Hip Opening Yoga Flow to Prepare for Lotus Pose

So you want to lotus pose! I have heard you, the requests for this lesson have been flooding in.   BUT I want to start it with a caveat that for many people this is not a great pose to do.

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So you want to lotus pose! I have heard you, the requests for this lesson have been flooding in.

BUT I want to start it with a caveat that for many people this is not a great pose to do. Whether you're an advanced practitioner or not, it has more to do with your anatomy. This is more of an intermediate to advanced practice, not because of the poses but in knowing your body, when it feels good to continue, or when you should stop.

The following 7 poses/mini sequences will help you to open your hips and test the waters of Lotus before attempting to get your body in to the full expression of the pose at the end of the practice.

Be mindful as you work through these postures and particularly the peak pose. Don't place too much expectation on your body or yourself. Rather, if you feel any sort of discomfort or pain, ease out and stop for today. Do not just tweak your body in to the pose for the sake of the pose, while risking injury.

The more intense the hip openers are, the harder you will find it to breathe. Focus on your breath, let it be your guide. 

Check your ego at the door, and if you're ready to proceed, roll out your mat and follow along.

1. Seated Hip Opener Sequence - Sitting as if cross legged on your mat, bring your right shin in front of your left shin. As you inhale, find length in your spine. As you exhale, crawl your fingers forward, folding over the legs. Right from the get go, let go of what you think this pose should look like. Rather than hunching over to get lower, think instead of lengthening out of the low back. Crawl the fingers in to lift the torso back up. Cross your right foot over the left thigh so the sole is flat on the ground. Hug your right thigh in with your left arm, bring your right fingertips behind you. Open the chest to the right side in a twist. Unwind back to center. Then switch sides, starting with your left shin in front of the right.

2. Low Lunge Sequence - Making your way in to downward dog, take a few breaths here. Maybe paddling the feet out, bending the knees deeply, or moving in any way that feels good to you. Kick the right leg up, coming in to three-legged dog. Bend the knee and kick the right foot over to the left. When ready, step your right foot forward between the hands at the top of your mat. Lower your back knee down to the floor. Check that your right knee is stacked over the ankle. Come to the fingertips as you pull your heart forward. Press the hips forward and down. Find length in your spine. You may choose to take this in to a quad stretch, bending the back knee, and reaching the opposite hand back to grab hold of the foot. Drawing the heel in towards the glute. After a few breaths, release the hold of your back foot.

3. Warrior Sequence - Tuck your back toes under and lift the knee from the mat. Spin your back foot parallel to the short edge of your mat. Lift up in to Warrior 2. Bend deeply in to the right knee, squeezing it open (not collapsing the knee in). Arms up at shoulder height, reaching fingers front to back. This is a big external hip rotation. Take in to reverse, bringing left hand down towards the back thigh and reaching the right arm up to the sky. Return to Warrior 2 briefly. Then straighten your right leg, shift the hips back, lean the chest forward, bring the right hand down and left arm up, coming in to Triangle.  Think of drawing your left shoulder and hip back. Your palms reach away from each other. After a few breaths, push in to the feet to lift yourself back up.


4. Wide-Legged Forward Fold - Bring your hands to your hips, and turn your right toes in so that both of your feet are parallel to the shorter edges of your mat. Inhale to lift and lengthen up. Exhale, to tilt and hinge forward from the pelvis. Bringing the fingertips down to the ground. Soften the head and neck. Push down through all four corners of the feet to stay steady here, as you take a few deep breaths. Walk your hands forward to lift your chin and chest up. Then walk your hands towards the front of the mat. Framing your right foot as the toes point forward, tucking the back toes under. and keeping the back knee lifted. Let the pelvis be heavy here in Runner's Lunge.

Take a vinyasa flow, then switch sides. Making your way through 2, 3 and 4 on the other side.

5. Half Lotus Tree Pose - Standing at the top of your mat, shift the weight in to your right foot. Lift your left foot up, clasping hold of it with your right hand. Bring the left foot to the groin, so that the sole of the foot is pointing up. Your knee pushes down, setting up in a standing half lotus. This is a deep external rotation. You may also want to try bringing your left arm back behind you, clasping hold of the right elbow. Stand tall, and hug in to the midline. If you feel any sort of pinching and pain here, it's a good indication that lotus pose may not be right for you. Slowly release your hand and set the foot back down. Try it on the other side.

6. Grounded Sequence - From downward dog, step your right foot to the outside of your right hand. Lower the back knee down. Curl the right toes up, and roll on to the outer edge of your right foot. Stay up on your palms, or maybe make your way down to the forearms. Wherever you are, relax your arms, simply using them for stability. Lifting up to the palms, toe heel your right foot over to the left side of the mat. Bring the right knee down behind the right wrist. Square off the hips here in Pigeon pose. Keep the chest lifted, or fold down to rest the head on the hands, fists stacked, or a block. Stay here for 5-10 breaths. Lifting the torso back up if folded over, roll on to the right hip so that you can bring the left leg in front of you. Stack your left ankle over your right knee, so that the left shin is directly over the right shin. This is your square pose, and when you look down you should see a little triangle between the legs. Keep your feet flexed. You can stay lifted here, or again initiate the fold over the legs. Take another 5-10 breaths here. Walking the hands back in, cross the left leg further over the right, so that the knees stack in Shoelace. Draw your heels in close to the glutes. You may once again opt to fold over the legs, or place hands on the knees and push down while you round the back like in Cat. Repeat this sequence through on the other side.

7. Lotus Pose - If after that whole sequence above, your knees are feeling good, then you may be okay to move in to Lotus Pose. From a seat, cross your right foot. Bringing the top of your right foot on to the top of the left thigh, so the sole of the right foot is facing up to the ceiling. Maybe you want to stop here and work the half lotus for today. If you are feeling discomfort, you may want to play with lifting and turning your shin and calf muscle. If you are ready to go further, bring the top of your left foot, on to the right thigh, so the sole of this foot is also facing up. Let your hands rest on your knees. See how the pose feels while you take a few breaths here. Unravel the legs, giving them a shake, before trying the other side.

After you have attempted the apex pose, be sure to finish by laying on your back with knees together and feet wide for a gentle internal hip rotation. Follow it up with a laying spinal twist, and of course Savasana.

Are you new to some of these poses, try practicing the full flow in the video below first.


Namaste,
Kassandra

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