Lotus Pose (Padmasana)

How to Safely Approach This Yoga Classic

Lotus Pose - Padmasana
Ann Pizer

If you have a conversation about yoga with people who have never done it, chances are they know about two poses: downward facing dog and lotus. But while down dog is a pretty good place for newbies to start exploring this practice, lotus actually isn't appropriate for the majority of beginners. That's because most westerners have gotten out of the habit of squatting and sitting on the floor and therefore have limited hip mobility.

In order to get into full lotus, the legs have to have the range of motion to externally rotate out from the pelvis. Forcing the legs into position will actually not have the effect of opening the hips but will instead transfer the strain down the leg to the knee joint, which is more likely to give. As you can imagine, this is not a great scenario for the knees. Raising the seat by sitting up on a blanket helps position the hips but it's not going to create the necessary mobility if it's not there. 

The good news is that your hip mobility may improve over time with consistent practice, making lotus possible. The other good news is that despite the prevailing idea that lotus is the preferred pose for meditation, that practice really doesn't depend at all on the position in which you sit as long as it is comfortable. Alternatives include half lotus, hero pose, or easy pose. You can even meditate while sitting in a chair if that's the position that produces ease in the body.

Instructions:

1. You may want to position a blanket under your sit bones. From staff pose, bend your right knee and use your hands to bring the right ankle to the left hip crease with the sole of the right foot facing upwards. Settle the foot into the hip crease. 

2. Bend your left knee and use your hands to cross the left ankle over to the right hip crease with the sole of the left foot facing upwards.

3. Sit up tall with a long spine and your shoulders moving away from your ears. Relax your knees toward the floor. After 10 to 20 breaths, release the legs and repeat the posture with your left foot on the bottom and your right foot on top.

Beginners' Tips:

1. First become comfortable with half lotus. Continue to practice regularly and your hips will open more over time. 

Advanced Tips:

1. Practice bringing your legs into lotus without using your hands. 

2. One you are in lotus, plant your palms on the floor on either side of the hips and lift your butt and crossed legs off the floor to come into scale pose (tolasana).

3. If you can come into lotus legs without your hands, you can practice the pose in shoulderstand or headstand.

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