Anatomy

Yoga Anatomy in Action: Safely Opening Hips for Lotus Pose

THE QUESTION
I struggle with tight hips and I want to learn Lotus Posture (Padmasana). Can you suggest a sequence that will help open my hips and help me do Lotus Pose?

Most students make the same mistake when they work on their hips and try to grow a lotus: They focus too much on stretching their outer hips and forget to open the other muscle groups that comprise their hip-joint. Don’t get me wrong—the outer hips usually need plenty of help. But, the key to freedom and balance in your hips is working with all the muscle groups that affect the joint, not just your bum. I can’t promise you a Lotus, but practicing the following sequence will make your hips be happier and healthier—and, if anything is going to help you sit in lotus, this practice will.

THE ESSENTIAL ANATOMY
There are a couple of things to understand about your hips in order to approach them skillfully in your practice. First, your hip joint (Coxal Joint) is a ball and socket. This is simple enough, but it has big implications. It means that your hip-joint is 360-degrees and has muscles around the full-circumference that produce motion at the joint. In order to create a balanced hip-opening sequence—and, truly create more freedom and ease in your hips—you need to address all of these muscle groups. It’s true that Lotus Pose relies heavily on motion in your outer-hips, but it also requires fluidity in many of the other groups that line the circumference of the joint. If you want to open your hips and develop lotus, make sure you do postures that target each of the following muscular compartments:

Hip-Flexors: These muscles cross over the front of your hip-joint and flex the hip.

Adductors: These muscles that line the inside of your upper-thigh are usually left out hip-opening sequences. Not only do they quality as hip muscles because they start on the pelvis, cross the hip-socket and connect to the inside of the thigh, they may be more important to a comfortable lotus than you think. When these muscles are tight, they pull the knees up while attempting Lotus.

Hamstrings: The hamstrings are not a significant factor in Lotus and they’re not usually thought of as hip muscles. However, they originate on the bottom of your pelvis, cross the back of the hip-socket, and run down the back of your leg. This means that a balanced hip-opening sequence will include postures that release this group of muscles.

External Rotators and Gluteus Maximus: Describing the Gluteals and their functions in a few words is tough because this family of three muscles does a lot of different work. Let it suffice to say that this is the region that we tend to think when we think of hip-openers. This is the bitter-sweet, hurts-so-good part of the body that we stretch when we do Pigeon Pose.

Abductors and IT Band: Targeting this region is another key step in releasing hip tension and developing lotus. These muscles run from the outside of the hip bone, cross the outside of the hip-joint and attach to the outside of the thigh. Since this region is harder to get good leverage on than the External Rotators, it is often short-changed in hip-opening sequences.

THE SEQUENCE

Anjeneyasana
Focus on rooting down through the top of your back foot and lifting up through your hip-points to get the most from this hip-flexor opener.

Anjeneyasana

Low Lunge Quad Stretch
This posture continues the hip-opening that began in Anjeneyasana and digs deeply into the quadriceps.

Low-Lunge Quad-Stretch

Prasarita Padottanasana
This wide-legged standing forward bend stretches your hamstrings and adductors. It also prepares you for the more intense Wide-Legged Squat that follows.

Prasarita Padottanasana

Wide-Legged Squat
This is the most effective standing posture for releasing tension in the adductors. This postures effectiveness by using your forearm to press your thigh away from the midline.

Wide-Legged Squat

Reclined Revolved Triangle
Revolved Triangle Pose is one of the most effective postures for stretching the hamstrings, abductors, and IT band. This posture recreates the same dynamics of Revolved Triangle in a reclined posture. By reclining, you can stay in the posture for much longer and exert greater opening on the targeted muscles and connective tissue.

Reclined Revolved Triangle

Piegon Pose with A Twist
This version of pigeon will help you access part of your adductors and external rotators and lead to more comfort in Lotus. To be effective, lift and turn your torso toward your front leg. Use your hand to pull strongly against your front knee.

Piegon Pose with A Twist

Ankle-to-Knee with Sidebend
To make this posture most effective, be sure to place your top ankle on your bottom knee and flex your foot.

Ankle to Knee with Sidebend

Become an authority on yoga anatomy and yoga sequencing by joining Jason Crandell’s online trainings.

Jason Crandell is a natural teacher and author with more than 15 years of experience. His accessible, grounded classes integrate the best elements of power yoga, anatomical precision and mindfulness teachings.  Considered a “teachers-teacher,” Jason has taught on countless teacher-training faculties, leads trainings globally, and regularly presents teacher-training content at esteemed conferences. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.

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