How can I get more comfortable sitting cross-legged?

Poses that help:  figure 4 pose (alt – pigeon pose), legs into the chest, simple seated with legs out front, reclined butterfly

There are three main motions that go into sitting cross – legged so that an easy seated pose is comfortable to your body.   First, the bend from the legs to the hips. This motion lengthens the back of the legs which can be especially tight on some people.  If this is a particular problem area for you, I suggest coming to a simple seated pose with the legs out front to begin. The next bend is from the hips outward which extends the inner thigh and can be tricky with tight hips.  The third bend is the bend at the knee which can be tough if you have larger calves or arthritis.

The following sequence can be done in a variety of ways to gently increase your ability to sit comfortably in easy seated pose.  Lying down on the floor, bring your knees into the chest. Take 3-5 deep breaths and make any little movements that feel good (rocking from hip to hip, rolling out ankles, etc.).  

Drop the right leg down and bring the left ankle over onto the right thigh.  Use the left hand to press into the left thigh right at the hipbone. This brings the stretch deeper into the hip.  If this is tight for you, stay right here for 1 full minute. It takes a full minute to release the muscle in the hip.  If it feels ok after a few breaths, you may bring the right leg into the chest for a deeper stretch and take any of the following options

  1.  Bring the right foot to a block
  2.  Hold onto the right thigh with a strap or hands
  3.  Hold onto the right shin with a strap or hands

Most importantly… this is a stretch for the lower body and the upper body should remain relaxed.  Try to relax your jaw and take deep breaths that fill the entire chest cavity. Hold for one minute.  Repeat on the other side – hold for one minute.

Carefully untangle yourself and bring both knees into the chest.  Roll over onto the right side and take 2-3 breaths in a fetal position – scanning down through the body at whatever areas may be asking for your attention today.  Use the strength of your arms to bring yourself up to an easy seated position with the legs stretched out front. Remove the flesh from beneath your buttocks to really ground yourself down.  Flex the feet strongly.

Inhale to reach the arms up and hinge at the hips to reach forward over the legs.  Keep the legs straight. When you have reached as far as you can comfortably, drop the hands down to the legs and release the head towards the toes.  Breathe here for 5-7 deep breaths. Let yourself lengthen through the inhale and hinge forward on your exhale. Reach to find tension but not to find pain.  If this becomes difficult, return to a simple seated position.

Slowly start to walk the hands back towards the hips.  Find the legs long and the shoulder blades down the back as you sit tall.  Place the hands flat onto the earth either right beside the hips or slightly behind.  Lengthen all through the back of the body while you flex the feet.

Bring the legs wide and repeat the forward fold.  Let the hands either rest on the ground between the legs or bring the hands to the legs.  Hold for 5-7 deep breaths. Draw yourself back to a seated position and bring the legs back together.  

Bend the knees, grab behind the knees and slowly roll down to the ground.  Bring the feet side by side and allow the knees to open to either side. Gradually bring the soles of the feet together coming into supta bada konasana (reclined butterfly).  Let the heels come in further towards the tailbone to deepen the stretch or extend the heels towards the bottom of the mat to lessen the tension in the hips. Gently close the eyes and find 3-5 breaths.  

Extend the legs out wide to the outside edges of your mat and release the hands about a foot away from the hips with the palms facing up (savasana – corpse pose).  Take 2-3 minutes to release entirely – even releasing any control over the breath. At the end of your practice, end in a gentle seated position with the legs crossed in front.  Bring the hands to Anjali Mudra and end your practice.


Unusual Ways to Bring Yoga Into Your Day

When you are busy working all the time, it can be hard to find time for your yoga practice.  It is important to remember is that yoga isn’t only a physical activity.  Mindfulness, breathwork, and how we treat ourselves are all vital parts of a yoga practice.  Here are several ways that I have been able to incorporate yoga into my workday.  


The idea of mantras or repetitive phrases is not a new concept.  Self-help programs thrive on daily repetition to establish routines and re-focus the mind.  Think about how many times you type a password a day. If you work in an office the answer can be over 100 times.   The words in a password stick in your head long after you finish typing them.  

Now think about the words in your password.  As password length has increased over time, we are required to create more complex passwords.  If you are the type of person who generates their passwords through a program and uses a secure application to store them, consider instead if you made one of your passwords a mantra.  It can be a phrase that inspired you or helped you focus on your current motivation.  

A while ago, all of my passwords were destructive… “IH@t3W0rk” and such (btw… this is not an actual pw I used).  I found myself feeling more negative every time I typed it.  I started to relate to the negative words I was typing.  Then, my password expired and I needed to create a new one. I decided to try an experiment and choose one that reminded me of things that made me smile. I found my feelings and mood improved each time I used the new password.  

“Now what about security?” you ask.  In a recent business conference I attended, it was statistically proven that passwords consisting of three words totaling 15 – 30 characters could be considered more secure than a program generated one.  Technology experts have been telling the public for years that those are more secure than a more personal password.  Three. Little. Words.  It can help you re-focus each time you typed them. (I double dare you not to say your password in your head as you are typing it.) Three little words to help you bring yoga and a mantra into your day.  Think about what that password might be.  Depending on the program, you may still be required to include a number and a special character, but the words and  feel of the password are the important part.

Desktop “altars”

For those who are not religious or spiritual, the word altar may carry a negative connotation.  If it is a word that bothers you, call it whatever you like.  Tchotchkes is often a word that describes most of mine.  Altars are simply little spaces that you create for yourself, designed to remind you of  important things.  They may contain pictures, toys, stones, or symbols.  If you are new to the process, here are some basic dos and don’ts to create beautiful spaces for yourself.  

