Yoga Pose Breakdown: Lotus

Lotus (Padmasana)
It’s the pose many people associate with yoga – a calm, wise-looking yogi, meditating with crossed ankles. It seems painful and impossible to get into – and while it can be if flexibility is missing in certain areas of your body – it doesn’t have to be. With consistent stretching of the correct muscles, Lotus is within reach more than you might think!

So let’s break the pose down a little bit:

What muscles need to be stretched?

TFL Outer hipsTensor Fascia Latae:
This muscle connects to your IT band and the top/front of your pelvis. It helps internally rotate the femur at the hip – when tight, it limits external rotation.

Gluteus Medius:
Internally rotates the femur bone in the hip socket – when tight, it limits external rotation.



adductor muscles

Adductor Muscles:

Since these muscles cross the hip joint + connect to your femur bone, the flexibility of these muscles are necessary for lotus. Tightness can prevent your knees from reaching the floor and creating deeper external rotation in the hip.





The hamstrings don’t contribute to the rotation of the hip, but they do affect the tilt of the pelvis. If your hamstrings are tight, you are more likely to have a posterior tilt (pelvis tucked under), as your hamstrings attach to the bottom of your pelvis. This affects posture while in lotus (or any sitting position) – having a slight anterior tilt releases tension in the lower back and improves posture.


While stretching the above muscles will help create more space in externally rotating your hip, the hip must be doing the rotation (it is a ball and socket joint!). More rotation in the hip (versus treating your hip socket, pelvis, and surrounding muscles as 1 unit) = less tension/stress on your knee joint.

So what poses can be done to prepare for Lotus?

Low squat (Malasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles. Use a block to sit on if you are unable to sit your hips low comfortably.

Malasana  Modified Malasana

Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles
*Do not put a lot of pressure on knees to get them closer to the ground. Instead, perform a PNF stretch, which will bypass your stretch reflex & help release the adductors. Push hands & knees against each other, at 20% effort for 8 seconds. Relax for one breath, then gently press your knees down a little further than before.  **Only perform PNF stretching 1-2 times every few days on a single muscle group.

Baddha Konasana

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Stretches the outer hips/glutes. Add a twist to stretch adductors & external rotators. Place a block under your glute for modification.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose Modification

Reclined Figure 4
Modification for pigeon pose – stretches the outer hips/glutes & inner thigh muscles.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Yoga

Figure 4 Yoga

Forward Fold
Stretches hamstrings, lower back. Place a block between legs & rest head on block as a modification.

Forward Fold Yoga

Forward Fold Modification

Seated Cat’s cradle stretch
Stretches tensor fascia latae & glute medius – make sure to pull knee into chest before externally rotating your leg (creates more space in your hip joint) to cradle it + also flex your foot. Gently rock leg from side to side.

Revolved Triangle
Stretches the hamstrings and the muscles attached to the IT band – Tensor Fascia Latae & Glutes. Use a block under the bottom hand for an extra lift.

Paravrtta Trikonasana

Revolved Triangle Modification

Hero’s Pose (Virasana)
Opens up the hip joint (internal rotation), stretches quads & hip flexors. Place a block between legs as a modification. For a more intense stretch, lean back on elbows or lay on back. **I was able to do this around 6-8 months post-knee surgery, so patience is key with this pose 🙂

Heros Pose

Heros Pose Yoga

Heros Pose

Heros Pose Modification

Once you’ve done a few of the above stretches, you can now try to enter lotus. **If you don’t feel comfortable attempting lotus just yet, do the stretches above 2-4 times a week (or more if you are looking to increase your flexibility faster!), holding for 30-60 seconds.

Begin in a seated position, both legs straight in front of you. Hug your right (or left) knee to your chest, and allow the knee to fall out to the side, relaxing the muscles around your hip in order for the external rotation to happen. If your knee is not close to the ground, stay here, and repeat the above step with the other leg, staying in butterfly pose.

***Also, if you feel any tension in your knee, that is a signal to STOP. When the external rotation of your hip stops (a ball and socket joint), the rotation is then transferred to your knee (a hinge joint, NOT a joint that can move freely like the hip!). This puts pressure on your cartilage and meniscus, which can cause serious injury to your knee(s).

If you feel no pressure on your knees, begin to move your (flexed) foot up and across your thigh so that it rests on the inner crease of your hip. If you feel pressure at your knee at any point during the movement of your foot, do not continue with the stretch.

If you are able to get into half lotus, repeat with the other leg. Sometimes, we are more open on one side of our bodies, so switching the order of the left/right leg on top might help you get into this pose easier on the other side.

