5 Tips for Getting Into Full Lotus
Many of us see value in full lotus. “Will I be able to meditate for hours on end, or have super powers?” The truth is YES…If you cultivate the mind and soul underneath the bodily appearance of full lotus. Here are some tips to get bendy in mind and body.
Our flexibility changes day to day, and being in tune with our bodies, and their limits on a particular day, is the most important part of asana for us yoga practitioners. If we don’t have the hip openness and strength that day, it may just be best for our knee joint and ligaments to find our edge for the day and back off.
2. Full Lotus doesn’t make you a better yogi
Patanjali only makes three comments on asana; with the first being that it should be “steady and comfortable”. It may look sweet in Yoga Journal, or when you find your friend who has never done yoga can hop into lotus.
But then we must come back to remembering that asana isn’t about getting a pose to look just “right”, but to make it indulgent and freeing in our bodies, rather than stiff and forced. The practice of yoga really opens us up off the mat as well. This makes the practice of life freeing, when we know that we can back off, rather than force situations and relationships.
3. Knee health
Sickle-ing of the foot, is the grim reaper for your knees. By keeping the ankle neutral, you are able to keep the tiny ligaments surrounding the knee happy, and healthy. This translates to flexing the foot up while placing the foot.
Double Pigeon is a great pose for opening up the outer hips, and getting movement in the psoas or hip flexor muscles. Sit cross-legged and reach for the shin farthest from you. Grab the inside of the shin (calf and heel). Lift the knee, then the flexed foot, up on top of your other shin. This should resemble two fire logs stacked on top of each other, with heel and knee lining up on both sides. If there is discomfort in the knee, or to release, carefully lift the knee first, with the foot still flexed, and lift the foot off the knee and place on the ground.
Sit with your legs wide apart. Lift the flesh out from behind you, and engage the quadriceps muscles to lift the knee caps. Begin on your right leg. Start at the groin, making your way down to the knee, use your hands to manually spin your thigh internally, so your kneecaps face up or forward, towards the front of the room. Repeat on the second side. Elongate through the spine, and lean the chest forward into this luxurious stretch.
Now you. Do you have any tips as to how you got into full lotus? It doesn’t mater how silly. What helped you in body or mind, to get to the point where there was no knee tension, and your hips felt open enough, and your mind stilled? Truth moment: I still can’t get into lotus without knee discomfort. Everyday is another day closer, as I enjoy the journey of opening up into my full lotus.
When Things Get Turned Upside Down: Yoga Inversions
You’re never more alive than when things get turned upside down.
Whether misjudging a headstand and crashing to the floor, fired from our job just when we thought we were up for a promotion or dumped after posting “in a relationship” on our social media status for all to see, nothing gets our attention like being confronted by the unexpected. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a surprising new landscape for which we weren’t prepared. We’re staring down change and wrestling with the fear that we might fall again.
The truth is we’re guaranteed to fall again…and again. Like crashing waves, challenges will crest and crumble whether we’re talking about our headstands or our lives. Personally I’ve fallen many times, certainly out of my headstand, but ultimately into a new headspace.
Inversions in Yoga
To me, inversions are a fantastic living laboratory where we can embrace and move beyond things like fear, expectation, and impatience. All at once upside down needs to become right side up, and we have to surrender our tight grip on what we think we can control. We feel tangible postural balance merge with something deeper.
Inversions are an amazing reminder that how we do one thing is how we do everything. They reveal to us that often things are not going to go as we’d planned, but they just might turn out even better that way.
Making the Leap
Starting a new job or relationship is like the leap of faith it takes to turn upside down in a handstand. Though initially our jump may resemble a first handstand in an unfortunate bra, revealing things we had not hoped for…we learn as we go. Frankly, sometimes the catalysts for our evolution are pretty tits-out, upside down. But, if we move through our raw initiation and prove to ourselves a little at a time that we can do it, before you know it, whatever we were attempting becomes an important part of our personal fabric.
When we try too desperately to control the things we can’t, we become tightly wound in lopsided ways that stunt our growth and leave us miserable.
If we litter our inversions or our lives with expectation, we pin ourselves underneath frustration and impatience, which, in turn, erode the courage and humility it takes to try again.
Outcomes Are Not Guaranteed
The bottom line is we can’t control a guaranteed outcome. Even Kino MacGregor and Doug Swenson have days when they can’t balance in their handstand (albeit annoyingly infrequently). And for all of us, life can feel out of control and out of balance sometimes when it comes to work, deadlines, responsibilities, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, time wasted down the rabbit hole of Facebook…you name it.
The Yoga Sutras
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, abhyasa (perseverant practice) and vairagya (surrendering without expectation of a particular outcome) demand that we resist the trappings of instant gratification our modern society seems to promote. And Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga yoga, stated,
Do your practice and all is coming.
He didn’t say, “Do your practice and kurmasana (flipping your feet behind your head) is coming instantly.” Nor did he promise results like millions of dollars and six-pack abs. We have to allow incremental progress to eclipse our need to accomplish the finished product. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so famously put it,
Life is a journey not a destination.
What We Can Control
There is one thing we can control, however, and that’s the accountability and integrity with which we show up — on our mat, at our job, for ourselves and for one another. Abhyasa and vairagya ask us to see balance and progress not as a single handstand, but as a part of a larger personal pilgrimage (sadhana). When we look at things through a wider lens, we can see every wobble, challenge and fall as an opportunity to learn and grow. Each time we glean a little bit more wisdom to bring to our next inversion or adventure. And as we do, we start to see that we’re never more alive than when things get turned upside down.