Yoga and Meditation classes include a sequence of stretches to open the body and prepare us to sit for extended periods without becoming uncomfortable. For a fuller description of meditation classes, you can look here.
There will be a combination of reasons that prevent us from being comfortable in a seated position on the floor. We stretch out the quadriceps (thigh muscles) The IT bands (long muscle/tendon) running down the outside of the thigh. The Piriformis muscle which is a big obstacle for most people when it comes to sitting on the floor in a crossed leg position. This muscle is like a big elastic band that runs from the top of the big leg bone (thigh bone) and attaches itself to the inside back of the pelvic bone. If this muscle is tight, it can have all sorts of implications, as well as in sitting positions with crossed legs.
There a couple of muscles called the quadratus lumborum, which sit between the back top of the pelvis and the lowest ribs also at the back. This muscle can become very tight and short when we sit for long periods with poor postural alignment. When we attempt to sit on the floor, in any position it pulls the lower back down and under. It is impossible to sit comfortably like this.
Another reason we find it difficult to sit on the floor is tight hamstrings. These muscles sit at the back of the legs from the back of the knee joint and the lower back part of the pelvis. They also become short and tight due to sitting to many hours. Runners and cyclists will also notice they are very tight in this area.
One area that may be overlooked when preparing the body for a seated position is the core. If the core is weak we won’t be able to support the trunk, keeping us upright. The Rectus abdominals muscles, which connect with the top front of the pubis and go up to the sternum. These muscles need to be strong and flexible.
A class on Friday evenings will target these areas, to make it easier to sit with crossed legs. We can also use props such as cushions. When we place the cushion so that when we sit on just the edge, it tips the pelvis forward slightly. This will help with sitting with an upright spine. If the knees hurt, we can place supports under the knees. In some cases, I would suggest sitting against the wall. It’s not ideal, but if it is a temporary solution, and we keep opening the body with the appropriate stretches and strengthening exercises then it’s OK.
The Friday class of stretches is a gentle approach, and it prepares us for the quiet time of reflection in the second half of the class. We should feel warm and, mentally and physically relaxed.