Plant Those Tubers and Grow a Lotus!
The lotus flower carries powerful symbolism in eastern traditions; purity, spiritual growth and the divine within each of us. From the dark, murky and muddy depths at the bottom of a pond, a seed takes root. The long, wavering stem gropes through the water towards the shimmering light above. The exquisite, aromatic blossom comes into its own when it breaks through the surface and basks in the brilliant light of the sun. This month we till the ground for Lotus, but as with growing anything of such delicious beauty, patience is essential. Padmasana ñ Lotus Pose ñ is quite a jewel, but demands time and compassion.
Begin with a few rounds of Sun Salutations and standing poses such as virabhadrasana II (warrior II), prasarita padottanasana (wide-legged forward bend), and parsvottanasana (intense side stretch). Then hit the floor for eka pada rajakapotasana, or pigeon pose, to generate the external rotation of the femur in the hip joint that will be necessary for full lotus. Do this sequence on each side so the body is cultivating balance. Now letís dig a little deeper.
Sit cross-legged (sukhasana) on the edge of a folded blanket in order to elevate the hips slightly and invite a forward tilt to the pelvis. Find your sit bones and root down ñ did you know that a lotus was a tuber? ñ plant those tubers! Line your left shin parallel with the front edge of your sticky and draw your right heel up high onto your left thigh, bringing the heel to the crease of the groin where the thigh meets the pelvis. Allow your right knee to rest on or above the medial arch of the left foot ñ if the right knee is completely elevated, place a rolled up blanket between the knee and left foot so the knee is supported ñ never force it down.
Pause and check in; is the knee cursing you? The yogic thing to do is respect the sensation, make friends with your body and back off before anything goes snap-crackle-pop. Once injured, a bum knee will haunt you for the rest of your life. Go slow, breathe deep and remember ñ the lotus doesnít blossom overnight!
If the right knee is resting on the left foot and the sit bones are firmly planted, then proceed to fold forward on exhalation one breath at a time, hinging from the hip joints and not simply schlumping over from the waist. There is no schlumping in yoga! Find your edge and BREATHE! It takes a great deal of time for most of us before weíre resting the right knee on the left foot. Practice patience with this delicate flowerÖ
Once the knee is down, move on by slowly bringing the right foot forward so it now rests on the left knee and your shins are stacked one on top of the other into the more challenging Agnistombasana (Firelog pose). If, and only if, the shins are in contact with one another and you want to increase the heat, proceed into a forward fold on exhalations. Now give it a go on the other side.
The hips are ready for Padmasana when the shins are resting comfortably on top of one another; otherwise, youíre gonna to take it in the knees. Once the hips are open enough to allow the thighs to rotate out, the knees will bend/hinge the way theyíre meant to. When youíre ready for the full bloom, lift your right heel high onto your left thigh, planting it at the head of the femur. Next, draw the left heel high onto your right thigh; the feet should be flexed. Root your tubers down, grow your spine long, and shine brightly from your divine lotus heart. Be mindful in your practice; till your ground well, and with compassion, patience and nurturing, youíll grow a beautiful lotus year after year.