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Thread: Half-lotus woes -- how to improve flexibility?

  1. #1

    Half-lotus woes -- how to improve flexibility?


    Despite daily practice, I'm still finding half lotus difficult -- takes me 10 minutes or so of warm-up before my legs will even consider it, and even then one knee isn't exactly at sea level. Plus (probably because of the too-high knee) all the weight of the crossed leg comes to bear on the top of the foot, just above the ankle, so I can only sit for about 15 minutes before it gets painful. I've been wanting to lengthen my sittings. If it's just not possible with half-lotus, I might switch to a different posture, but I'd really like to make this work -- when it does, it's wonderful.

    Any recommendations -- stretches, exercises, etc? Thanks in advance.


  2. #2

    Re: Half-lotus woes -- how to improve flexibility?

    Any yoga hip opener should help, this one posted earlier has made it easier for me and taken a lot of pressure off my knee joint


    Attached files

  3. #3

    Re: Half-lotus woes -- how to improve flexibility?

    Hi, Rob.
    My experience tells me that if you can get into half-lotus for 15 minutes, you are equipped to lengthen the position very gradually. Sit for 15 min in half-lotus, then switch to Burmese for 15 minutes. Next week or so, do 16 minutes half-lotus, 14 min Burmese, etc. This is sort of what I did and I can now sit in half-lotus for 30 to 40 minutes before I succumb to the leg pain/numbness. It's kind of like beginning a jogging program, find ways to gradually increase sitting time without doing too much too fast.
    Also, the hip stretching exercises definitely helped me. There are several, most of which can be found on the web. A few minutes of these before sitting, or even while watching TV, can make the difference if you do them consistently and patiently.

    Good luck,

  4. #4

    Re: Half-lotus woes -- how to improve flexibility?

    this book helped me:

    The Hip Series: Kinesthetic Stretches for the Hips and Pelvis by Allan Saltzman

  5. #5

    Re: Half-lotus woes -- how to improve flexibility?

    There is another version of the chair-based stretch depicted in the picture above. It involves lying on your back, making the same "figure four" with your legs, but then you pull your furthest knee (the knee supporting your other leg) gently towards your chest.

    On other stretch -- sit on the floor, bring your feet into the middle of your body and close to your body such that both feet-bottoms are touching. Try also to have your knees touching the floor. Then, gently grab all of your toes with both hands and pull them towards you while you lean forward. Remember to keep your back straight.

    We use Japanese yoga to stretch before Aikido and these stretches are my favorite.

  6. #6

    Re: Half-lotus woes -- how to improve flexibility?

    Appreciate the great suggestions -- I have begun trying out the stretches and alternating b/w half-lotus and Burmese. Will check out the Allan Saltzman book.

    All best, Rob

  7. #7

    Re: Half-lotus woes -- how to improve flexibility?

    Here's a few quotes from some of my friends on this topic, when I asked, who are also Yoga instructors.

    I posted a copy of what Skye posted and wanted their opinions and suggestions. This is what I got.

    Quote Originally Posted by greenfrog
    The pose you've posted is a good place to start, though I prefer to do it lying on my back, pressing my lowered foot (the one that in your version would be on the floor) against a wall or heavy furniture, then I scoot my buttocks toward the wall/furniture until I start to lose the neutral alignment of my pelvis. Also key to this is keeping the toes of the "up" foot drawn directly back toward the shin, rather than letting them extend. Keeping them drawn toward the shin will protect the bent knee from torquing, and focus the stretch on the hip joint, where it's needed.

    But I wouldn't be a responsible yoga teacher if I didn't tell you this: Lotus is not a pose that most Westerners should ever expect to do comfortably, and more knees get wrecked by grasping to the contrary belief than you can possibly count. Even half Lotus is something that most Westerners should not expect to attain until after years and years of constant and devoted yoga practice. If you're looking for a stable meditation pose, consider sitting on your shins and tops of your feet. If that isn't comfortable (and for lots of folks it isn't), find a meditation bench. It took me many months before I found the right combination of butt altitude, knee support, and ankle support before I found seat that I could maintain for an extended period. Sally Kempton advised at the last retreat I did that she can no longer sit comfortably on the floor precisely because she tried to fit a physical mold that she thought was the "right" or "best" or "traditional" seat, and she wrecked her knees for good pursing that belief.

    (enough yoga teacher rant)

    Quote Originally Posted by bodhi-sattva
    Depending on how tight you are, I like the pose in the chair that you listed - while lying on the floor - pigeon pose. My all time favorite. If you're super tight, then it will be too much so you'll have to put pillows under your hips so you don't hurt your knees.

    On a side note: if you're going to stretch while you're cold, be sure not to push your body - go yin style and give yourself lots of support and comfort and hold those postures for a long time, 5-7 minutes - or they won't make a difference. (staying in a pose that long and watching breath, remaining calm - that can be a meditation all it's own) If you want to find that edge of a stretch without props and support, you really need to be warm. Several sun salutations or even a gym workout helps. Once you are sweaty and the joints are juicy, the body melts a lot easier into stretches. I should say the muscles melt a lot easier - the connective tissue in the joints needs a lot of mindfulness - it just doesn't have the same give.

    I second what Greenfrog said. My hips are really open. But because I'm strong, my knees and ankles are extremely limited in their range of motion. I have to use props to sit in virassana/sitting on shins with feet pointing back, or I'll blow a knee. I used to do lotus as a kid all of the time, but now I don't know if I'll ever find it. It seems very genetic to me.

  8. #8

    Re: Half-lotus woes -- how to improve flexibility?

    Hi Al,

    Good to meet you -- and glad to see Marylanders and ex-Marylanders are well-represented here.

    I've been using the exericise you and Skye recommended for about a week now and I see some difference. I do it as a warm-up for 15-20 minutes before my actual "sitting" -- although the warm-up itself can feel like a sitting too -- and am trying to incorporate it into other parts of day, e.g. at work or keeping an eye on the kids. Appreciate the very useful information -- not only useful, but fascinating. I don't have anything resembling an exercise science background, so this is mostly new to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Al Coleman
    I'm assuming most of you can't do a full split. Stand next to something that is about (maybe sightly less) than waist high. Now while keeping your body pointed straight froward laterally lift your leg straight out to your side onto the object. Unless you have a little too much weight around the middle or have incurred a hip or back injury somewhere down the road, you should be able to do this without a problem. Now, lower that leg, turn around and repeat with the other leg. If you combine the lifting of the two legs simultaneously, you've done a side split!
    I used to do taekwondo (about ten years ago, fairly regularly for about a year) and we'd have warm-up stretches somewhat along the lines of what you describe. The first few times were intense -- lifting my left into a position I didn't think was physically possible, heh. Got to admit it would be cool to be able to do a side split, if only because I never did one in childhood. That and cartwheels...

    Best regards, Rob

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