Lotus Pose. These two words are like a declaration of war on my hip joints, and my knee’s gasp and run for the hills! I have lost count of the number of times I have injured my knee’s whilst attempting/working on this pose so whilst I sit here resting my knee for the umpteenth time, I thought what better way to spend my time than research why it’s so god damn hard and how I can one day not suck at it. If you are one of those magical yogi’s who can fold their legs into this position whilst balancing on your hands – I salute you. If you are not, fear not – you’re extremely normal, and hopefully you will find this post useful.
Lotus pose AKA Padmasana is arguably one of the most iconic and recognised positions outside of the yoga community. It is recognised as the most stable sitting position, encouraging proper spinal alignment and allowing an efficient breath, therefore enabling sitting for prolonged periods with minimal effort. For this reason it is the preferable seat for meditation if that’s your thing, if not, the spinal alignment does wonders for your posture and is noted to be useful for those with back pain or sciatica.
Despite its apparent benefits, unfortunately my relationship with it has been nothing but turbulent. It’s usually my right knee that takes the battering as it is my right hip that is tightest, but why are my tight hips causing me to injure the knee and how can I stop it? Cos it ain’t fun.
Why Is It SO HARD!?
To give you an idea of what we ask of our hips when we attempt this pose, in Baddha Konasana the ball-shaped head of the thigh bone has to externally rotate around 100 degrees. A forward folding of the torso over the feet whilst in this position tilts the pelvis forward and in relation to the angle with the thigh bone, increases this external rotation to around 115 degrees. Padmasana requires roughly the same external rotation simply sitting upright but the positioning is slightly different increasing the difficulty most people experience. Adding a forward bend into the mix such as in a Half Lotus Forward Fold increases the rotation to around 145 degrees! In case these numbers are pretty meaningless to you, 180 degrees would have your leg facing backwards…
So unsurprisingly, not all of us have this degree of flexibility in the hips. And therefore when we go to lift the foot on top of the opposite thigh, if the thigh bone has stopped externally rotating due to tightness, the only place left for movement to occur in is the knee. Unlucky for the knee joint, it is only designed to bend and extend, it reeeeeally doesn’t like bending sideways.
Look After Your Knees
I work in an Orthopaedic hospital and amoungst one or two other things, what I’ve learnt is that knee’s are fragile. There are many knee injuries that simply never get better and if there’s one reason yoga is meant to be good for you, everlasting injuries is certainly not one of them. I’ve previously written about hip flexor tightness and poses to practice to improve on increasing flexibility. The hip flexors are just one bundle of muscles around the hip joint which need to be stretched to achieve Padmasana so alongside these its important to target the adductors, abductors, IT band, gluteal muscles…basically all of them – but that’s a post for another day! Its your feet that are going to be the guardian angel to your poor little knees…
‘Sickling’ is the rounding of the ankle causing the sole of the foot to face up. We don’t like sickling. A perfect example of a sickled foot is me in the picture above… Do as I say and not as I do! To test this out on your own ankles, place your fingers just in front and below of the lumpy part of the outside of your ankle. In a sickled position, this area will become flattened, now flex the foot back towards the shin, foot inline with leg and this area will hollow out. You have just activated your Peroneus Longus muscle! This muscle runs down the outside of the leg and its the activation of this that gives you that line of muscle definition down the side of the calf. This provides integrity and stability to the knee which is lost with a sickled ankle. Granted, this foot flexion will make it harder to bring the foot upon the thigh for Padmasana but you know why? Cos your Peroneus Longus is preventing you from twisting your knee. Thank you Peroneus Longus!
Whenever the knee is flexed it is vulnerable, so maintaining this simple foot flexion in pretty much every yoga posture is a safe way to avoid injury. Remember; no posture is worth an injury, so without further ado, I’m off to go stretch out my hips!
Namaste y’all ♥