Working Towards Lotus: A Mini-Revelation

Yep, still trying to achieve Lotus.  While I’ve had some serious headway in other parts of my practice (my headstands are literally taking off, and I’m discovering flexibility that I’ve never even dreamed of experiecing before), Padmasana remains a distant dream.  Being an endurance athlete, with triathlon being my drug of choice, I’m pretty sure that I am hindered by tightness that builds up in my hips, knees, and feet from pounding those long miles on the run and bike.  Yoga has helped keep me strong and healthy as I prep for triathlons, but I can’t say that triathlon’s repetitive motions do much for my yoga practice.

Since I’m not willing to give up triathlon at this point, I’ve had to find other avenues towards flexibility.  For a long time, I believed that my biggest hindrance was tightness in my knees and feet.  However, I found a video yesterday that was something of a revelation.

Patrick Reynolds argues that the key to achieving Lotus lies almost exclusively in flexibility in the hip joints.  While this may be a “duh” statement for most of you, I hadn’t put together that my tight hips has led to my Lotuslessness.  While I’ve looked to my feet in the past, I’m now working on Wide Legged Forward Bends and other such hip openers.

This moment of insight makes me wonder what else I’ve missed.  Of course, this is a huge question and doesn’t simply pertain to yoga.  When it comes to seeing the forest or seeing the trees, I’m usually a big picture kind of girl, favoring wide vistas to individual pines, oaks, and birches.  Yet it seems when it came to Padmasana, I got caught up on the details; I wanted to work on my feet and knees when I should have seen how open hips lead not only to Lotus, but to a wide variety of other poses as well.

So maybe the truth of the matter is I’m not as “big picture” as I’ve always thought.  Maybe I’ve become hung up on trivialities (getting into certain poses, working on specific projects, worrying about momentary emotions) rather than seeing the big pay offs, such as finding repose in daily practice, or leading the kind of life that makes me happy, regardless of what others may think.  And maybe there is no pay off; there’s just life.  We can choose to sweat the small stuff, or we can live the big picture.

I’ll continue to work towards Lotus, but with the big picture in mind: playfulness, contentment, acceptance, and love, not just for those around me, but for myself.

Advertisements

Asana Saturday: Working Towards Lotus

Remember how a couple of months ago I confessed the potentially embarrassing fact that despite more than a decade of yoga practice, I am most decidedly not the world’s most flexible yogi?  Well, today’s asana discussion whole heartedly supports that truth.  I love the beauty and simplicity of Padmasana, or Lotus Pose.  I think it is graceful in its stillness and I do believe it is an ideal vehicle for mediation.  This is perhaps why I often find myself frustrated that I cannot for the life of me achieve full Lotus.

There are several reasons for my Lotus-less-ness.  First and foremost, I am an endurance athlete, focusing mostly on running and biking, neither of which is good for hip flexor mobility.  Additionally, running can reduce knee and foot flexibility, both of which are crucial for full Lotus.  Secondly, while I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, I think I am at a disadvantage due to my height.  At nearly six feet tall, I have a lot of legs to toss around.  Finally, and most importantly, I have been stuck at half Lotus for so long that I’ve become somewhat complacent and have not given achieving full Lotus the devotion it needs.  Well, enough of that.  I’ve recently made great strides in my meditation practice, and I’d love a full Lotus to go along with it.

However, all this thinking about Padmasana led me to wonder: why Lotus pose anyway?  Why is Lotus so quintessentially yogic, and why is it the ideal asana for meditation?  I did a bit of research, and while most websites simply spouted the same blanket information about meditative practice and benefits during pranayama, a couple of sites had some truly interesting information.

According to yogameditation.com, Padmasana is key for meditation because it ideally aligns the body for effortless sitting.  In order to avoid restlessness and muscular tension, the nervous system must flow through the body unimpeded.  The “undisturbed position of the spine in Padmasana is important in order for the nerve impulses [and the associated cerebrospinal fluid] to flow freely during meditation” (yogameditation.com).  This open, flowing position of the spine also allows for psychic energy to run through the body unchecked, adding to the harmonious mental and spiritual effects of meditation.

The website syvum.com states that Padmasana can reduce excess body fat in the abdominal region.  This claim is backed by yogameditation.com, which states that the cross-legged position of Lotus redirects blood flow to the abdominals, which is beneficial for the digestive organs.  Syvum.com also states that practicing Lotus can help people suffering from insomnia and asthma.

As awesome as the physical benefits of Padmasana may be, Erich Shiffman, the author of Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness (a great yoga primer), reminds us that “sitting in Lotus is not the important point. What’s important is the knowledge you gain in terms of how to open your body and keep it opened. The yoga lies in how sensitively you nudge your edges and tight areas toward greater openness. The postures are the tool you use for this.”  So as I work towards full Lotus, it will be important to remember to be kind to myself, to use Padmasana as a tool for openness and acceptance, and to discover that more often than not, the path and the practice are more important than the achievement or destination.

For the next couple of weeks I will be working on (and blogging about) preparatory poses for Padmasana.  Please feel free to follow along and share your progress too!  Maybe we’ll all reach full Lotus together.