Why Lotus Pose?
Padmasana or Lotus Pose is perhaps the most famous position that embodies meditation. Pretzel legs, a straight back, arms relaxing on the knees and fingers forming Gyan or Chin Mudra...
Buddha statues, monks and yogis are portrayed in this position in art, photography and literature alike. But what's so special about it?
The answer is quite simple, but not obvious. The simple part is nothing more than that it's a handy way to sit on the floor. The not so obvious part can't be explained in one sentence. Here we're going to talk about the physical aspects of Lotus Pose rather than the deeper mental and energetic benefits of the pose. So let's get into it.
Is Sitting Your Worst Nightmare?
Once you're flexible enough in the hips and glutes, the Lotus Pose can become a rather relaxing and comfortable position. However, if you are inflexible, you will know how difficult it is to sit on the floor for a long period of time without getting sore or uncomfortable. We have all known that feeling - school assemblies, festivals, airport waiting areas...
We start in a cross-legged position then begin to get sore in our hips and abs. We need to pull ourselves to the front with a rounded back and raised knees. We change our position again and again, only to find each one becomes uncomfortable after 5-minutes have passed.
If you sit in a classic cross-legged position, your knees are higher than your hips and 'push' your upper body backwards. To prevent yourself from rolling over, you need to engage your core and keep your chest at the front. The result is a rounded back, raised shoulders and tense arms. That's why the school assembly classic isn't effective (or easy) for long periods.
Lotus Pose is a different story. Once you're flexible enough to enter this pose without discomfort you will be astonished at how many things change. Your knees rest on the floor and are level with your hips. Your legs don't push your upper body backwards, therefore you don't feel the urge to round your back to prevent yourself from falling backwards. Your spine can relax and your shoulders can hang comfortably while your hands rest on your upper legs or knees.
Would you believe us if we told you that once you access Lotus Pose, you'll be able to sit in a position that isn't exhausting, difficult or frustrating to sit in?
This is the reason that Lotus Pose is the quintessential posture for meditation. Your spine is straight, your shoulders are relaxed and your legs are close to the centre of your body forming a triangle. The flow of energy through your body is unhindered and complete. Can you feel it?
Different People, Different Bodies
Lotus Pose takes no prisoners - whether you've never stretched in your life or you're an advanced athlete - it doesn't necessarily make it easy or difficult.
You might know someone who can sit in Lotus Pose all day long like it's the most natural thing in the world. At lunch, on the sofa or even in the car. Why shouldn't they? As we just figured out, it's comfortable and relaxing.
Conversely, many of us can't cross our legs at all. We know expert yogis who struggle with Lotus Pose despite having years and years of experience. That doesn't seem fair does it?
Genetics do play a role in the ease of entering Padmasana. Some people are born with more space in their hips and knees. That inevitably makes the pose easier and more natural. But don't let that put you off. There is hope for those who naturally have tighter hips. With dedication, time and the correct approach, you'll be able to enter Lotus Pose as well.
If you don't believe us, here's a story about SWF Mover Theo...
Theo's Lotus Journey
It took 17 years of playing soccer for Theo to start stretching seriously. He couldn't touch his toes nor could he sit cross-legged - let alone Lotus Pose! Playing a dynamic sport without any stretching had left him not only with extremely tight hips, but with two serious knee surgeries under his belt. Anyone would have thought that a pose such as Lotus would be impossible for someone with such a body.
So how did he do it?
The answer is consistency. If you have a problem, you must face it head on. So Theo got rid of all the chairs in his house in 2018 and since then has only sat on the floor. After all, if you can't sit comfortably on the floor then you MUST sit MORE on the floor.
Adaptation is a great gift of being human.
Here's Theo's top tips:
- Purchase meditation pillows so you can sit more relaxed on the ground whilst you eat, work, read or whatever else.
- Perform specific exercises to open up your hips, lower back and glutes. Part II (5 Freeing Exercises to Prepare for Lotus Pose) coming next month.
- Get comfortable with sitting in a cross-legged position. This will give you the foundations necessary for Lotus Pose.
So where is Theo now? He can enter Lotus Pose for a short time, but it hasn't become entirely comfortable yet. Instead, he spends time in half lotus throughout the day whilst reading, eating or chatting with friends. Lotus is particularly stressful for the knees if the hips aren't flexible enough. So given Theo's past injuries and surgeries, taking things slow and allowing his body to give a little more space each day is absolutely key.
Take Heed: Lotus is a Stressful Pose
Is Lotus Pose for everyone? If you already have problems with your knees, you should avoid Lotus Pose. At least that's what the doctor says. Theo was told not to sit crossed legged but decided to go against the advice and sat more than ever before. The most important thing to remember if you have knee pain is to take your time. It should NEVER hurt. There is a significant difference between discomfort and pain. Confuse the two at your peril.
In order to protect the knees, the muscles surrounding the hips and glutes need to open up. This doesn't happen overnight. The number one mistake people make when attempting Lotus Pose is to overcompensate for lack of hip and glute mobility by forcing the knees into a compromising position. You do not want a knee injury we assure you. So swallow your pride, take your time, be patient and be consistent.
7 Takeaways for Your Lotus Pose Journey
- Keep your feet flexed at all times to protect your knees.
- Do not bend your ankle, try to place it straight on your leg.
- Warm up your hips, glutes, knees and ankles before entering the pose.
- Become proficient with sitting cross-legged first.
- Then become proficient at half Lotus.
- Make use of a pillow or block to tilt your hips forward. Support your knees if they don't touch the floor yet.
- Stay positive and enjoy the journey.
That's all folks. Let us know how you get on with your Lotus Pose and share your journey with us on Instagram, tagging us at @soweflow
If you have any specific questions for Theo and his Lotus Pose journey, feel free to reach out on Instagram @mindsetoftheo