When the average person thinks of yoga, they think of flexibility, and that is not far from the truth. Sitting poses are the fastest way to achieve flexibility in your yoga routine. Although sitting poses can be adapted to any level, they are best suited for beginners.
They focus on improving flexibility and range of motion more than strength; thus they are best for meditation, stress relief, and yogic breathing. Seated poses involve forward bends, twists, body straightening, and straight & cross-legged postures.
They are usually practiced in beginner classes or gentle yoga.
Furthermore, they can be used as warm-ups, but you will properly get into a seated pose when you’re trying to stretch out your body after engaging in some standing poses.
Benefits of Practicing Sitting Yoga Poses
While there are many types and variations of yoga pose based on different parts of the body, here’s why practicing sitting yoga rocks.
- They focus on improving flexibility; thus, they work best for stretching the legs (hamstrings, quads and calves), the muscles around the pelvis, the back (spine and glutes).
- Sitting on the floor enhances stability which is needed to open the body up with minimum effort.
- Sitting poses have the lowest risks of injury because there are no risks of falling and you have greater control of your body.
- They help to regulate breathing as you can stay in a pose for a long time.
- They are best for stress and anxiety relief.
- You do not need a lot of space to practice this kind of yoga.
How to Practice Sitting Yoga
Here are 12 sitting pose ideas that you should try out:
1. Child’s Pose
This gentle pose stretches the spine, thighs, hips, and ankles. It is also excellent for back and neck pain. Usually, it is done as a counterpose against many other poses and is popular for insomnia, anxiety, and stress relief.
To get into a child’s pose, kneel on the floor with your big toes touching each other and knees a little wide apart, rest your hands on your thighs and sit on your heels and ankles.
Next, take a deep breath, lower your torso between your thighs, extend your arms alongside your torso, palms up or down, relax your shoulders to the ground, and feel your body weight rest in between them.
2. Hero Pose
This is a great meditation pose. It helps to stretch the quads and ankles, thus building flexibility around the ankles, thighs, and knees to make quads-intensive activities easier. The Hero pose is also great for aligning the spine, as the shoulders are placed directly above the hips and can help to fix a slouched posture.
This pose has a number of variations to make it easy; the Hero pose can be done reclining. However, some people find it easier to do the Easy pose which is a cross-legged variation of the Hero pose.
To get into the Hero pose, kneel on the floor while keeping your knees firmly together and your feet apart. Your feet should be pointed straight out and the tops of your feet flat and even on the floor. On an exhale, sit back into the space between your feet. Make sure you are sitting between your feet, not on them.
To properly get into the pose, you may need to wedge a yoga block or a folded blanket under your butt to properly get into the pose.
You could move your calves out of the way by wedging a thumb behind your knees and pushing the skin of your calves towards your knees. Then place your hands on your knees, firm your shoulders, push your chest out and slide your shoulders away from your ears. To deepen the pose, you may straighten your arms and gently pull on your knees.
3. Staff Pose
If you have heard about the Mountain pose, think of this as the sitting variation of the Mountain pose. The Staff pose is the starting point for many seated poses. It is excellent for posture improvement, it stretches the chest and shoulders and strengthens the back muscles. Your spine should be in a sustainable upright position to know when you have gotten the pose right.
To do the Staff pose, sit with your legs in front of you -for better alignment, sit with your back against a wall. Make sure your shoulders touch the wall, but not your head or lower back. You need to sit on sit bones, so use your hands to shift your buttocks to each side so that you can sit firmly on the floor. Engage your thighs, flex your feet and keep your heels rooted to the floor.
You may lay three 10-pound sandbags across the tops of your thighs to keep your thighs grounded. Suck your belly in and stack your shoulders directly above your hips, then relax your shoulders away from your ears. To support your hips and complete the pose, straighten your arms and place your arms on the floor on either side of your hips.
However, this should not make you raise your shoulders. If your hands can’t reach the floor, use your fingertips.
4. Seated Forward Bend
This is an ideal pose for a full-body stretch. It stretches your spine and engages your thighs and calves. It is also a great way to relieve constipation as it helps with proper food digestion. Now, there are two popular and distinct ways of engaging in the Seated Forward Bend. Some people believe that you can round your spine. Some others think you should keep your spine straight for better posture and stretch.
We agree with the straight spine method; it’s more beneficial to your health. Moreso, over time, after constant practice, you will be able to deepen the pose. To do a Seated Forward Bend, start from the Staff pose. Then, raise your hands straight above you and, on an exhale, bend your body at the waist, push your chest towards your thighs and simultaneously bring your hands down to your toes.
