Advice needed on half lotus


#1

Hi there all ,

I have been trying to use yoga exercises to open my hips so that i can sit in the half or full lotus positions . I am very interested in Zen mediatation and I understand that these are the recommended positions . I have read that everyone had the ability to sit like this as a child but we lose it from sitting in chairs over our lives . However , after maybe 3 years of trying I have made little or no progress . I have never attended a yoga class . I have just been using videos and images to guid me .The kinds of poses I have been working on are pidgeon , seated forward bend , half butterfly,happy baby , and various others . I was wondering if some people just maybe arent capable of ever reaching these positons ?Im six foot 2 and I ave very long legs , I wonder if my body type is unsuitable . Any guidance or advice that can be given would be greatly appreciated .


#2

I would recommend attending a good yoga class. Although ive been practising home taught yoga for over a year (seeing no results) after attending an ashram and doing yoga every day for two weeks, taught correctly by experienced teachers, have seen massive improvements. i think if we are truly interested in learning authentically this is the only way.


#3

Dear Marvin,

Here is the good news - you don’t need to sit in half lotus or full lotus to do (zen) meditation. There are quite a few alternatives, such as easy pose (sukhasana), seiza (kneeled position on a bench) or even a straight-backed chair. Check out the following link for more details: http://www.mro.org/zmm/teachings/meditation.php. Sitting with an erect body is more important than the position of the legs. A bench or cushion helps to elevate the hips above the knees, which helps to maintain lumbar curve and hence a long spine.

Full lotus is an advanced pose, requiring more than 60 degress of hip external rotation. If you do not have that, you seriously risk damaging your knees with full lotus. That’s what happened to me. Never force yourself into this position. Half lotus is somewhat easier, but it still requires hip opening (external rotation, abduction, flexion). Your choice of preparatory poses isn’t bad at all. You might want to try baddha konasana (bound angle, both seated and supine), agnistambhasana (fire-log pose), gomukhasana (cow-face pose). I’m sure this forum has more on lotus - check out the search function.

If you really want to sit in (half) lotus position, you could always take an individual class with an experienced teacher. At least, that is what I would do after three years of trying on my own.

But in the end, it does not really matter. There are plenty of alternatives. Any stable and comfortable meditation position with an erect spine will do.


#4

So in these past 3 years have you done any meditation?

Victw


#5

Like another poster said, Lotus it not necessary for meditation. Meditation starts in the mind. Just sit with a straight back. It could be in a chair or Indian style. Continue to do your hip openers but don’t let that stop you from meditating.

Also, really, ever body is different. Genetics and the age you started practicing has alot to do with it. It is possible that lotus may never be the pose for you but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep working towards it. Make sure you are doing a proper warm up to lubricate the joints and make the muscles malleable before doing your hip openers.


#6

[QUOTE=victw;22300]So in these past 3 years have you done any meditation?

Victw[/QUOTE]

Hi there , I have tried to meditate in kneeling positions and as close to a half lotus as I could manage .I have heard that the half lotus is one of the most effective ways of meditating as it lets you know when you are off balance and it provides a very stable base for the spine so I think I will still try and work toward it .Thanks for all the advice here from everyone . I think its time I had a few yoga classes .How long do you think it would take to get to that kind of position , months , years?


#7

It could be months, years or never. What will you do if you can never do lotus? What would you do if you one day can do lotus, but through some freak circumstance, can never do it again?

It is good to work towards things but always remember it is not about the destination. It is about the journey.


#8

Hello Marvin,

I’ll respond to your question but offer the caveat that it may have no effect on your sitting, your meditation, or your evolution. Please bear in mind you are posing the question on a yoga forum not a stretching forum so I’m responding within that paradigm.

There is a difference in asana (postures or poses) between that which requires hip opening and that which brings it. A well-trained yoga teacher knows the difference and guides students, based on what they observe, to use those tools which open rather than those requiring opening.

The hip complex has eight basic movements. A choreographer may not know this. A skilled yoga teacher surely would. In Purna Yoga™, the yoga in which I train, practice, and teach we use the Beginner’s Hip Opening Series. If you happen to be located near one of the 35 of us certified at the 2,000-hour level I can direct you there.

Since the hip lives in compression we do not do anything in compression (of that joint) as that would foster imbalance. Instead everything is done in traction. With those two things now out of the way, there are six movements which fully work the hip opening.

