Foundation Friday: Pada Bandha


This post is an instalment in a series that delves into the basics of yoga—looking at its postures (asana), breath (pranayama), philosophy, and all the other essentials—giving you the foundations upon which to build a solid practice. This post focuses on one of the "bandhas", or "locks"—in what might be our most literal "Foundation" Friday yet!

Foundation Friday: Pada Bandha

Lock, or Seal ("Bandha") Foot Lock, or “Pada Bandha” pah-dah bahn-dah


First off—what is a bandha?

The sanskrit word "bandha" translates to lock, seal, or closure. During asana (postural) or pranayama (breath work) practice, bandhas help to energetically "lock" in energy and prana (life force), consciously sealing it inside of our bodies so that it can aid us in our practice. There are three main internal bandhas, one "mother" bandha, and two stabilizing, grounding bandhas—pada bandha, as we'll look at today, is of the stabilizing, foundational variety.

What then, is pada bandha?

Pada, in sanskrit, means "foot"—so pada bandha, is then a "foot lock," or "foot seal." It is a sealing of your connection—or a rooting—with the earth beneath you. It is a solid foundation upon which you can balance. It's a way to get acquainted with all the tiny, underused muscles in your feet (all twenty of them!).

Pada bandha may help…

  • You to feel more energized by "locking" your energy in
  • Give a sensation of "grounding"  while simultaneously lifting (may aid in anxiety or depression)
  • Protect your knees
  • Support your balance
  • Alleviate problems with fallen arches
  • Strengthen your legs
  • Activate mula bandha (more on that to come!)

So, how do I get there? 

  1. Take a good look at the bottom of your foot.... get really up close and personal! Notice its curvatures, and its raised and recessed areas. Thank them for all the work they do—these feet are what support you, day in and day out!
  2. Find the four corners of the sole of one foot—the mound of your big toe and pinky toe, and your inner and outer heel. From standing, place your foot down on an even surface and press each of those four corners down evenly.
  3. Pick up all five of your toes and spread them away from your foot and as far apart from each other as you can.
  4. While still pressing down through your "four corners," and with your toes lifted, draw, or squeeze the ball of your big toe mound towards your inner heel, and your inner heel towards the mound of your big toe in a way that lifts your arch. Without releasing through the inner edge, do the same with the mound of your pinky toe, and your outer heel. Perhaps you might notice your ankle lift slightly, or feel like you can draw the strength of your feet up your whole leg.
  5. Keeping all of the engagement you found in Step 4, place your toes back down—one at a time if you can—still spread widely, almost as if you had webbed feet, or spacers in between your toes (this is what we like to call "yogi toes!").
  6. Do the same with your other foot.
Pada bandha is not only for standing and balancing poses—play with your pada bandha wherever you're at. Notice how activating a lifted foot strengthens your entire leg. If you practice an inversion such as headstand, energize your feet—including your toes—to see how it helps stabilize and balance you further. Even if your legs are outstretched in a seated position, activating pada bandha—pressing out through the mounds of your toes and your heels, while muscularly pulling your toes towards your face—will find you feeling into deep places in your legs that you never knew even existed!

We hope this helps you better understand the concept of pada bandha. Please feel free to comment on our Facebook with any further questions. And let us know if you have something you would like to see featured in Foundation Friday!