—I can't do poses that require me to sit back on my heels or on the floor between them. Is it tight knees, tight hip flexors, or a tight psoas? Which poses will increase my flexibility? —Kim, Baltimore, Maryland
Barbara Benagh's reply:
Without actually meeting you, I can only speculate about the cause of your problems. Both your issues—an inability to sit on your heels in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) and Balasana (Child's Pose), as well as to perform Virasana (Hero Pose), which requires sitting on the floor between the feet, are part and parcel of the same problem.
The most likely source of your problem is tight groins—those pesky hip flexors. And those very poses that give you the most trouble are the best ones for you, so don't avoid them. In addition, forward bends will help restore flexibility to your hips while helping you to encourage space in the joints. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) done with blankets supporting the knees is also wonderful for easing space and movement into tight hips, especially if you relax in the groin area.
Still another possibility is that you have weak arches in your feet. If you have flat feet, be sure to practice standing poses. Standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and lifting your toes is simply a great way to build strength in your arches.
Finally, some folks are limited because their thighs and calves simply don't allow them to sit down fully due to their size. If that's your dilemma, make peace with using a prop.
Unless you have problems with your knees in other poses, they are unlikely to be the source of your woes. Still, you need to be careful not to strain your knees when you hang, as you do, in Vajrasana and Virasana without the weight of your torso on your heels or the floor. So, whatever the source of the problem, please put a block or blanket under your buttocks to help you ground the pose.
Almost all of our restrictions lessen with practice, and that is my primary advice to you. Still, you will most likely gain insight from an expert looking at you do the poses that give you trouble. Since you live in Baltimore, I suggest you call Stan Andrejewski at Greater Baltimore Yoga Centers—an accomplished yoga teacher and physical therapist.
Barbara Benagh, YJ's 2001 Asana columnist, founded the Yoga Studio in Boston in 1981 and teaches seminars nationwide. Currently, Barbara is writing a yoga workbook for asthmatics and can be reached at