Stand to Sit

Sage Rountree shares practical advice for a transition that's harder than it looks: Moving from standing to sitting.

The converse of the tough sit-to-stand move is a transition in the other direction: lowering from standing to the floor as smoothly as possible. This exercise has a lot to teach us. It cultivates awareness of the body in space and encourages muscles to hand off in unison for a soft landing. It also affords an opportunity to learn about both the structure and the functional patterns of your feet, legs, and hips. Along the way, it teaches you about the limitations that may affect your body in sports and in yoga.


As Paul Grilley teaches, one of two things will create an anatomical limit to your abilities in a yoga pose. One is the structure of your skeleton, which limits a pose by compression, as the joint hits its end range. The other is the function of your soft tissues, particularly the muscles, which limit a pose when they hit the end point of tension. Compression is fixed and will not change, so we must respect and accept it. Tension is dynamic and can be changed through practice. We can see both in this transition from standing to sitting.

The move is simple: lower from Tadasana (Mountain Pose) through Utkatasana (Chair Pose) through Malasana (Squat) to sit on your rear end. But it can be limited in the joints along the way.

As you lower, your heels may want or need to leave the floor. This can be a structural limitation—compression in the front of the ankle—or a functional one—tension in the Achilles tendon and soleus. To accommodate your hips, you may need to let your knees spread off to the sides into a wide squat. This can reveal both structure in the hips—the orientation and depth of your hip sockets—and function in the hips and thighs.

Please note: There should be no pain in your knees as you lower. Trying a different orientation of your feet, such as stepping wider and angling them both away from the midline can help, but if you feel pain at the knee, you should avoid including this transition.

Careful, attentive reflection on your body’s structure and function will give you self-awareness that applies to both your sports training and your asana practice. Better still, it teaches you to discern between things that are changeable and things that must be accepted, a lesson in wisdom.