I’ve been exploring lotus pose in classes this week. This pose requires great hip flexibility, so doing some lead up poses to open the hips is an excellent idea. Most people in the western world have tight hips from the vast amount of sitting in chairs that we do, whether at a desk, driving watching tv or eating. We rarely rotate the hips in a way that is necessary to get to lotus pose. Remain mindful of your own limitations when attempting lotus pose. As always, pushing beyond your limits tends to lead to injury rather than the result you’re looking for. Ease in and allow the body to open gradually. Due to the structure of the hip joint itself this pose won’t be achievable by all people. That said, half lotus is likely something anyone can aim for as long as it isn’t contraindicated.
Start with both legs extended out front. If you are tighter in the hips it may be helpful to sit up on a block, bolster or a folded blanket. Bring the right shin in closer to the body and with purpose externally rotate at the hip. This means that the knee will drop toward the floor while the foot stays somewhat higher. Please the top of the foot at the inner crease of the opposite hip.This is the first stop on the way to lotus. The left leg is extended. You may feel the need for a block or pillow under the right knee. If there is any discomfort in the knee joint this is a great idea.
If it feels like you can go further comfortably, the next step is to bring the left heel under the right knee, which will provide support to the knee. Notice in the photo how the sole of the foot is facing upward. This is an important part of this pose. To get the external rotation in the hip the sole of the foot will face up. You can work on this feature of the pose anytime by bringing the foot in close to the body and working the ankle through rotation and other movement. Using the foot to write the alphabet in cursive is one way to work this ankle flexibility.
In the next phase, full lotus can be taken. In full lotus, the left foot will come from under the right shin and the top of the foot will sit in the crease of the right hip. Remember to keep the spine tall and straight in any of these poses. You will be sitting slightly forward of the sitting bones in this position. Be careful not to overstretch the ankle in lotus. Notice tin the photos posted here that the ankle is smooth and the foot is flexed. This is the proper positioning. If the ankle is pulling in so that the inner ankle has many creases back off to the previous step. One of the main benefits of lotus pose is development of excellent posture. The upper body is somewhat forced into good alignment when taking this pose and if you have the hip flexibility to take it it’s a great pose for meditation as the upper body is aligned but relaxed at the same time.
The contraindications of this pose include knee and ankle injuries. Remember that your yoga practice should always feel good, even when challenging you. Joint pain is never the goal.
Leading to poses: