It’s one of those poses that you imagine when you think of yoga. When I first started on my yoga journey I was like okay I know the important poses and what they look like. There’s down dog, warriors, and that pretzel looking one. Ha! So true, huh?
We all know that yoga began in India and has now extended all over the world (thank goodness!). And in India, it was (and still is) very common to sit on the floor as you work, eat, relax, etc. Since this culture was so accustomed to sitting often, they developed very open hips and good posture from an early age. Fast forward to hundreds of years later in the good ole US of A and you have millions of people hunched over keyboards from 9-5 every day, sitting on couches watching TV, and making long commutes in cars. It is just not a part of our every day lifestyle to sit in hip-opening postures (ie. Lotus), which is actually why you see so many of your yoga classes focused on opening and releasing tension in the hips. We need it!
So a lot of times when we see Padmasana, we think “I can do that. It’s just sitting with your legs crossed.” As soon as you start to get into it, you feel your hips, knees and ankles crying out in tension and sometimes great pain. Don’t freak out! Extend a little acceptance to yourself and make some goals to move toward the pose. As is true for all challenging postures.
Want to hear more about the lotus flower? Click here.
Here are a couple things you want to keep in mind while attempting lotus:
Take time to warm up the whole body. A few sun salutations, pausing in Down Dog, taking the legs up one at a time to open the hips and step forward to a few low lunges and half splits (hamstring stretch).
(image source: shiningsoulyoga.com)
Deep stretches. Spend a few minutes working into deep hip opening stretches (think more yin-like, allowing the joints to release built-up tension and stress). Also spend some time in other poses that will create space in the ankle and knee joints. You will definitely want to get rid of any kinks in these areas. The knees are very sensitive to injury and you want to be very gentle with them when entering into lotus.
Here are some stretches you can do to warm up and create the space needed for Padmasana:
2. Keeping the bottom foot grounded, flex the top foot and manually move the foot to the inner hip crease of the opposite side. You can relax the foot once it is secure. This is half-lotus. If you cannot quite get the top foot over there without pain in the knee or ankle, stop somewhere in the middle and use a block or blanket underneath the knee. Stay here.
3. If you feel good with the top foot placed in the hip crease, begin to flex the bottom foot and draw it into the opposite hip. If there is no pain in the knees/ankles (probably sensation, but not pain) – remain here for up to 2 minutes and then switch to the other side.
Here are some benefits of lotus:
Opens the hips, knee and ankle joints.
Helps to improve posture.
Releases tension in the low back and minimizes pain from menstrual cramps.
Stimulates energetic pathways throughout the spine and into the hips to help you find a more peaceful outlook and improved focus and increased energy.
Nourishes and revives circulation of blood for greater function of spine, pelvis, abdomen and bladder.
Be patient with your body. We carry around so much mentally and physically with us so always be willing to extend a little grace to yourself in areas that are difficult. As soon as you let go of expectation and love yourself where you are, that is when your yoga practice truly begins.