However, only bend as deep as you can go.
At all times, make sure your legs are flexed, your neck relaxed and your spine is straight and elongated, not rounded. To further elongate your back and reach your toes, you can make use of a yoga strap.
5. Butterfly Pose
Also known as the Cobbler pose, it’s an excellent hip opener. It stretches your thighs, knees, and groin. It is an ideal pose for menstrual cramps relief. And if you spend a lot of time sitting, standing, or walking, this is the perfect pose to counteract those other postures.
To do a perfect Butterfly pose, sit on the floor and make sure you’re properly grounded. Then fold your knees and bring your feet close to your pelvis. Make sure the soles of your feet are gently pressed against each other, and your back is elongated. You may hold your feet together.
Let your feet open if they can. This pose works the hips, so consider sitting on one or two folded blankets for more comfort if your hips are tight. If your knees are too high, place a yoga block under each knee. In the beginning, your knees may flap, but as time goes on, your thighs will develop enough flexibility to lay on the floor.
In addition, to deepen the stretch, you may move into a forward bend with your spine elongated.
6. Cow Face Pose
This pose works the shoulders, the arms, the thighs, and the glutes. You might be surprised to find that it’s easier to lock your hands on one side than the other. This is very common because we generally favor a particular arm. To make this pose more manageable, you may sit on a yoga block and use yoga straps to get your hands behind your back.
Begin with your legs folded at the knees in a cross-legged position. I find it easier to stack a foot on the opposite knee and a knee on the opposite foot. Then pull your knees together to the midline, so that your knees are directly on top of each other and your feet are outside and close to your butt. Take a deep breath and lift an arm towards the ceiling, bend it at the elbow and drop it to the middle of your back.
Breathe out. Lift the other arm to the side, bend it at the elbow and take it to the center of your back and clasp your hands together. If your hands can’t reach each other, use a strap to make the connection. Once your arms are connected, deepen the pose by pulling both elbows further towards your mid-back. Note that your head should not bend so as not to put pressure on your neck.
Thus, push your head against whichever elbow is behind it. Hold the pose for a minute, then switch your hands and knees to the side that is not pressured for anatomical balance.
7. Lotus Pose
This is the poster pose for yoga. It deeply opens the hips and stretches the knees and ankles. It is also recommended for pregnant women, as it improves the flexibility of the pelvis and helps during childbirth.
Beginner-level yogis should steer clear of this one. Rather, you can try the Half Lotus instead and after you have gotten comfortable with it, move on to the full lotus pose. The Half Lotus is simply doing the Lotus halfway. The Lotus pose begins from the Staff, then moves into the Easy pose where you sit cross-legged, and your spine is straight. Next, gently pull your right foot up to rest on your left thigh crease and settle into the Half Lotus pose.
Then, use your hands to bring your left foot up to rest on your right thigh crease; both soles should be facing up. If you start feeling any pain, release the pose immediately. Then sit up, push your chest out, rest your hands on your thighs and relax your shoulders from your ears. Stay in the pose for about 30 seconds, then gently undo your legs from the pose and switch. Note that in yoga, you may find one side of your body more flexible than the other.
8. Half Lord of the Fishes
This is also known as the Seated Spinal Twist. This pose can help to stretch the pelvic muscles and improve spine elasticity. However, keep in mind that you are not a cat. Because of the structure of the vertebrae, the lower human spine should not rotate, else you could cause pelvic or lower back pain for yourself. Thus, this twist engages your upper spine and neck spine only.
For this pose, Your butt, feet, and operating knee, and hip must be adequately grounded to anchor your twist. Start from the Staff pose, then bend your left knee and bring it outside of your right thigh.
The sole of your left foot should be firmly planted on the floor, and your knees should be directly pointed at the sky. Next, bend your right knee around and tuck your right foot beside your left buttock. Inhale. On the exhale, twist your torso to the left. Place your right elbow outside your left knee and plant your left hand against the floor.
To deepen the twist, look over your shoulder, but don’t strain your neck. It’s your torso that should do most of the work, not your neck. If you have knee issues, you may keep your right leg straight. Remember to twist to the other side to balance the pressure.
Sitting poses are easy and perfect for beginners; they put less strain on your body. In addition, they allow for yoga support like blankets, blocks, straps to help you perfect your poses. If you are on the journey of flexibility improvement, you should try some of these.
Furthermore, always give your body time to learn and stretch. You do not have to perfect a pose. In due time, after careful practice, your body will perfect the poses.