Lotus impossible
July 10, 2009 8:13 PM   Subscribe

Please help me sit cross-legged or explain the anatomical reasons why I can't.

I have never been able to sit cross-legged. Ever since I was a child my knees came up 10 inches off the floor and it was never comfortable. My mother can't sit cross-legged either. I'm wondering if this is an anatomy problem. We are both of normal weight and healthy.

When I try to sit cross-legged I have pain at the inner thighs and my hips do not relax. My thighs are off the floor and my knees are pointing in the air. I am a novice yogi but do not sit in a cross-legged position in my classes. As a child, and an adult, I was always the lone person that had her legs kicked out in front when sitting on the floor instead of sitting with crossed legs.

What can I do to successfully sit in this position. Has anybody else experienced this?
posted by Fairchild to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My dad couldn't sit cross-legged either. I don't think it's an anatomy problem, more like an anatomy anomaly. It didn't mean he couldn't do anything else physical.

I'm not limber, but I have really good balance. Maybe this is the case for you? It seems like most people are naturals at balance or flexibility but not both. In the meantime, you can ease your way into a position by breathing into it, holding a position and stretching a little bit more every time you breathe out. It takes time, though.
posted by zinfandel at 8:23 PM on July 10, 2009

I've never been able to do it. Well, I can get the left leg almost all the way down, but not the right. I have scoliosis in my lower back, and I suspect that's the problem. My hips are not aligned correctly.
posted by Evangeline at 8:23 PM on July 10, 2009

I had a friend who couldn't sit cross-legged. She claimed it was because her legs were so long in proportion to the rest of her body. Her legs were very long but I don't know if it was actually related.
posted by entropyiswinning at 8:35 PM on July 10, 2009

Best answer: When I do/did certain moves, my hips cramped up like no ones business. Perhaps you and I have a similar issue. (Note: This explanation is from my yoga teacher in college, so take it with a grain of salt.)

You have tight hip flexors which prevent your full range of motion. Try some stretching exercises that loosen up or "open" your hip joints. Google "stretching hips" or "stretching hip joints" for more information.
posted by gagoumot at 8:45 PM on July 10, 2009

Best answer: Have you tried inner thigh stretches? The butterfly stretch is just one exercise, I am sure your yoga instructor would have other suggestions. When I did ballet, we used to spend a lot of time on inner thigh stretches with the goal of doing full side-straddle splits, so you could also try a beginner ballet video or class, focusing on the warm up and cool down stretches -- although I never had a problem with sitting cross-legged, I did notice that all that inner thigh stretching made me so limber, I could sit in the butterfly position with my feet tucked all the way in toward the pelvis with my knees touching the floor -- if you can do that, cross-legged will be no problem! Hope that helps!
posted by booksandwine at 8:49 PM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I can't sit cross-legged. Even when I was a small child I sat with my legs straight out in front of me.
posted by sugarfish at 9:44 PM on July 10, 2009

I've always had the same problem. It's much more comfortable for me to sit in a "M" position (that is, both legs flat on the ground with knees pointing forward and heels and feet splayed out by my hips). In my case it's caused by a slight hip malformation combined with really tight hip flexors. That butterfly stretch mentioned above will really help with your flexibility, but take it slow! If your hips are really tight, that is a brutal stretch!
posted by maryh at 10:03 PM on July 10, 2009

I can sit cross legged fine but I have never been able to touch my toes without bending my knees. I've never even come close. Everyone's different. Seems normal to me.
posted by chairface at 10:06 PM on July 10, 2009

I used to be able to sit cross-legged up until the second grade or so, and then never again. I blame it on a combination of me being very inflexible and having unusually long thighs for my height (I'm only 6'0" but the vast majority of bus/train/plane seats are a nightmare for me).
posted by wsp at 10:42 PM on July 10, 2009

Best answer: It just means that you have tight hips. If you are already in a yoga class, you will likely be doing stretches to help that. I believe that it is healthy to keep our limbs limber especially as we all edge towards old age. Yoga helps. I know it might be discouraging to be in yoga class if it seems like everyone is more flexible but do keep it up - it is immensely rewarding.

To get a better understanding of why it is important to "open the hips" or how you can do it, speak to your yoga teacher and/or read up on it e.g. yoga journal here and here. Or you can even watch their videos.

Even with regular practice, it may take years to be able to sit cross-legged or lotus. But it will be worth it. Good luck!
posted by serunding at 11:59 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all. All are very helpful answers. I appreciate it.
posted by Fairchild at 8:00 AM on July 11, 2009

Best answer: The hip joint is a ball-in-socket joint, and the femur goes into the pelvis at different angles for different people. Retroverted hips cause the leg to turn out (external rotation of the leg) more easily, and have more difficulty turning in (internal rotation of the leg). Anteverted hips cause the leg to turn in easily, and have more difficultly turning out.

I have mildly anteverted hips, so I can turn my legs in quite far (feet pointing towards eachother), but have difficultly turning out (as in ballet). However, even though crossing your legs requires turning out your hips, I have no difficultly crossing my legs and putting my knees almost on the floor.

All of this is to say that your difficultly crossing your legs is likely muscular, but may also be partially due to your skeletal structure.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:43 PM on July 11, 2009

Best answer: Try raising your hips above your knees - sit on a folded blanket or small cushion directly under you and see if you can sit comfortably cross-legged with the extra support. After a while, you may be able to work down to sitting directly on the floor without the added boost.
posted by judith at 6:47 PM on July 11, 2009

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