My grandfather was a cobbler…but he didn’t practice Cobbler’s Pose.
He sat in his foyer, front door open to the street (and to passers-by who might glimpse his trade and become customers), gluing and stitching and otherwise resurrecting shoes when that’s what you did instead of buying a new pair.
I don’t know if he smelled of beer all the time, but in my recollections as a six-year-old, he did. Maybe having a beer was his form of yoga: it mellowed him out, but didn’t do as much for his petrified hip joints as Cobbler’s Pose might.
Here’s a variation/intensification on Cobbler’s Pose (baddha konasana) that uses your body weight to open up your hips significantly more than the traditional baddha konasana.
Two versions here: one, with a yoga block, to be used especially if your ankles or your feet hurt during the latter steps of this pose… and the other the block-free, fully accredited “on-steroids” version.
1. Start close to where you’d start in cobbler’s pose: knees bent, soles of the feet together, hands pressed down onto the floor to help you to lengthen your spine as well as to gently open your hips.
2. Lean back and lift your hips off the floor as pictured.
3. Now here’s a decision point: whether to use the block or not. While keeping your sitting bones off the floor, lean forward. If your knees and your ankles don’t cry ankle, I mean, uncle, then proceed while keeping your sitting bones floating off the floor… or otherwise…
… Fork in the road to step 3B: take a block and slide it under your sitting bones, making it easier to open up your hips with a little weight derived from your upper body… without forcing your ankles or knees. Stay here for 6 S-L-O-W breaths and end the pose here and go get that cup of herbal tea you wanted.
4. If, on the other hand, your ankles and knees think this might be fun, lean forward without sitting back down and place your hands on the floor in front of you. In case the illustration doesn’t make this obvious, you’re balancing here using your hands and edges of your feet. You could stay for 6 slow breaths here and go no further than this step. My guess is you don’t want herbal tea after yoga. You’re after black tea, green tea, or something with a little kick.
5. For the true “on steroids” experience, place the back of your hands on your knees. You’re now floating on the edges of your feet. Be sure that as you balance here, your ankles and knees are still okay: dynamic stretching yes, pain no.
Stay for 6 slow breaths.
I’m guessing, based on you getting to this step, that you’re the kind who wants a shot of espresso after yoga.
Benefits: Fantastic hip joint opener than uses your body weight to allow you to become limber in the hips more readily than other, more sophisticated poses. Strengthens your ankles (if you make it as far as step 4 or 5 above), lengthens your lumbar spine, works your hip joints, and makes you look (in step 5) like you’re about to levitate. You may be the only one impressed with your abilities on that one.
Avoid if: Needless to say, there’s a fair amount of pressure put on your ankles, knees and hip joints, so if at any point you feel discomfort anywhere in those three spots, don’t force. (Discomfort won’t go away by your endeavor to brute-force yourself into any pose; it will only increase: pain or discomfort is, after all, how your body tells you it needs change and needs to be looked after.) Instead, visit the pose regularly but gently until it feels like a welcome stretch. Remember that we’ve yet to figure out how to regrow knee cartilage, so always think in terms of moderate exercise that serves your body…as opposed to intense stuff that winds up wearing it out.
Final thoughts: I admit my methodology to pair beverages with yoga personality types is sorely lacking in scientific rigor, but while I’m being unrigorous, would it follow that not practicing yoga means you turn to beer, like my grandfather? Or did my grandfather not turn to yoga because his beer belly got in the way? I’ll never know.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise