In an issue of Yoga Journal, vinyasa flow teacher Annie Carpenter expertly broke down one of the renowned yogic postures, Lotus pose (Padmasana). Lotus, it turns out, was often the chosen pose to meditate in because it was hard to fall out of if you happen to fall asleep. Practical yogis, right?
Well aside from that quality, Lotus may not feel so practical for all yogis. As one of my teachers would say, you can do a lot of damage to yourself in this pose! Lotus is a pose that requires a great deal of hip mobility and when done improperly can strain ankles, knees, and hips to name a few injury-prone areas.
Thankfully, there are several alternatives that can keep your hips, knees, ankles happy. Props can also be incredibly liberating during times like these, since they offer ways to help lengthen the back, tilt hips forward more for ease, or just simply support the legs. Here are a few options to thread into your practice, anytime your teacher invites Seated Lotus or Half Lotus into the flow.
1. Easy Pose (Sukhasana) Or Accomplished Pose (Siddhasana)
These are more simple crossed-legged seated poses that invite a gentler external rotation through the hips. If you still have sensitivities in the knees, you can sit on a blanket or a block or wedge a blanket under the knees.
2. Double Pigeon/Fire Log Pose Meets Cow Faced Pose (Agnistambhasana Meets Gomukhasana)
I experienced this in a Prana Flow class, so I can’t take the credit for this variation. From seated, try to stack your shins as though you’re moving into Double Pigeon, but allow your flexed feet to be wider than your knees similar to Cow Faced Pose. Your thighs and shins create a narrower triangle than you’d have in Double Pigeon. Feel free to slip a block or blanket under your knees if they feel overly taxed.
3. Seated Ankle To Knee Pose, Instead Of Half Lotus
In its seated variation, this could also be considered the half-cousin of Double Pigeon pose. Extend both legs in front of you, and then take one ankle over the opposite knee. Keep both feet flexed, particularly the bent knee foot to make sure you’re not compromising the ankle’s healthy alignment. Similar to the previous pose, you can use a blanket or block to support the bent knee if you need.
4. Supported Head To Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana), Instead Of Half Lotus
If Lotus is hard on the knees, this pose may offer similar challenges, but with the use of blankets or blocks to support the bent knee (you can wedge it under the knee) or even elevating the hips higher than the knees (sit on a block or blanket), you can modify it to a more manageable level. Also, if you have trouble reaching for the extended foot, use a strap to loop around the ball of foot to invite length through the spine without stressing your back or legs.
5. Supported Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Similar to Head to Knee Pose, the use of props can help invite more ease if you typically experience strain in the knees or hips. Prop yourself up by sitting on a blanket or block so the hips are higher than the knees, and you can also wedge blocks or blankets under the knees to support in longer holds.
For all of these poses, aim to cultivate a long spine by staying upright or folding forward at a comfortable degree. Avoid forcing or pushing your body into the pose; instead direct the breath to those tight spots and practice patience. You may fall out of the poses more easily than in Lotus, but maybe it’s time for a nap, anyway, yes?