How to Gain Flexibility in Legs for the Lotus Position
Lotus is the classic meditation posture.
Named for the way the legs drop open like the petals of a flower, Lotus pose is the classic meditation posture. Getting into it takes considerable flexibility in the hips, making it an advanced pose. To gain the flexibility needed to sit in Lotus, incorporate hip-opening postures in your regular practice. Perform seated hip openers toward the middle and end of your practice when your hips are sufficiently warm.
This seated posture gently opens the inner thighs and hips and builds knee mobility. The deep forward bend also stretches the lower back.
How to Do It
Sit on your mat with your spine erect and your legs extended. Bend your right knee and pull your right heel in toward your pelvis. Open your knee out to the side and press the sole of your right foot into your inner left thigh.
Align your shoulders over your hips. Inhale and raise your arms up over head. Exhale as you fold forward with a straight spine over your extended leg. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your shin or reach for the sides of your left foot, if available. Keep your spine straight and your neck long.
Hold the pose for up to three minutes. Return to sitting with your legs extended, then repeat on the other side.
Bound Angle Pose
Closely resembling the shape of Lotus pose, Bound Angle pose opens the hips and groin muscles and promotes mobility in the knees.
How to Do It
Sit on your mat with your spine straight and your legs extended. Bend your knees and pull your heels in toward your pelvis. Press the soles of your feet together, and allow your knees to fall out to either side.
Grab hold of your big toes with the index and middle fingers of each hand. Inhale as you extend through your spine, reaching the crown of your head toward the ceiling. Exhale as you fold over your toes with a straight spine. Stop before your spine starts to round.
Continue pressing the soles of your feet together and pressing your knees toward the mat using the strength of your outer hips. Each exhale, fold a little deeper. Use your core strength to pull your torso toward your toes, rather than pulling with your arms. Hold the pose for up to three minutes, then release.
Modifications: If your hips are very tight, place a block or bolster under your kneess to reduce the strain on your hips and bring your spine into proper alignment.
Practicing Bound Angle will help your work into Lotus.
This classic seated posture builds the knee flexibility needed for Lotus. It also stretches the thighs and ankles. Beginners will likely need to modify with props to gradually work up to the full pose.
How to Do It
Begin in a kneeling position on your mat with your knees together and the tops of your feet on the floor. Separate your feet a little wider than your hips, and sit your buttocks back. Stop halfway and use your thumbs to roll the skin of your calf muscles, just below the knee, outward and back toward your heels. This will make more space behind your knees.
Sit your hips down between your feet, keeping your knees together. Check that your shins and heels are right next to your thighs and hips. Your toes should be slightly angled in.
Place your palms on your thighs and re-extend through your spine. Roll your shoulders back and draw your shoulder blades together.
Hold the pose for up to three minutes.
Modifications: If you cannot get your buttocks on the floor comfortably, place a block, or two stacked on top of each other, to support your hips. As your knees, ankles and thighs become more flexible, remove some of the height until you can eventually get your buttocks on to the floor. Never force the knee joint farther than it can comfortably go.
Although still a difficult posture, getting into Half Lotus doesn't take quite as much hip and knee flexibility as Full Lotus. It's a great way to work each hip separately before trying the full posture.
How to Do It
Sit on your mat with your spine straight and legs extended.
Bend your right knee and hug it into your chest. Place the knife edge of your right foot into the crease between your hip and leg. Let the knee fall out to the side. Your foot will naturally shift so that the top of the foot rests in the hip crease and the sole of the foot faces the ceiling.
Bend your left knee and fold your left leg in so the left ankle is resting on the floor under your right knee.
Rest your palms on your knees or inner thighs. Inhale to re-extend through your spine, stretching the crown of your head toward the ceiling. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed between both buttocks. Shift your weight forward slightly so you are sitting on the fronts of your sit bones.
Hold the posture for up to three minutes, then release and switch sides so your left foot is on top.
Jody Braverman is a professional writer and editor based in Atlanta, GA. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland, and she is a certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and yoga teacher. She has written for various online and print publications, including Livestrong.com, SFGate, Healthfully, and Chron.com. Visit the writer at www.JodyBraverman.com.