letting them stack more loosely on top of each other, or even with one leg straight out in front and the other crossed over the thigh.
- You could sit on the edge of a rolled up blanket or pillow to get more of a lean into the hips, which will help you stack the knees.
Change Up the Arms:
- You can use a strap between the hands to create a binding effect across your back that will help to open your chest more, and may enable you to fold forward more deeply for a more peaceful (or Yin) posture.
- Perhaps your hands can meet and you can take the full bind on one or both sides. One shoulder is usually more open then the other, so be patient and understanding.
Two Kinds of Forward Fold:
- For a more Yang, engaged fold, keep your arms back behind your ears for a strong hold. Hollow out your belly, and while breathing smooth and strong, start pressing your chest towards the top of your mat, staying as long in the spine as you can.
- To keep the posture more relaxed, use a Yin forward fold, curving your spine over your legs. Let your top elbow drip down towards the earth for a more introverted and calming hold, and use a strap between your hands to maintain the chest and shoulder stretch. You could even rest your head on a block or pillow on top of your knees to let your neck relax without holding the weight of your head. Use a strap between your hands to help maintain the upper body hold without engaging too much.
Overall, Shoelace Pose is a deep and thorough pose that can benefit your entire body and your mind if practiced regularly. Vary it up until you find your shape, and then nestle in for a long hold.
Do you incorporate Shoelace Pose into your practice? What do you love about it? Share with us below!