You ask about bodies and capacities. Yes there are different ranges of motion for different limbs in different people on different days with different diets, in different moods. Frankly, a student that only knows how to move biomechanically but does not understand the use of breath in muscle will likely reduce their “results”. A student who eats a poor diet will likely hold this in the tissue and likely receive a reduced “result”. A student who has fear of moving forward in their living and is not dealing with that through meditation and pranayama will likely store such fear in the hamstrings and receive a “reduced” result.

And, of course, I’d be remiss in reply if I did not mention that result is not all it’s cracked up to be. Performance and goals and achievement are usually fodder for the ego. The deeper work in yoga is the student’s experience whether that be with open hips that move into padmasana with little effort or tight ones that just won’t go.


#9

Dear Gordon,

Would you please share some more of your knowledge?

You have said that there are poses that require hip opening and poses that bring it. How is that different from saying that there are poses and preparatory poses?

Then you speak about compression and traction of the hip. Everything is do be done in traction. How can you achieve this? Is there a generic instruction or sensation to aim for?

You mention the “Beginners Hip Opening Series”. What is that like? Does it resemble: 1) Supta padangustasana, 2) Parrvrtta supta padangustasana 3) Parsva suptapadangustasana, 4) Inner hip rotation, 5) Supta padasthilasana, 6) Eka Pada Supta Virasana as shown in the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_frmwDM2R0 ?

Thank you. Namast


#10

[QUOTE=Willem;22397]Dear Gordon,
You have said that there are poses that require hip opening and poses that bring it. How is that different from saying that there are poses and preparatory poses?[/QUOTE]

You would have to be more specific for me to answer this. There would be instances where the two sentences may be interchangeable, others where they are not.

In my reply I’m speaking specifically of two natures of posture relative to opening. In so doing I am efforting to clarify for this post and this OP that there is a difference between his expectation that Paschimotonasana will open his hamstrings and the reality that it mandates opening already be present. Commonly, amongst yoga teachers, the phrase “hip opener” crops up and that is a misnomer when it is used to discuss poses mandating opening in order to do them safely in the first place.

Then you speak about compression and traction of the hip. Everything is to be done in traction. How can you achieve this? Is there a generic instruction or sensation to aim for?

When looking across a joint, moving one thing away from rather than toward another thing typically brings the student into traction. There is nothing at all generic in teaching yoga. Generic implies it fits equally for all and is without differentiation. Everything in teaching yoga is customized. Some things to a lesser degree than others. Some perceptible, some not so much so.

You mention the “Beginners Hip Opening Series”. What is that like? Does it resemble: 1) Supta padangustasana, 2) Parrvrtta supta padangustasana 3) Parsva suptapadangustasana, 4) Inner hip rotation, 5) Supta padasthilasana, 6) Eka Pada Supta Virasana as shown in the link:

Unfortunately the video to which you link lacks instruction and while it is clearly stated that the poster of the video got it from Aadil, it is clear to those who have learned it that it is devoid of several alignment and safety instructions, though roughly those are the 6 postures in the beginner’s series.

This illustrates a point made elsewhere on the board. Yoga teachers should be teaching only what they’ve brought into their bodies and the skill set of a good student is not at all the same as the skill set of a good teacher.


#11

Dear Gordon,

Thank you. I’m starting to see some light, but I am far from illuminated. Could you please help some more?[ol]
[li]I’m still a bit confused about poses that bring hip opening and poses that require this. How would you distinguish between them? For example, take west side stretch (paschimottanasana) and reclining big toe pose (supta padangustasana). I have the impression that the former requires hip opening (hamstrings) and the latter contributes to it. But what makes for the difference? Is it the fact that in supta padangustasana it is easier to move the insertion and origins of the hamstrings away from each other? In paschimottanasana, this is more difficult (although you could argue that one could start with bent knees and gradually straighten them).[/li][li]I’m also still puzzled about the hip traction story. I’ve looked at my anatomy books and I can find plenty of muscles that compress the femor head into its socket (acetabulum). I have not found muscles that move the head out of the socket to provide traction. The instruction I use in class is to “extend the legs from the heels” (for supta padangustasana), but it seems that this only tightens the quadriceps and dorsiflexes the ankles.[/li][/ol]So, in short, how do you know that a pose brings or requires hip opening? And what muscles (or action) provides for traction (or space) in the hip joint?


