1. Sit on the heels. 2. Slightly separate the heels as you wedge the hips between the feet to bring the sitting bones to the floor. 3. Let the feet face straight back and keep the spine neutral.
Virasana could be thought of as the archetype for internal rotation of the hips. It can be performed seated, as a forward bend, or in a supine position. These three variations of the pose cover virtually all of the primary internal rotations of the hip joints.
The primary difference between virasana and vajrasana is that in virasana the hips sit between the feet rather than on top of them. Also, the knee joints are straight up in vajrasana, whereas in virasana, the knee joints angle out slightly. Although it is necessary to angle the knees outward in virasana, this action should be minimized. Entering virasana by wedging the sitting bones between the feet lets the leg joints adjust naturally to the position of the legs without allowing the knee joints to turn out excessively.
Begin by sitting in vajrasana. Once you are comfortably seated on the heels in vajrasana, separate the heels and begin to wedge the pelvis back and forth between the feet. Ultimately the feet will separate, but the toes may remain turned inward. If the sitting bones do not reach the floor, some elevation should be used beneath them.
Once the sitting bones are grounded, look at the feet to see which direction they are facing. The toes will probably still be turned inward. Use your hands to draw the little toe side of each foot out just enough that the feet become parallel and face straight back. This means that the knuckles of the little toes should be as close to the floor as the knuckles of the big toes.
Once the legs and feet are arranged, reach under the knees with your hands and draw the skin forward to lengthen the shins and ankles. Then use your hands to draw the sitting bones back and out to the sides. This will help to broaden the pelvis, deepen the groins, and relax the belly.
Lengthen the front body with the inhalation and try to keep its length with the exhalation. Let the next inhalation add length to the back body without losing length in the front body. Sustain the length of the inner body as much as possible with the exhalation. Rest the back of the hands (palms up) on the thighs so that the elbows hang directly below the shoulders. Release the root of the tongue and soft palate away from each other and breathe.
To perform virasana as a forward bend, maintain the length of the front body as you fold forward, setting the underside of the bottom ribs on the thighs. Maintain the length of the inner body and let the back muscles soften and lengthen. The sitting bones may lift a little, but try to keep this to a minimum. The hands can be placed on the floor wherever they are comfortable and used as support. Feel the back broaden and the sacrum release into the pelvis to deepen the groins even more as you take the head to the floor. (See page 51 Yoga, the Iyengar Way)
It is unlikely that the head will reach the floor without losing inner body length or ungrounding the sitting bones so don’t worry about where the head ends up. Maintain- ing inner body length and the grounding of the sitting bones is more important than reaching the floor. To release the forward bend, inhale and use the arms to return to seated virasana.
Reference (supta virasana) pages 176-177 for the supine version.
1. Sit on the floor. 2. Bend the knees and join the soles of the feet so that they face each other. 3. Press the feet together to release the hip joints downward.
Baddha konasana could be thought of as the archetype for those asanas that employ external rotation of the hips. It can be performed seated, as a forward bend, or in a supine pose. Between these three variations, a broad range of externally rotated hip openings can be accomplished.
Begin by sitting on the floor. Bend the knees and bring the heels as close to the pubic bone as possible. Join the soles of the feet so they face each other like mirrored images. (This symmetry of the feet is important because it directly relates to how the legs and hip joints will work.
Support yourself with your hands on the floor behind your back for a moment to lengthen the inner body. This should also roll you slightly onto the inner front edges of the sitting bones. The belly should maintain its length.
If you cannot come onto the inner front edges of the sitting bones, or if the knees are higher than the floating ribs, you may want to place some type of elevation beneath the sitting bones. This will assist gravity to open the hips. Press the heels and outer feet together and feel how this helps to release the hip joints. This is the seated form of baddha konasana.
If elevation is needed, there is no value in attempting the pose as a forward bend, because the hips are already challenged. Wait until the hips can release enough so that the knees can remain below the pelvic rim before exploring the asana as a forward bend.
If the knees are close to the floor and the spine is neutral, and you want to move into a forward bend, continue to work the legs as you move the sacrum straight forward into the pelvis. This should deepen the lumbar lordosis. If it does, interlace the fingers over the tops of the toes and fold forward from the hip joints as though the belly will reach the floor first.
Keep the length of the belly and permit the back to softly round. If you begin to feel the diaphragm receiving the weight of the ribs, back up to relengthen the inner body and go no further until the hip joints release more fully. Breathe. Remain in the pose as long as the inner body can sustain length and the breath is comfortable. To release, come up with an inhalation.
For the supine version (salamba supta baddha konasana) refer to pages 40-41.
