Sitting Yoga Poses
Yoga is not just all about dynamic movements and flows.
Sometimes we get injured, sometimes we’re really tired or simply just not in the mood to move around.
A sequence consisting mainly of sitting yoga poses is great if you’re looking to remain flexible, to give yourself some tender loving care, or simply just to relax.
Depending on your level of practice, and the physical structure of your hips and legs, there is a very wide range of poses you can do.
There are many simple postures that require minimal bending and twisting.
These poses are great for anyone beginning yoga or for anyone looking to unwind and find a little more grounding in their body and mind.
One of the great things about sitting yoga poses and what makes them so accessible is that they are all pretty easily adaptable.
There are some sitting postures that are more complicated, some which will even make you feel like a contortionist.
Keep in mind however that all complex poses are built up.
As we commonly say in Yoga, “you cannot build anything if your foundation isn’t stable”.
Getting into any complicated pose doesn’t mean that you’re a better yogi.
The only thing it might mean is that you’ve been doing yoga for a while and you’re super flexible now, so to feel the slightest stretch you need to bend your body 4 ways backwards.
The person who tells me they aren’t flexible enough for yoga is completely missing the point!
“Non flexible” people only have to do 30% of the work to feel 70% of the stretch, whereas “flexible” people have to do 70% of the work to feel 30% of the stretch.
Anyways, back to sitting yoga poses!
Apart from the many physical advantages of sitting yoga poses, there are many mental and spiritual reasons to practice them as well.
Sitting yoga poses are a great preparation and gateway to Meditation.
Usually in mindfulness one is required to be sitting down in complete stillness.
Contrarily to what it may seem, sitting still and upright requires a lot of core strength and hip opening, hence practicing seated postures is a great preparation for… you guessed it… sitting!
A little introduction about Meditation…
Meditation is a mind-expanding “exercise”.
Originating from the East Asia, it has been practiced over thousands of years in many different religions and cultures around the world.
The aim of this practice is to quiet the buzzing noise of all our thoughts so that we can find more clarity and peace of mind.
Meditation helps us calm our nervous system by slowing down our thoughts and becoming more mindful.
It helps to reduce anxiety and stress by helping us to gain a different perspective on ourselves.
Additionally, practicing this art of stillness consistently can help us feel more connected, not only to our own selves, but to all beings on this Earth.
Therefore make us feel more peaceful, more “Zen”.
Scientifically, meditation has shown to increase the neural connections between both hemispheres of the brain, hence literally “expanding the mind”.
Sitting yoga poses and Ayurveda
Apart from being fantastic to prepare for meditation, seated postures are just very grounding in their nature.
There are many other grounding yoga poses that are not just seated postures, but today, for the purpose of this article, we will be focusing only on the ones where your sit bones are anchored to the ground.
First of all, just to shed some light on the title, “Ayurveda” is a traditional Indian healing art that works with the five elements:
- Space (Spirit)
In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “life wisdom”.
This art is very closely tied to yoga, as they both originated from an ancient Indian philosophy called “Veda”.
In Ayurveda, every organism is said to be composed of three “Doshas”, each in different amounts, with usually one of the doshas being the predominant “life energy”.
Vata Dosha is Air and Space, representing the principle of movement,
Pitta Dosha is Fire and Water, representing the fire or metabolic principle, and Kapha Dosha is Earth and Water, representing structure and grounding principles.
Based on the brief explanation above, if we had to place sitting yoga poses in one of those categories, it would be Kapha (Earth + Water).
Kapha can be characterised by:
- Firm Structure
- Mother figure
In Ayurveda it is claimed that at birth we are made of a pretty equal balances of all three doshas.
As we go through life however and live through different experiences, our doshas get unbalanced and we end up having “too much Fire”, “too much Air” or “too much Earth”.
Through Ayurveda and throught the practice of yoga, one of the aims is to bring these energies back into balance.
In our society today, the most common Dosha to be unbalanced is Kapha, the element being Earth.
Our society isn’t very grounding anymore, there are so many things to do, so many possibilities, and everything is moving at an incredibly fast pace.
Many of use are always on the go, getting things done, competing to succeed in this modern world, we forget to sit down to catch our breath (Pitta imbalance, too much fire).
Many of us are overwhelmed and develop anxiety and depression due to the feeling of not being able to cope with all the demands and rapid changes (Vata imbalance, too much air).
It is therefore important that we do not extinguish our fire or control our airy mind, but that we STRENGTHEN our Earth element.
Seated postures in yoga are just one of the easily accessible ways you can work on creating more grounding and stability in your life.
10 Seated Yoga Poses
Below is a selection of 10 seated yoga poses. Practice these poses on their own to feel more grounded or incorporate them into your practice to work on your hip opening and hamstring flexibility.
Remember, in anything you want to achieve, consistency is key.
Sukhasana (Easy pose): Sit with your knees apart and cross your ankles. Gentle hip opener.
Badakonasana (Butterfly pose): Sit with your knees apart and bring your soles of your feet to touch, as close as possible to your sit bones. Bend forward over your legs, keeping your chest open. Stretches inner thighs & opens hips.
Agnistambasana (Firelog pose): From easy pose, bring your right shin parallel to the top edge of your mat. Then, place your left knee over right foot, and left foot over right knee, trying to keep both shins parallel to the top edge of your mat. Stay here or gently fold over your legs. Repeat on left side. Deep hip opener and stretch for glutes/outer thighs.
Gomukasana (Cow Face pose): From easy pose bring your right heal as close as possible to your left sit bone/hip. Cross your left knee over the right so the knees are stacked on top of each other, and bring your left heal towards right sit bone. If you have very open hips, bring both heals further away from your body. Repeat left side. Deep hip opener and stretch for glutes/outer thighs.
Padmasana (Lotus pose): From easy pose, bring your right heal into your left hip/groin. Then bring your left heal into the right hip. Repeat on left side. Deep knee rotation and hip opener.
Paschimottanasana (Seated forward fold): Extend your legs out in front of you and flex your toes. Hinge at the hips and fold forward over your legs keeping your chest open and your back as straight as possible.
Janu Sirsasana (Head to knee forward bend): Extend your right leg out to the right and bend your left knee, bringing the sole of your left foot to your inner right thigh. Fold over your right leg. Repeat on left side.
Upavista Konasana (Seated wide angle forward bend): Extend your legs as wide apart of eachother as is comfortable for you and flex your toes. Lengthen through your spine and then hinge forward from the hips. Forward bend between your legs and use your fingertips as support to avoid going too deep. Stretches inner thighs & opens hips.
Virasana (Hero's pose): Sit in Japanese style, lift your hips off your heals and separate your feet a little wider than hip distance, keeping the knees glued together. Sit between your heels to feel the stretch in your thighs. Option to sit on a block to decrease the intensity, or option to recline, lying your shoulder blades and head on the floor to intensify the stretch.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (1/2 lord of the fishes): Bring your right heal towards left sit bone. Cross left leg over the right knee and place left foot flat down beside right hip. Reach your right arm up to create length and then hook right elbow on the outside of left knee. Left arm is straight, left fingertips pressing into the ground behind you to create length in the spine. Use the right elbow to press into the left knee to deepen the twist. Keep your shoulders relaxed and chest open.