Some people like a quiet room with no distractions to get some serious thinking done. I'm pretty sure some of my finest epiphanies have come from Tripod Lotus. I know, call me crazy, but there is a sense of strength and security that evolves from being in this pose. Lotus is such a compact pose for the hips. It's neatly tight up--it offers a sense of security while you can't help but feel strong standing on your head supporting your own body weight. Practicing this pose reminds me that I can be strong and secure--that practicing poses outside of my comfort zone frees me from fear and that the more energy I give to my strength the more powerful I make myself. I wish the same for you in this challenge pose. Make sure you have a good grip on Tripod Headstand and Lotus before you decided to marry the two together here.
If you're comfortable with your balance, set yourself up into Tripod Headstand in the middle of the room, or otherwise about 8 inches away from the wall. Every few breaths remind yourself to keep the elbows in over the wrists and the shoulders lifting up away from the ears. These two actions will keep the cervical spine safe and the shoulders supported. Once you're in full Headstand, keep the left leg straight and externally rotate the right leg from the hip socket. This means the heel spins in and the toes spin out. Bend your right knee and drag the sole of the foot down the inner left leg until you land below your left inner kneecap. Aim to get the sole of your right food to the inner left thigh, like in Tree Pose. Keep the front ribs in (this will avoid the backbend fall-out) and tailbone lifting.
From your Tree, slide the right foot over the left quad so the heel of your right foot is below the left knee. Wiggle the right ankle to slowly climb the foot down away from the knee cap towards the hip. This will be a very loose version of Half Lotus. Don't worry about achieving a full Half Lotus here, the tightening will come later! Just do a "lazy" version of the rotation for now!
It's time to chop! Keep your right leg in the Half Lotus, then simply bend your left knee. The foot will land behind your Lotus leg. Continue this chopping action--lightly! Bend the left knee and use the chop to get the heel closer and closer to the left shin. The hips will continue to open and the knees will travel closer toward the ground (slight pitch in the lower back, just a touch!) until the chopping heel of your left leg reaches the right shin. Once the heel gets to the shin, it's time to snuggle.
Once your left heel makes contact with the right shin, wiggle the ankle until the heel slips in front of the right shin. You'll be in an extremely loose Lotus. Time to snuggle! Wiggle both ankles leading with your heels. The right heel will wiggle towards the left hip and vice versa. Continue this snuggle action until you can't tighten your Lotus any further. Descend your knees until the Lotus is parallel to the ground. Keep the belly in, shoulders lifting, and elbows over the heels of your hands. Keep your feet flexed (this protects the knees) and your toes wrapping around the thigh as if they were trying to hold on. Hold for 8 breaths then reverse your wiggle to unleash the Lotus. Lower into Child's Pose and rest.
Kathryn Budig is jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the Contributing Yoga Expert for Women's Health Magazine, Yogi-Foodie for MBG, creator of Gaiam's Aim True Yoga DVD and is currently writing Rodale's The Big Book of Yoga. Follow her on Twitter; Facebook; or on her website.