Lotus pose---also known by its Sanskrit name, padmasana---is an advanced cross-legged yoga pose in which each foot is on top of the opposite thigh. It is commonly used for meditation, but if performed improperly or for long periods of time, lotus pose can result in knee pain. Also, some people---even advanced yoga students---may never have the flexibility to perform the pose, so don't push yourself unnecessarily.
In lotus pose, your thighs rotate externally (out from centre) 100 to 115 degrees. Knee pain during lotus pose may occur because the thighs are not sufficiently rotated, causing the knee to rotate instead. Tight hips can also limit external rotation.
Ankle position can also affect knee pain in lotus pose. Collapsing your inner ankle and allowing your foot to "sickle" places undue pressure on the outer knee and can cause knee pain.
Outer rotation of the thighs can be assisted through physical adjustments; you can try this on yourself or seek help from a qualified yoga instructor. While preparing to go into lotus pose, use your hands to rotate each thigh outward so the inner thigh comes forward.
Until you can practice lotus pose without experiencing knee pain, try sitting in other meditative poses such as Easy Posture (sukhasana), Adept's Pose (siddhasana) or Half-Lotus (ardha padmasana). Practice preparatory poses such as Bound Angle (baddha konasana), Head to Knee (janu sirasana) and Eye of the Needle (sucirandhrasana) to open the hips and practice external rotation of the thighs.
If you feel sharp pain in your knees during any yoga pose, release or soften the pose. Never force yourself, or allow yourself to be forced, into the lotus pose. Lotus pose can aggravate an earlier knee injury, so students with former knee injuries should avoid lotus pose if they experience pain.
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