In Praise of the Bind


A few months ago I made the decision to offer a yoga workshop on binding (mundum). At first this felt original and interesting. I was motivated to explore binds and excited that it was a relatively new topic in my yoga world.  


Within a few short days, I began to see binds all over the place; it was like a lighthouse of awareness suddenly swept the darkness of my own life’s endless binds. Want to meet a friend; not enough time. Plan to practice yoga; kids need a ride. Decide to write a blog; family member is in crisis. Plan a day off; wake up with a headache… I realized, not only do I hate binds but my whole life is about binds….sigh… and these were the simple ones.  Why would I want to do a workshop about binds? Why would anyone want a workshop about binds?


Noticing my aversion to binds made it pretty easy for me to see my attraction to its opposite, being unbound (mukta, mukti). 


In fact, I even woke up several mornings pre-judging my day based on great hopes for being unbound …no body symptoms, enough time, enough money, just the perfect weather, ideal energy levels…  I realized that at some deeper, unconscious level, I even expected mukti, just slightly demanded it… and subtly felt deserving of it? Woah!  I know few people appreciate feeling stuck or bound but did I deserve to be unbound? Do any of usdeserve to be unbound? What is unbound? I began scouring dictionaries, my deepest thesaurus, the internet and yogic text.


Swami Satchindananda got me cogitating (manaana) when he said, “forgetting you are happy makes you want to attach to something to find it; when you can’t get that thing you are bound.”


Yeah, ok Swami… he made it sound soooo simple. We bring our life to the mat and what happens on the mat to life. That much I know for sure. This isn’t just an idea, it's real beans. It’s what yogis have been experiencing (nididhysasana) for thousands of years. In this way the mat acts a bit like a magic carpet, creating space and opportunity, to take you from one place in life to another, with ease.  It invites the alchemy for our inner and outer worlds to connect.  If we let it happen.



In my searches for meaning I discovered that bound and unbound have both inner and outer qualities. Kayaking across a pristine lake has the outer quality of freedom. Kayaking across a pristine lake for the first time in your life has an inner quality of liberation. At first these inner/outer polarities seemed different and opposite but soon they started to merge into one another. Constricting, squeezing and holding in a bind could just as easily be experienced as deepening, opening and surrendering.


The mat showed me there was a seamless, yet transformative, alchemy between mundum and mukti.


They added together like two essential ingredients in a recipe and always produced something new. It was humbling to realize that all along I had been a mukti addict. A person shamelessly attracted to the unbound, while shamelessly dissing its equal partner, the bind. Where along the way had I forgotten the dance? How can we bake a beautiful cake if we only want to add flour?


Taoist wisdom teaches, that which you fight against you strengthen.  


We see this everywhere, from antibiotic resistant organisms to fighting terror with terror. Adding flour on top of more flour does not create anything but a bigger pile of flour. Hmmmm, a life rich with binds, an addiction to mukti…I’m just sayin'… a few dots were connecting.


We probably all have a preference for mundum or mukti and land somewhere on the sliding scale of life. But that’s not the point, the point is bringing mundum and mukti into relationship with one another. Bringing them to that seamless magic on the mat where inner and outer can connect. Practicing them, exploring them, dancing with them; that was the real point. How is it not precisely and beautifully human to be bound? Our very life force, chi, prana, energy, soul, spirit, is bound within the cells of our own bodies and in the next moment unbound in the breath.


It is not about whether we perceive to be bound or unbound it is about how we dance between the two opposing poles.


It is about how we deepen our relationship to the dance and hopefully have some fun in the process. In this way the bind, which as I now see it, is simply being human. It is both the purpose and the movement of life, on and off the mat.


- Carleen

To register for Carleen's upcoming workshop "Unravelling the Bind" click here.

Check out the video we created with Carleen discussing her yoga journey, and her passion for binds below!


Carleen's Yoga Journey from Yogalife Studios on Vimeo.