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How to Cross Your Legs in Yoga

author image Martin Booe
Martin Booe writes about health, wellness and the blues. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Bon Appetit. He lives in Los Angeles.
How to Cross Your Legs in Yoga
When you're sitting in easy pose, you're already doing yoga. Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

If you're new to yoga, you'll soon find that practically every yoga class begins sitting on the floor with your legs crossed. If your hamstrings and hip abductors are habituated to a lifetime of office chairs and car seats, even this can be a bit of a challenge. Start out with the easiest seated cross-leg postures and work your way up to the more challenging ones. And remember that when you're sitting cross-legged, you're already practicing yoga.

Read More: How to Gain Flexibility in the Legs for Lotus Pose

Benefits of Sitting Poses

Seated cross-legged poses do wonders for your upper back's posture by strengthening the erector spinae, the small muscles that flank either side of the spine. They'll also gradually open up your hips and elongate the muscles in your knees, shins and on down to your feet. In the long run, these sitting poses will bestow your lower body with a suppleness you never thought possible.

If your intention is launch yourself into a serious yoga practice, being able to sit comfortably on the floor is essential in order to get the full benefits of breathing exercises and meditation. You'll soon find this to be so to speak, quite grounding -- it brings you down to earth physically and mentally. And at a certain point in your yogic career, you're quite likely to find that it's actually the most comfortable way to sit.

Half-Lotus pose bestows most of the benefits of Full Lotus but is much easier to attain.
Half-Lotus pose bestows most of the benefits of Full Lotus but is much easier to attain. Photo Credit SolisImages/iStock/Getty Images

Getting Started

When you're just getting started, you may want to rest your buttocks on the edge of a folded blanket or rug -- the elevation takes some of the stress off your knees and ankles.

Begin with Dandasana (Staff Pose) by extending your legs forward out in front of you and giving your hamstrings a stretch. Now draw your legs inward so that your shins are crossed and your knees widened. Tuck each foot under the opposite knee and draw your legs in closer to your trunk. Now you're in Easy Pose, otherwise known as Sukhasana. You may stay in this position as long as you like, but be sure to alternate the cross of your legs.

Whatever cross-legged pose you're doing, be sure to not to flex your pelvis too much one way or another. To check your pelvic angle, push your hands into the floor and slightly elevate your sit bones for a few breaths until your thighs feel heavy. Try to sit so that your pubic bone and tail bone support your weight equally. As for your hands, you can let them rest palms up in your lap or place them on your knees, palms down. Keep your spine active, pushing your tail bone into the floor. Retract your shoulder blades a bit, taking care not to over flex your back.

Choose Your Pose-in'

Lotus pose is the ultimate in sitting poses, requiring you to rest each foot on the opposite thigh -- excruciating if you're not ready for it, but actually the most comfortable way to sit once you've arrived as a yogi. Lotus pose is not for everyone, however;Some people's hip and pelvic structures make it anatomically impossible to achieve. Half-Lotus pose will provide most of the same benefits -- improving posture, releasing hips and stretching the psoas -- as the full monte. It's also an excellent pose to maintain while meditating for long sessions.

To perform Half-Lotus pose, carefully position your right foot onto your left thigh, drawing it inward as close to the left side of your abdomen as you can. Hold the pose for a few minutes, or for slightly longer than is comfortable, and reverse.

Read More: 10 Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Core

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