Along with the increasing popularity of yoga, recent studies and supported meta-analyses note a rise in reported yoga injuries, with sirsasana (headstand), sarvangasana (shoulder stand), and padmasana (lotus pose) being the big three culprits. For safe sequencing and informed asana work, practitioners need to go beyond exclusively knowing the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments to understand how each part of the human body works together to move.
We will break down the three big ones and examine the biomechanics or science of movement of the knee in Padmasana. This is to keep healthy and happy joints. This article will introduce the basic biomechanics of padmasana. For a more comprehensive and detailed understanding of the knee, it is best that you consult a professional healthcare provider as well as an experienced yoga instructor.
The Knee Joint
The knee is the largest joint and the most superficial in the body. However, its mechanical strength is weak, and it depends heavily on the surrounding muscles and tendons.
The knee is made up of the tibia, femur, and patella. The tibiofemoral (which connects the tibia to the femur) and the patellofemoral (which connects the patella to the femur) work as a joint compound. The menisci are two C-shaped cartilage pieces that cushion and support the tibia and femur.
When picturing the legs in Padmasana, the hips and the knees should be flexed, and the external rotation of the hips is also done. When the hips flex, the knees can flex up to 20 degrees further. This is an example of how the muscles and joints of the legs work together for a comfortable and safe padmasana.
Padmasana: Limiting Factors
The connection between the calf and thigh is a common limitation in padmasana. Padmasana can be difficult for people with larger legs. Tight hamstrings are a more serious factor that can prevent you from mastering padmasana. Tight hamstrings place stress on the medial meniscus. This can be seen when students attempt padmasana with their knees way off the floor or have to pull their legs into a lotus pose. According to Mayo Clinic, a meniscus tear can be caused by any activity that involves twisting or rotating your knee.
For safe padmasana practice, hips and legs should be relaxed and comfortable in external rotation. It is important to make a smooth transition with your legs, gliding without force in and out of Padmasana.
This variation of marichyasana allows the gaze to rest on the big foot while the back remains erect. The left leg is active and heavy. The left foot is flexed, with toes spread apart. The right leg is bent, and the right heel is placed as close as possible to the butt. Hands can be gently pulled on the right shin.
Janu Sirsasana – variation
This variation of Janu Sirsasana allows the gaze to rest on the big foot while the back remains erect. The left leg is active and heavy. The foot on the left is flexed, with toes spread apart. The right knee and hip are externally rotated. A right hand gently pressing on the right thigh can help bring the knee closer to the floor and lengthen the hamstrings.
The back can be kept straight in this variation of Ardha Padmasana. The left leg is active and heavy, while the foot on the left is flexed. Toes are spread apart. The right knee and hip are externally rotated. The heel of the right foot is gently pressing against the groove on the left hip. The toes of the right foot are gently spread apart. Hands can be used to gently pull apart the right thigh, calf, and foot to help with external rotation.
Padmasana is often performed with the knees raised off the ground, especially by those who have tight hips and are new to yoga. This can cause injury and discomfort. It is important to support yourself with blocks, bolsters, or blankets to alleviate pain. The legs will relax, and the hamstrings will lengthen by using support to raise the floor to the knees. This makes it easier to perform padmasana in the future. The zabuton and zafu cushion that come with it are excellent tools to support the knees and relieve pressure when performing padmasana. Enjoy practicing in comfort and ease!