Do – find things that bring you joy.  These spaces are a special selection of items that hold meaning for you.  There is no room in this space for any sort of bad energy.

Don’t – put too many items in one place.   Try for about 2-4 items per space.  If you have a lot of items, consider making two spaces to avoid clutter.

Do – pay attention to placement.  You want a light arrangement that allows your eyes to move over the objects.  Try a couple different placements and see what speaks to you.

Don’t – put family photos in this space.  As much as the people we love inspire us, they can also cause strong feelings.  Relationships can be complex and those feelings can make these sacred spaces infused with conflicting emotions.

Try a couple of different spaces and see if it brings more peace to your workday.

Mindfulness Breathing

Stuck in traffic? Waiting for a meeting to start?  Take a moment and pay attention to your breath.  You can even close your eyes if it feels good.  If you are keeping your eyes open, try to keep a relaxed gaze.  

Try the following exercise next time you find a moment or two without activity:

  1. Find an easy seated position with your feet flat on the ground and shoulders relaxed
  2. Breathe a long, slow breath in through the nose (eyes open or closed) – feel the breath coming in. 
  3. Breathe a long, slow breath out through the nose or the mouth – feel the breath coming out
  4. Try to remain present – notice sensations, sights, smells, and noises
  5. Notice your heartbeat
  6. Relax the tongue from the top of the mouth and relax the jaw
  7. Continue breathing slow deep breaths until you feel a bit more relaxed or until your meeting starts.  This could take several minutes or just a breath or two (depending on the situation).  

Lunch breaks

Lunch breaks can be an awesome way to bring yoga into your day.  I’m not suggesting you run to the gym each lunch hour, but this time can be a golden opportunity if you use it efficiently.  Things that you can do on lunch include: taking in a moment of nature, taking a nap, or finding a space for mindful breathing.  Chances are, in a typical 30 minute lunch break, you can find 5 minutes to practice a little breathing or mindfulness. Check out apps like Headspace or Calm if you need some guidance.  

If you are looking for a natural space to de-stress during lunch, a nearby park may be the answer.  You may be surprised at what you find with a simple google search.  In my city, I am constantly finding little-known parks that I can retreat to during my lunch hour.  If you have the time during your day, find a new space to take you away from….

To do list or daily habits list

A to-do list or a tracking spreadsheet may seem counter-intuitive to yoga, but it can be a good way to track your mindfulness throughout the day.  If you bullet journal, this can be a way to express your creativity and remind yourself of your daily mindfulness goals.  A to-do list can set a daily intention to find space for yourself, while a tracking spreadsheet can track your mindfulness habits over time.  My to do list contains reminders to drink enough water, write something every day, and find 5 minutes for a mediation practice.  

Start small and find 3-5 habits that you want to work on.  Try bringing those activities into your everyday routine.  See how you feel after a week or two.  Add 1-2 more habits once you have established some good routines.  Be mindful of the habits on your list and whether they are bringing you ease or stress.  If a habit only causes you stress, drop it from your list.  The purpose is to keep you on track for your overall health goals and not drive you crazy.  Re-work your list until you find an achievable list of habits which benefit your mindfulness goals.

What is the best time of the day to do yoga?

When trying anything new, the question always comes up… what’s the BEST practice?  It’s natural to try to research anything before diving in. The same holds when staring a yoga practice (specifically asanas and movement).  What type of classes should I attend? Is hot yoga good for me? Should I go to a class or start at home? Are private yoga lessons worth it?

One of the ones that has come up lately is “when is the best time of day to practice?” The answer is, of course, all the time! Not the answer you were looking for, right? The choice of morning, afternoon, or evening yoga is really up to your preference and how you choose to work in yoga into your daily schedule.   There are definite and recognizable benefits to bringing a yoga practice into your daily routine.  That being said, there are certain types of yoga that usually work better for the different times of day.  


Yoga in the Morning:  

Morning yoga can be either a reflection or a kick start for your day ahead.  With either choice, any morning routine should start off with a gentle mediation.  This mediation can last anywhere from 1-2 minutes or can be a longer meditation session if you choose.  Mediation in the morning allows the body to wake up gradually and allows the mind to settle into a waking state.  It is also a perfect time to set an intention for your day. After sitting quietly for a time, you can begin to start moving.  This movement can either be simply gentle stretches if you would like to wake up gently or it can be a more lively practice.

Yoga in the Afternoon:

Afternoons are frequently a time for a lull in activity.  An uplifting and invigorating practice is usually the best at this time of day. Many times a short invigorating yoga practice will wake you up enough to finish your day. Although, if you have had a challenging day and are already amped up a seated meditation might focus you better to tackle the projects ahead.  

Yoga in the Evening:  

Evening practices that involve movement should be finished at least an hour before your actual bedtime.  Even restorative practices can wake up the body and the mind enough to disrupt sleep. The only pose beneficial immediately before bed would be legs up the wall or a variation of yoga nidra or yogic sleep.  

This advice, of course, should be taken with a grain of salt.  You will want to practice the different types of yoga according to your daily cycle.  The most important thing for yoga at ANY time of the day is to listen to your body.  If you are creakier in the morning, maybe a yin practice with longer holds is what is going to work best.  If an afternoon practice lends itself to more mediation and less movement, let that happen. If you happen to need a vigorous practice later in the evening, don’t shy away just because of the time of day.  Make sure you are allowing your body to find the normal rhythm that is necessary for a good day or a good night’s sleep.