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Asana Column: Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Let this quintessential meditation pose teach you to focus on your path, not on your destination.

By Donna Farhi

As you release the twist, turn to face forward between the two legs. If you were able to hold your right foot, continue to do so. Reach around with your left hand and cup the ball and toes of your left foot with the palm of your left hand. As you slowly bend forward from your hips, use your left hand to gently draw the toes of your left foot up toward the ceiling. This action will increase the rotation of your pelvis around your femur. Rest your head on the floor in front of you (or on a folded blanket if coming down all the way is too intense).

If you are unable to reach behind you to hold the foot of the Lotus leg in Bharadvajasana II, bring both hands forward onto the floor in front of you for support and bend forward as far as is comfortable. Bring your awareness deep into your hip sockets. Notice that the intensity of the sensation varies with the incoming and outgoing breath and the pauses in between. Use the moments where the sensation is less intense to soften and release any tension that arises in response to the asana.

Marichyasana II

Now place your hands on either side of your body. Lean onto the right hand as you release the left leg from Virasana and bring it into a deep squatting position. Your right buttock will remain on the floor. Draw your spine up out of your hips and extend forward as far as possible. The first time you attempt the pose you may feel very awkward. Persist. This asana is truly amazing for releasing the hips and providing a deep abdominal massage, even if all you can manage at first is to lean slightly forward. With time, you will be able to bend forward between the two legs, wrap the left arm around the outside of the left shin, and catch hold of the right hand behind your back. This movement places you in a very compact forward bend, with your right leg in a deep Lotus position and your left in a deep squat. (It's okay to let the left sit bone come slightly off the ground.)

The heel of the right foot will be pressed into the junction of the descending colon and the sigmoid colon on the left side of your abdomen. This area of the colon tends to become congested, so the deep pressure of your heel provides a very beneficial self-massage. Eventually, when you switch sides, your left heel will massage the area of the iliocecal valve (the junction of the small and large intestine) on the right side of your belly.

Ardha Padmasana

To transition into Half Lotus, bring your left leg forward, rotating the leg out. Bend your left leg, and place the foot underneath your right knee. Actively flex the left ankle. In this position you should be unable to see the sole of either foot. Maintaining this integrity through both ankles, lean slightly forward, resting your weight on your fingertips. You may find that a folded blanket under your hips helps you bend forward. Tip forward until you feel a strong opening sensation within your hip sockets. Stay here and breathe for at least a minute.

Padmasana

If your right knee was close to or touching your left foot in Ardha Padmasana, you are probably ready to make an attempt at full Padmasana. Here is a method of entering Padmasana, taught to me by Dona Holleman, that is much, much safer than the common strategy of pulling the second leg up into the pose. In Half Lotus, lean back until you are balanced on the back of your sitting bones, allowing the right leg to come off the floor. Now bring your left hand underneath your left lower leg and grasp the outside of the leg, and bring your right hand underneath the leg to clasp the outer ball of the left ankle joint. Slowly lift the left leg off the floor, allowing the leg to be completely relaxed. Instead of pulling this leg up and over the right leg, release the right knee and thigh down toward the floor. Breath by breath, allow the right leg to rotate further outward. When the right leg comes level to or lower than the left, you will be able to gently slip the left leg over the top of the right. Then you can rest both legs back down onto the floor. You may find additional blankets under your pelvis aid you in this movement. It's normal for the top knee in Padmasana to be slightly off the floor, but you should place a soft but firm support under the knee if it is more than an inch in the air.

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