The cross-legged pose is a common posture which is called asana in official yoga jargon. But sitting in this posture for a while can sometimes be a challenge. You can get cramp or feel stiffness in your joints making you want to do something else than stay in this position. When I first started yoga, I could not do this asana. It felt like the blood supply in my legs was pinched and I even got sleeping feet (really annoying). Sitting upright was difficult because of my hollow back and instead of relaxing my shoulders, I pulled them up very high towards my ears. No, I did not like the cross-legged pose nor was it relaxing. I therefore looked for alternatives to make it easier and, even more important, to practice yoga with more joy to keep an healthy lifestyle. I have been practicing for a while and the cross-legged pose is a relaxed posture which I can do with ease. I did use alternatives to get there. With these tips I hope to increase your joy and help you do the cross-legged asana with more ease.
What is a cross-legged pose?
In almost every yoga class, the cross-legged asana occurs. The class can start or end with it and it may be used inbetween to make the transition to a different posture. The purpose of the cross-legged asana is to keep feet, ankles, knees, hip joint, pelvis, spine and skull flexible. The cross-legged pose is the most natural way of sitting for your body. When you practice this posture for a while you can increase your natural flexibility. But where does the cramp or stiffness come from?
How do you sit?
Many of us have a sedentary profession. Like shoes are for the feet, so is a chair or car seat for the lower back and pelvic joint. By sitting on a piece of furniture for a long time, your natural flexibility decreases. And what the effect is, you feel immediately in the cross-legged position. If you have been sitting for a long time, your muscles may feel stiff or your lower back even painful, which means that you will not be able sit cross-legged for long. How do you prevent that and how can you sit (more) relaxed in this asana?
Make sure that the (car) chair you use during work supports your body well and you regularly take a break by stretching your legs. That is really half the work! Did you know that there are 20 points that your workplace needs to meet if you want to be able to adopt a good body posture and be productive? One of those points is to regularly take a break and take a walk, for example during the lunch or get coffee / tea more often for your colleagues. You not only stimulate teamwork, but also the blood circulation in the body which keeps your muscles and joints more flexible making it possible to sit cross-legged with more ease.
The five phase of the cross-legged asana
There are five phases of the cross-legged pose; from a beginner’s posture to an advanced one. The more flexible your body, the greater the easier by going through the stages. Practicing regularly is important. Just as you can’t complete the marathon untrained, you can’t do the five phases of the cross-legged pose untrained.
- Starting pose; also called the easy pose. In yoga jargon this asana is called “sukhasana”. You sit on the floor with your legs crossed, hands resting on your knees.
- Basic sitting pose; When the starting position is easy, you can proceed to phase two or the “siddhasana”. Your legs are crossed and one foot is under your leg and the other foot folds between your upper leg and calf. Hands rest on your knees.
- Sitting pose for advanced: called “svastikasana” and also known as the “half lotus pose”. Both legs are crossed and one foot is placed on your thigh, the other foot you cross under your leg.
- Sitting pose for advanced: “padmasana” and also known as the lotus posture where you cross both legs and let both feet rest on the upper leg.
- Sitting pose for very advanced: “mulabandhasana” in this asana are the legs crossed, the soles of the feet pressed against each other and the feet turn the hip joint turned.
These alternatives helped me during the cross-legged asana. By using these alternatives you make this posture more comfortable for yourself and thus increase the effect. I started at phase one and progressed slowly to phase three. I can’t do the four or five. Maybe one day; it will come naturally. My principle is always doing that what feels right. Experience where your boundaries are and do not push yourself (too much). Take your time, listen carefully to your body and do not forget: everything you do more often, will become easier.
- Alternatively, you can stretch your legs when crossed legs does not feel nice.
- If you have a hollow back, push your tailbone towards the ground. This makes the back straight and relieve (painful) tension from the lower back.
- Push aside your buttocks and make sure you feel the sit bones. This helps you to sit up more straight. Sit on a pillow if that is more comfortable.
- Draw your belly inwards to your spine. As a result, you tilt the pelvis slightly and you can sit more relaxed.
- Let your chin slightly rest in the direction of your chest, push the tip of your tongue against the back of your front teeth and do not put your teeth together. This relaxes the jaw and neck.
- And breathe easy. If we exert ourselves, we tend to hold our breath. That will not help. Breathe gently towards your stomach, which will help your body relax making this asana feel (more) comfortable.