Ah, lotus pose. That much-admired meditation pose in which yogis are depicted in serene contemplation; their legs effortlessly and beautifully folded around each other and their spine elegantly lengthening from this dignified seated posture. (Learn more about Effective Seated Postures for Meditation.)
But what do you do if lotus pose brings you more trauma than tranquility? How can you get comfortable in lotus pose?
The first thing to say is that lotus pose is a meditation posture. This is because, for those yogis whose hips easily move into the extreme external rotation that lotus pose requires, it can be a very comfortable posture. For these happy meditators, lotus pose can be held for extended periods of time without discomfort.
However, for many of us other yogis this is not the case. So don’t panic! It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your hips. Due to individual variations in bone structure and anatomy, lotus pose may never be a comfortable pose, and that’s OK. An important lesson that yoga teaches is to accept and embrace your body exactly as it is. (Read more in What Yoga Teaches Me About Life.) There are plenty of alternative seated meditation postures that you can try instead - easy seated pose, hero pose or even sitting on a meditation cushion or chair.
But if you’re determined to have a go at lotus pose, there are a few things you can try to make yourself more comfortable.
First, use props. Raising your hips a little higher by sitting on a cushion, yoga block or folded blanket can help give you the space to fold your legs in on each other. Don’t be afraid of using props to raise your hips. It’s meant to be a meditation, not a form of self-punishment. You can also modify the posture by taking half lotus pose instead.
There are also many asanas that can help build the openness and flexibility that will let you sit in lotus pose more comfortably. They include postures that stretch the glutes, such as pigeon pose; those that target the adductors, such as reclining bound angle pose; and those that stretch the outer hips, such as cow face pose. By building these into a yoga practice, then attempting lotus at the end, you may find you can enter and hold the pose more comfortably. The added bonus of including these hip-opening asanas into your yoga practice is that they can help make any seated posture feel more comfortable and accessible.
Remember to bear in mind the yogic principle of ahimsa, or non-violence, when working toward lotus pose. If your hips are not yet open enough to adopt the full pose, do not force it! You risk taking the rotation in your knees, which are not designed for significant twisting, too far. Even mild torsion can injure the ligaments of these important joints. Although it’s nice to become more comfortable in asanas you initially find challenging, it should never come at the cost of injuring your body. It’s simply not worth it, no matter how beautiful the pose. (Read more in Ahimsa: A Self-Practice.)