Functional Yoga – To Lotus or not to Lotus
Functional Yoga means understanding how our individual bone structure is integral to our ability to safely access poses such as the seated Lotus pose.
The hip joint comprises a remarkable interplay between a “socket” on the pelvis & a “ball” at the top of the thigh bone, known as the femoral head. Surrounding the hip joint, we find an intricate network of muscles, a joint capsule, & connective tissue working harmoniously.
When practicing poses like Lotus, several factors come into play, including:
- Depth of Hip Socket: The depth of the hip socket influences the range of motion available in the hip joint.
- Hip Socket Orientation: The hip socket’s placement or orientation also affects the hip joint’s positioning & movement potential.
- Femoral Neck Angle: The angle of the femoral neck, which connects the femoral head to the shaft of the thigh bone, plays a role in determining the positioning & movement of the hip joint.
- Length of Femoral Neck: The length of the femoral neck contributes to the hip joint’s overall mechanics & range of motion.
These variations in individual anatomy significantly impact the range of motion the femur can achieve within the hip socket. By acknowledging & understanding these factors, we can approach poses like Lotus with greater awareness & adapt them to accommodate the unique characteristics of our hip joint structure.
The femur bones play a pivotal role as they snugly nestle into the hip socket, facilitating the essential movements of flexion, extension, & rotation within the hip joint.
When we contemplate hip internal & external rotation, we focus on the actions occurring at the hip joint rather than the foot. During internal rotation, the inner thighs gently roll inward & backward, signifying the inward turning of the femur towards the pelvis. Conversely, the inner thighs gracefully roll outward & forward for external hip rotation.
It is important to recognize that accessing this particular posture may require addressing muscle tension in the adductor muscles, the internal rotators, & other deeper tissues.
However, even with the release of tension in these muscles, the safe & effective execution of the Lotus pose relies significantly on the unique shape & functionality of the two bones that comprise the hip joint—the femur & the pelvis. Specifically, the external rotation capacity of these bones becomes crucial for achieving the desired positioning in the Lotus pose.
The bony structure of the hip socket, known as the acetabulum, exhibits remarkable variation from one individual to another. While one yoga student may possess a shallow acetabulum, another may have a significantly deeper one. This diversity in the acetabular structure directly influences the range of movement achievable within the hip joint in all directions. Furthermore, the position of the acetabulum on the hip bone itself can differ significantly among individuals. Some individuals may have their acetabulum slightly more anteriorly positioned on the hip bone, while others may have it situated further posteriorly. Additionally, the acetabulum can exhibit various angles, inclining upward or downward depending on the individual. For a visual representation, kindly refer to the image below, graciously provided by Paul Grilley.
Recognizing that our unique skeletal structure influences our physical body’s inherent range of motion lays the foundation for a functional approach to Yin yoga. This understanding fosters a healthier relationship with our bodies, promoting injury prevention & mindful practice.
Embracing this perspective initiates a journey of exploration & personal growth. It encourages us to be more conscious & intentional in our practice as we become attuned to the purpose behind our movements. By leveraging Yin yoga as a tool, we can support the functionality of our bodies, enhance the fluidity of our connective tissues, expand our range of motion, & release stagnant energy, revitalizing our Chi or vital life force.
This holistic approach invites us to cultivate a deeper level of mindfulness in our physical practice & how we nourish our overall well-being.