How to Get Flexible Enough to Do the Lotus

Get more flexible before you attempt the Lotus pose.
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People who have never practiced yoga often shudder at the prospect of folding themselves into poses that resemble pretzels. Ironically, a good number of yoga poses are expansive and heart-opening, but watching a person intertwine his legs into the Padmasana, or Lotus, pose does indeed foster the image of a pretzel. Classified as one of the most difficult and even dangerous yoga poses, the Lotus requires a high degree of flexibility and sound knees. If you have ever had issues with your knees, do not attempt the Lotus pose. If your knees are healthy, you can improve your flexibility and work your way up to a full Lotus pose.

Mechanics of Lotus Pose

Lotus resembles a slightly more compact and complex version of the simple cross-legged pose. The yogi begins on the floor with his legs outstretched in front of him. Then taking his right foot into his hand, he’ll guide the outer side of the foot to nestle in the crook of the groin and upper thigh of the opposite leg. The outer side of the right leg and knee will rest on the floor. He then repeats the maneuver with the opposite foot; but in this case he’ll lift the entire left foot and lower leg over the top of the right lower leg before settling his left foot atop the upper right thigh and against the groin. Finally, he’ll press his feet firmly into the crease of the groin to bring the knees closer together and to force his spine to elongate.

Opening the Hips

Full Lotus requires a 115-degree outward rotation of the head of the thigh bone. However, if your hips and inner groin are tight, the degree to which the femur will swivel in the hip socket will vary. Practicing the Cobbler’s Pose, also called the Bound Angle pose, will develop flexibility in your hips. For the Cobbler’s pose, sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bring the soles of your feet together while allowing the outer sides of your legs to flop toward the floor. Clasp your feet with your hands and slide them together along the floor as close to your groin as is comfortable for you. Never press down on your knees to force them closer to the floor; rather, hold onto your feet with your hands and lean forward slightly, keeping your back straight. Practicing the Cobbler’s pose for up to two minutes every day will allow you to deepen into the pose and open your hips in preparation for the Lotus.

Loosening the Groin

The Head-to-Knee pose is an effective way to increase your flexibility toward doing the Lotus. Part of the action is similar to the Lotus. Sitting on your mat with your legs outstretched in front of you, you’ll settle the sole of your right foot on the inside of your left thigh close to the groin; while letting the outside of your right leg and knee lay on the floor. On an exhale, fold forward from your waist, while reaching your hands toward your left outstretched foot. Stay in the pose for up to 30 seconds, deepening your forward bend with every exhale. Repeat the maneuver on the other side. As with the Cobbler’s pose, consistent practice of the Head-to-Knee will offer greater flexibility in the Lotus.

Tips and Warnings

Seek the assistance of a certified yoga instructor before you attempt the Lotus pose. Have her assess your level of flexibility. If she deems you ready, follow her instructions to the letter. Approach the Lotus pose with caution and come out of the pose immediately if you feel pain in your knees.

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