#12

willem said: I’m starting to see some light, but I am far from illuminated.

A sentence that applies to us all.

…about poses that bring hip opening and poses that require…How would you distinguish between them?

I distinguish in two ways. The first is the nature of asana in my own body. The second is the 40 years of asana and teaching it in my teacher’s body. Paschimotanasana requires hip opening because the body’s weight is being leveraged (via gravity and effort) toward the thighs AND because there is no “out” for the hamstrings as they are bound by the parameters of the floor upon which they rest. The pelvis must (already) be mobile and that mobility (requisite for safe forward bends) in part depends on opening already present in the hamstrings. That, evidenced by the number of hamstring attachment tears when said opening is not already present, facilitated by the student’s attempt to open them in the pose rather than bringing open ones to it.

In Supta Pandangusthasana it is the gravity, the weight of the limb, and the student’s effort which move the leg (assuming it is past 90? otherwise gravity is actually moving it back to the resting position). And there is an “out” which is bending the knee. Plus the pelvis is stabilized, therefore the pelvis doesn’t require movement from neutral (anatomical position). The work is then fully in the students hamstrings, not elsewhere.

I’m also still puzzled about the hip traction…

I think anatomy needs to be balanced for the purpose of teaching yoga. There are, however, typically two things that go on with yoga teachers. The first is a near-ignorance of the physical body and its workings. That is usually rationalized by some woo-woo principal of inner teacher and trust your body (which is not inaccurate just foolish to expect of a beginner who has almost no spatial reference in them). The second is a pre-occupation with anatomy to the point where everything is logic-based, rational, assessed, dissected, and referenced in a book by David Coulter. For me, as a Purna Yoga™ teacher it is applied anatomy that is relevant.

That having been said, when referencing hip traction (for example), when the student is supine and moves the thigh bone toward the knee joint, the lesser trochanter toward the opposite inner thigh/floor, and draws T12-L5 toward the nostril, that hip is in traction. This requires eccentric contraction - as does most of asana.


#13

have been trying to use yoga exercises to open my hips so that i can sit in the half or full lotus positions . I am very interested in Zen mediatation and I understand that these are the recommended positions . I have read that everyone had the ability to sit like this as a child but we lose it from sitting in chairs over our lives . However , after maybe 3 years of trying I have made little or no progress . I have never attended a yoga class . I have just been using videos and images to guid me .The kinds of poses I have been working on are pidgeon , seated forward bend , half butterfly,happy baby , and various others . I was wondering if some people just maybe arent capable of ever reaching these positons ?Im six foot 2 and I ave very long legs , I wonder if my body type is unsuitable . Any guidance or advice that can be given would be greatly appreciated .
Hello there,
I’ve been teaching for 10 years hatha yoga. I had knee damage fro a mountain bike vs. car accident. So, I don’t attempt that move. But, some people just may not be able to get into that pose because of tight hips. And as you say some of us are just built differently.
If you are attempting this pose & can’t get there. Try sitting on a pillow which helps to have the knees in line with the hips. Possibly look for a meditation class in your area or online.
Good luck with your practice. Namaste’


#14

Hi Marvin, I think any comfortable position, seated or otherwise is conducive to meditation and the physical posture has little to do with attainment of mental clarity.

I would concur that without a good teacher it might not be a good idea to attempt challenging postures.

Definitely the hip openers help, but also the ankle, knee (especially), sacro-iliac joint and lumbar spine need to be ready for half lotus.

Long legs is an advantage as are skinny legs.

Willem I like your reasoning but wonder about this statement: “The instruction I use in class is to “extend the legs from the heels” (for supta padangustasana), but it seems that this only tightens the quadriceps and dorsiflexes the ankles.”

Ive found that pushing out with the metatarsophalangeal joints co-contracts the gastrocnemius and quadriceps while pushing with the heel co-contracts tibialis anterior and hamstrings. So I use both actions to explore muscle tension in straight leg positions.

From an evidence based anatomical perspective the hamstrings muscles are recruited to achieve full extension of the knee. Which produces an active stretch lengthening the muscle more than a passive stretch would. Hard on beginners but good solid practice if applied correctly.