Padmasana - Lotus Pose to me is one of the hardest Yoga Asana. For me as a Vietnamese, I have quite a flexibility and joint mobility at my knees, ankles, and hips to get into the shape of Lotus pose. However, it is absolutely normal that someone can't sit in Lotus pose.
Lotus pose requires:
- Hip external rotation, very much, in a sitting position - which means the hip bones are turning out.
- Knee in very much flexion - which means the knees are bending deeply.
- And spine in neutral
In many of the cases, including me, there is not enough hip external rotation and knee flexion, the ankle joints are twisted to compensate for lack of mobility at hips and knees.
Padmasana is a favorite pose for many people. It looks beautiful and blissful. Buddha and many Divine figures in Indian mythology sit in Lotus Pose. Many people now choose to sit in Lotus pose in their meditation or Pranayama practice. But many can't stand this pose. It's painful or uncomfortable. Especially when there's not enough mobility in the hip joints, the knee joints are twisted to compensate, which may lead to pain or injury later on. Moreover, it's so hard to focus or meditate in a painful position.
If it's so painful or uncomfortable to sit in Padmasana, I suggest you sit in a Half Lotus pose: do Padmasana with only 1 leg.
I highly recommend you change the leg in Half Lotus. I'm kind of obsessed with the balance on right and left side of the body, and I would feel so ¨biased¨ if I hold a pose for a long time without changing side.
In Lotus pose, it's painful when the shin bones cross each other - bone hitting bone, ouch, not a nice situation. Here in Half Lotus, you don't have to bear that pain. CHANGE SIDE to get the benefits of the pose on both sides. In the picture above, I'm using my own arms to press into the floor and encourage my back to grow straight (neutral spine) and not rounded. When the back gets stronger, we can sit straight without support.
If Half Lotus is still too much for you (I bet it's at your knee, isn't it?), come back to Sukhasana - the Easy Seat, and on blocks. Don't push yourself in Lotus pose and suffer it, Buddha the Lotus poser would not want you to suffer either. Sukhasana is also a very good place to practice focus, meditation, and pranayama.
Some Personal Opinions About Doing or Teaching Sitting Poses in Yoga:
- As a Yoga doer, know your body. Try sitting on blocks and if you think it's definitely a great idea, prepare the blocks even when the teacher doesn't give instruction about that. Sit and squat more on the floor at home if you don't have that habit yet. You will get used to it.
- You can use your own hands to touch your spine and feel the curve of the spine. A neutral spine would curve slightly in at the low back (lumbar), so if you are rounded, you can touch and feel it. The back is (of course) on your back, you can't see it with your eyes, so touching is a good way to see its shape.
Fix the rounded back by trying to sit up straight or sit on blocks. Even if your back is still rounded now, you already start bringing awareness there and you will do Yoga poses and every day postures with that awareness. As your Yoga practice goes on, you will be less and less rounded eventually.
- As a Yoga teacher, if you intend to teach with blocks or props, give instruction and prepare them. If you think people really need to sit on blocks, instruct them to do so. If you just say ¨sit on blocks if you want/need to¨, the people who really need to probably will not.