And that’s it! By understanding the muscles involved with getting into lotus pose, you now have an awareness of what to work towards. Give yourself a few weeks or 1-2 months of consistent stretching, and you’ll begin to notice an opening of your outer hips & inner thighs, making lotus a little more accessible.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Yoga Teacher Training Recap: Philosophy & Anatomy

Since I have been incredibly busy the past few weeks (New job, etc – more to come on this!), I have not been able to really sit down and type up a summary of part 3 of 6 of the last 100 hours of my yoga teacher training (200 total)… And now, I just finished up part 4, so I am going to combine the 2 weekends in 1 post! I have been learning so much – it can be overwhelming, especially as a perfectionist… I want to be the most knowledgeable teacher for my students/clients so they can get the most out of class, but there is to learn. But, it will all come with time, and this is all just a journey… so for the time being, I am soaking it in, growing, and enjoying it all 🙂

Module 3: Source – Gain a Deeper Understanding of Yoga as a Science, Philosophy and the History Behind It (10 hours)

  • 8-9:20 am: Hot Yoga Class
  • learned history & background of yoga
  • learned about different types of yoga (hatha, bikram, ashtanga, hatha, etc)
  • taught part of a class
  • watched a movie called Enlighten Up!

We learned about different yoga philosophies & religion, popular yoga texts, the sutras, mudras, the 8 limbs of classical yoga, etc. While the Sutras are basically my yoga, or how I try to live my life (TRY is a key word here ;)), the rest of the information is not something I would normally gravitate towards. It’s all interesting to learn for sure, but not something I feel knowledgeable about or comfortable with teaching to anyone.

I’ve been reading Do your Om Thing, which breaks everything down (all of the above) so it is easy to understand, but only a page here and there. I don’t know if I fully buy into the whole mudras, chakras, etc thing, but maybe just because it’s not something I am ready to dive into/explore/experience at this point in my life. And that’s ok! I love the physical part of practice, and I love throwing in bits and pieces of what I am learning in my classes. Eventually, over time, it will all evolve – which is why I love yoga! No 2 classes are ever alike, or will ever be the same.
Module 4: Body – An Exploration of Anatomy, Physiology & Subtle Energies (14 hours)

Day 1:

  • 8-9:20 am: heated yoga class
  • learned about skeletal system
  • learned about muscles
  • taught part of a class, incorporating anatomy in the sequence
  • set dates for workshops (If anyone is interested in attending mine.. it is November 13 @ 6:30-8 pm… “Journey to Handstand” – and its FREE! Shoot me a note for more details)
Nina Elise Yoga Lotus Handstand

Come handstand with me! November 13, 2015 6:30-8 pm

Day 2:

  • 8 am: taught part of a class, on the fly (one of my biggest fears – how can you not plan a class?!)
  • learned more about the muscles
  • learned about the glands (endocrine system)
  • adjusting in poses – for specific muscles
  • went over homework for module # 5: plan a 30 minute class + incorporate a daily kindness practice

This class was broken down into 2 days – which, it most likely could have been made into a month or year long class. Anatomy is no joke – learning all the muscles, ligaments, tendons, tissues, the glands, the bones – that’s a lot of learning in itself, but how do they work together? Which muscles are used in what poses? What adducts/abducts? what is flexion vs extension? internal vs external rotation? The body is amazing. And no 2 bodies are the same – even our bone structures are different, meaning it is physically impossible for some people to do a pose. It’s so.much.information.

Luckily, it’s incredibly interesting to me, and it will be something I will be pursuing continuous education in following my training (Jason Crandall, anyone??). I could seriously lock myself in a room and study this stuff for hours (Just bought The Key Muscles of Yoga by Ray Long – can’t wait to read it, I feel like such a nerd!). I tried to go down the route of personal training a few years ago, but I couldn’t get into it. Yoga is more of a physical/mental/spiritual journey – not that you can’t connect with people while doing personal training – but for whatever reason, Yoga resonates with me more (possibly due to my gymnastics background). It makes me want to learn as much information as possible, even if it seems overwhelming!

nerd yoga

Joining my 2 jobs: yoga teaching & eCommerce! #nerdyoga

So what’s next? Still teaching my 8 am heated power class on Sundays, plus possibly adding a second class later this year… I will also be picking up a workout/yoga class at my apartment gym – think interval/circuit training OR running, followed by yoga. Goal of this class is to help people understand how to stretch after a workout and the importance of stretching afterwards (using yoga, of course)! Also, to meet people. Because, I haven’t had much time for that lately, and my social life needs help 😉

So for all of you yoga teachers out there – what are your thoughts on yoga philosophy and anatomy? Does it interest you? And for all you yogis/anyone who goes to yoga classes – what are your favorite yoga classes to go to? I would love to hear what draws you to class!

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