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Yoga Poses

Kathryn Budig Challenge Pose: Lotus in Tripod Headstand

Kathryn Budig shares her 4 steps to fold into inverted Padmasana in tripod headstand.

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It’s funny how some moments of inspiration stick in your memory. I can clearly recall one of my teachers demonstrating Lotus in Handstand, which at the time seemed a nearly impossible feat. He entered the pose with such grace and ease that folding the legs into Padmasana while balancing on your hands just seemed the logical thing to do!

Obviously, it’s an incredibly challenging variation. I prefer to teach inverted Lotus with a Tripod Headstand base. It provides the sturdiest foundation, allowing us to focus on the nuances of the hip-opening action of the pose instead of the constant balance dance. I recommend practicing at first at a wall even if you’re confident with balancing. Remember, every new pose takes practice and patience, so journey forward content with the level that you’re at. Continue to practice your hip-openers on the ground to compliment your inverted efforts.

I’m often asked whether it’s necessary to be able to do seated Lotus before attempting this pose. It is helpful but no, not necessary. The variations below all prepare you for Lotus but engage different muscles. I recommend working toward the full expression of the pose from both seated and inverted entries.

Variation #1:

Set up for Tripod Headstand just a few inches away from the wall. Come up with straight legs and flexed feet, so just your heels rest against the wall. Externally rotate your right leg and bend the knee, dropping the sole of your foot down the inseam of your leg. Try to get the foot past your knee to the inner thigh, just like you would in standing Tree Pose. Gently press the sole of your foot into your thigh and engage your quadriceps.

Variation #2

If this variation feels comfortable, try adding a Pigeon Pose leg. Slide your right foot over the left leg directly above or below the kneecap. Flex the foot as you continue externally rotating your right thigh, gently pressing your knee toward the wall.

Variation #3:

The next step moves us toward half Lotus. Slide your right foot down your thigh closer to your pelvis. Keep the foot flexed to protect your knee. The great news is you don’t need your half Lotus to be tight—just tighter than the Pigeon leg it came from. Odds are you’ll get your foot to about mid thigh, which is just where you want it to be.

Variation #4:

I like to call this next action The Chop. Keeping your right leg in half Lotus, bend your left knee, allowing the heel to drop toward your bottom. Start small “chopping” actions with your left heel as you move the foot toward your right shin. This in itself quite an accomplishment and can take months to years of practice. If you reach the shin, start to wiggle your foot beyond it to the inside of your right calf.

From this point, it’s a matter of tightening your Lotus by getting the heels of both feet closer to your pelvis. Just do your best. The traditional expression would be to hold Lotus parallel to the ground. To shift the position to straight up and down is a major stretch for your hip flexors and will take time.

– By Kathryn Budig

Kathryn Budig is a yoga teacher behind AIM TRUEis a regular writer for Yoga Journal and presenter at YogaJournalLIVE!.