The lotus pose is the stereotypical heart of yoga. Yoga retreats are advertised with a group of people all in sweet harmony. What they never show are the people at the back struggling to get into the pose. Thousands of yoga practitioners simply can't do this pose, and never will be able to.
When done incorrectly, it can cause leg, knee, and ankle strains. It requires a massive amount of flexibility in the hips to do pain-free. You don't have to agonise over lotus variations, though.
If you read my previous guide on increasing flexibility in yoga, but still can’t quite manage the lotus position, you may want to consider these five lotus variations instead.
1. The Easy Pose/Accomplished Poses
These two poses involve simply crossing your legs and sitting on the ground. From a distance, they look almost exactly the same as the lotus. Instead, they don't require as much hip flexibility. Yogis with sensitive knees should use a blanket wedged underneath them.
2. Double Pigeon/Square/Fire Log Pose
The double pigeon pose is a popular Prana Flow move. Whilst sitting down, place your shins underneath you as if you were about to move into the double pigeon pose. Flex your feet so they're wider than your knees, like the cow faced pose. The thighs and shins should be kept in a triangle shape. Make sure the triangle is as narrow as possible. As in the video, blocks, blankets or towels can be placed to keep the pose comfortable.
3. Seated Ankle to Knee
If you can't do the half lotus, consider doing the seated ankle to knee pose. Start in a seated position and stretch your legs out in front. Take one of your ankles and put it on top of the opposite knee. Feet should remain flexed at all times otherwise you might be placing your ankle out of alignment.
If the bent knee starts to ache, place a blanket or block under it to provide it with some extra support. This pose is ideal for late pregnancy when traditional poses can become really uncomfortable.
4. Supported Head to Knee
Another variation of the half lotus is the supported head to knee pose. This is one which you should use support with. It's for more sensitive bodies. Place a blanket under the knee to ensure the hips are higher than the bent knee.
Cross one of your legs but leave the other one extended outwards. Bring your head forward and attempt to rest it on your knee. Reach for your extended foot and hold the stretch. Alternatively, use a strap to loop around the foot. It decreases the length and lessens the intensity of the stretch.
5. Supported Bound Angle
The bound angle pose involves leaving your legs extended in front of you and bringing the feet together, whilst holding onto the big toes to ensure proper alignment. The supported version makes it easier. Prop yourself up so the hips are higher than the legs. You can also support your knees by wedging a blanket under them if you're spending longer periods of time in the same hold.
A word of caution, these variations shouldn't act as an excuse for not keeping your spine stable. Your spine should remain in natural alignment and you should concentrate on your breathing. Breathe and concentrate on sending energy to the parts of the body which need it.
Above all else, yoga should be relaxing for both the body and the mind, if you can’t clear your thoughts because you are too worried about not getting into the correct position then go back to basics and stick with the poses you are comfortable with until you are ready to move forward.
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