Here I wanted to introduce you to my friend Ramali so that you can see how a more natural bodied person can come into a pose like padmasana (lotus) with ease and without hands.
Ramali can come into padmasana with as much grace and ease as she can fold her arms.
When Ramali first came to my classes I was able to do padmasana—using my hands though.
I would go through all of those ‘cradling’ the hip type poses to ‘warm up’ my hips and ‘open’ them and then carefully place the legs into padmasana.
Actually, I understood this was not the best approach as my own teacher, Paddy McGrath (dancingspineyoga.com), always guided us to work into padmasana without using our hands.
Paddy would tell us to use the intelligence of our legs and move our legs using the muscles of our legs.
I would dutifully try and could always manage to get one leg in but the other leg sort of lay there like a dead fish. Attached to the notion of padmasana I would use my hand to put the second leg in place.
Then Ramali came to class one day and it was time for sitting meditation at the end of the class and there I was saying to everyone do your best not to use your arms and showing my one-legged version. Ramali neatly and quickly and modestly just popped both legs into position without batting an eyelid.
It was a great moment of realization and humility for me and from that time on I said, well, no more padmasana for me. I won’t continue along this path of fooling myself padmasana is a pose for me.
It did not mean I gave up on the pose altogether, although I abandoned practicing it for many months.
Instead, I went about my normal practice of active movements with the usual standing hip opening poses (forward bends, lunges, trikonasana variations, warrior variations, gadjastan variations) as well as moving actively (no hands) into sitting poses.
I made sure to actively externally rotate the hip that should be externally rotated in those postures. I made sure to remain active in the pose so I did not sink into my hips. I used principles of activating muscles while in lengthened positions.
This was part of my regular practice.
And then one day, several months later, I thought I might just try padmasana again.
Voila. My legs went into the pose of their own accord.
Now, my legs still do not go into padmasana with as much ease as Ramali’s do.
While I can do it first thing in the morning, with no preceding warm ups or movements, as you can see in the video I still have a slight ‘sawing’ action to get there.
Ramali takes her legs into position in two smooth movements.
I wrote this post not to dishearten. But for you to think about the truth and reality of what your body is able to do of it’s own accord.
Based on ideas of active movements and trying not to force your body into position I encourage students to try to move their legs into postures using just their legs.
One of the reasons is that there is always the risk of damage to your knees if you are really straining to get into position.
Ramali is one of the few people I have met (Georgie in Australia, you are another one!) who have always been able to perform these movements so smoothly. I am very fortunate to have come across them and have the good sense to watch and learn from what their bodies had to teach me. Thanks guys!
Perhaps you can watch and learn as well.
Happy and safe practicing.