1. Sit on the floor and bring the right heel into the right groin. 2. Bring the left heel in front of the right foot. 3. Sit on the inner front edges of the sitting bones and lengthen the inner body.
Siddhasana is probably the most well-balanced seated pose. It is not as well- grounded as padmasana, but it is easily accessible to most people.
Begin by sitting on the floor in dandasana. Bring the right heel into the right groin. If this is not possible, the heel can be placed in front of the pubic bone, or even to the left of the pubic bone if necessary. If this is the case, elevation beneath the hips will probably be needed so that the legs are able to rest on the floor. Bring the left foot in front of the right foot so that the bottom of the left foot mirrors the placement of the right foot as much as possible (although the left foot will probably be in front of the right foot rather than directly into the left groin).
The body’s weight should be on the inner front edges of the sitting bones and the spine should be completely neutral. This means that the shoulders should be able to rest toward the back body, directly over the outer heads of the femurs, with the sternum lifted and without the back muscles feeling much work. The hands can rest palms up on the thighs with the elbows hanging directly below the shoulders.
Siddhasana is considered a meditative pose, which means it should be as effortless as possible. Though it can be comfortably performed while seated directly on the floor, some degree of elevation beneath the sitting bones is usually a good idea. Enough elevation should be taken so that the knees are level with or slightly below the tops of the thighs. This should help the belly to relax and minimize the work of the back muscles, permitting the pose to be sustained for a greater length of time.
When using siddhasana for meditation, the left foot is traditionally drawn in first and the right foot is placed in front of the left. However, as a part of your general asana practice, both variations should be done to create symmetry in the hips.
Padmasana - Lotus pose padma - lotus asana - pose
1. Sit cross-legged on the floor. 2. Use the arms to lift the bent right knee and place the right ankle on the upper left thigh. 3. Use the arms to lift the left leg and place the left ankle on the right upper thigh.
Padmasana isn’t so much a complicated pose as it is a difficult one to do. It requires a deep, specific hip opening. The challenge in padmasana is to rotate from the hip joints and not stress the knees. In theory, the knee joints and ankles should not be required to work much at all. In any asana, impatience or force can lead to injury rather than yoga. Padmasana is no exception. Since the knee joints are especially fragile, special care should be taken with them.
Although padmasana is challenging, it is worth the work. There is no better asana for dhyana or pranayama than padmasana. It presses the femurs firmly down, and con- sequently sends the torso up, effortlessly supporting a neutral spine and enhancing the effects of these practices.
The lunge with external rotation and baddha konasana are two of the better prepa- rations for padmasana. Most twists are also good preparations as they assist in opening the groins to compliment the external rotation.
Padmasana Preparation Begin by warming up the right hip joint. Start by sitting on the floor with the legs extended straight in front of you. Bend the right knee and bring the right leg up. Holding the right knee with the right hand and the right foot with the left hand, place the right knee or shin into the right armpit. Repeat this with the left leg. This is an excellent warm up for opening the hip joints.
Full Padmasana Begin moving into padmasana by supporting the right knee with the right hand and the right foot with the left hand as you cross the right ankle over the upper left thigh. Be sure that supporting your knee is your primary concern. This will not only protect the knee but will also motivate the primary opening to occur at the hip. You should be able to hook the right foot outside of the left thigh while keeping the right knee on the floor before bringing the left foot to the right thigh and proceeding into full padmasana.
If the foot remains pointed and cannot hook outside of the left thigh, you are not ready to do the full pose. If this is the case, bring the right ankle closer to the left knee. If this helps the foot to hook outside of the left thigh, then, keep the right foot flexed and gently press the right knee to the floor. Work one leg at a time in this manner and do not go into the full pose until each knee can reach the floor with the foot hooked outside of the opposite upper thigh.
Once the right foot is hooked over the upper left thigh and the right knee is on the floor, bring the left leg into padmasana. This is done by supporting the left knee with the left hand and using the right hand to bring the left ankle onto the right upper thigh. Just as you did with the right foot, the left foot should now hook outside of the right thigh.
The femurs will be in external rotation. However, it can be helpful to internally rotate the flesh of the thighs. This will lift the sitting bones a bit and open the pelvis. This in turn should permit the spine to rest in a more neutral position with the sternum lifted and the back body able to lengthen and broaden.
Even in the best padmasana, some degree of elevation beneath the sitting bones is a good idea, especially if padmasana is to be sustained for a long period of time. If the knees are a bit challenged, some support beneath the top knee may be advisable as well, to relieve any stress in the joint. In padmasana the direction of the pose should be the knees moving towards each other, not towards the floor. The knee of the top leg is not expected to be on the floor. Reverse the legs and repeat the pose.