Seated Cross-Legged Yoga Pose | Read This To Avoid These Common Mistakes!

Seated Cross Legged Position
Seated Cross-Legged Yoga Pose | Read This To Avoid These Common Mistakes! 9
Seated cross legged
Seated Cross-Legged Yoga Pose | Read This To Avoid These Common Mistakes! 10

You’ll find the seated cross-legged pose in several of our workouts and in many yoga classes, often at the very beginning of a session. Although this pose can seem relatively simple on the surface, it can pose some challenges to those with tight muscles and mobility restrictions. Read on to learn how to do the seated crossed legged pose safely. Be sure to check out the Do’s and Don’ts section to learn about the common mistakes that many beginners make in this pose.

Purpose

Here are some of the reasons why Seated Cross-Legged position is good for you:

  • Strengthens back muscles
  • Stretches knee and ankles
  • Opens hips, groin and outer thighs
  • Reduces stress and anxiety, calming the mind

Pose Guide

In order to do the Seated Cross-Legged position correctly, follow these steps:

  • Begin sitting with your legs crossed. Keep both legs relaxed.
  • Engage your core to elongate and lift the spine while opening your chest.
  • Actively lift your ribcage away from your hips. Your goal is to use your core strength to get as upright as possible.
  • You should feel a stretch in your outer hips and thighs, not in your knees or low back.

Practical Tips

Do This, Not That! Common mistakes beginners make:

Seated cross legged tips
Seated Cross-Legged Yoga Pose | Read This To Avoid These Common Mistakes! 11
Seated cross legged common mistakes
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  1. Rounding the back and hunching the shoulders forward: It’s very common to round the back in a Seated Cross-Legged pose. This happens when leaning backwards with the middle back, tucking the butt under and hunching the shoulders forward. This creates compression in the front edges of the spinal vertebrae, and should be avoided. It is usually the result of letting the core muscles get lazy. Make sure you are fully engaging your core, stretching your spine to get as tall and erect as you possibly can. The shoulders should stack directly over the hips with the spine aligned between them.
  2. Arching the back: Arching the back is also a common error in this pose. In this instance, there is an overcompensation for a rounded back by sticking the chest and abdomen forward while taking the shoulders back. This creates compression in the back edges of the spinal vertebrae, and should be avoided. Keep the spine aligned so that the shoulders, chest, abdomen and hips are all in line with one another for safe and proper form.
  3. Not supporting the knees: Many people, especially beginners, find that they are unable to relax their knees onto the ground in Seated Cross-Legged position. This can be due to joint injuries in the hips, knees and/or ankles, or is simply a matter of tight muscles causing a lack of flexibility. If your knees are excessively elevated off the ground, modify the pose to provide support for your knees. (See the modifications section, below, for how to do this.)

Props and Modifications

You should consider a modification if you experience the following:

Sitting cross legged props
Seated Cross-Legged Yoga Pose | Read This To Avoid These Common Mistakes! 13
Sitting cross legged modifications
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  1. Your knees are high up in the air
  2. You feel pinching in the lower back
  3. You find yourself leaning forward

Your knees are high up in the air:

  • If your knees are unable to rest comfortably on the ground, you can try elevating your hips so that they are higher than your knees. This takes some of the strain out of the external rotation at the hips, creating more space for the knees to drop naturally and comfortably. To do this, sit on a block positioned at its lowest or medium height. Be sure to sit in the center of the block for stability. Adjust the height so that your hips are elevated above your knees. If your knees are too high off the ground, you may need two blocks stacked on top of each other.
Your knees are high up in the air
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  • Another option is to place supports beneath the knees to relieve unnecessary strain on the hip and knee joints. To do this, place a block, bolster or pillow under each knee. Adjust the height of your supports to your comfort level. You can experiment with the exact positioning to find what feels best for your body.
place supports beneath the knees to relieve unnecessary strain on the hip and knee joints
Seated Cross-Legged Yoga Pose | Read This To Avoid These Common Mistakes! 16

You feel pinching in the lower back:

  • This is often a sign of compression in the spinal vertebrae which happens when the back is either arching forward or rounding backward. The first and simplest modification is to engage your core to straighten your spine, stacking your shoulders directly over your hips with the length of your spine in between the two.
  • Additionally, you can place a block beneath you to elevate your hips above your knees. If your low back and hips are excessively tight, this can create some ease in the back during this pose. To do this, sit on a block positioned at its lowest or medium height. Be sure to sit in the center of the block for stability. Adjust the height so that your hips are elevated above your knees. If your knees are too high off the ground, you may need two blocks stacked on top of each other.
  • Alternatively, you can practice this pose with your back against a wall. This can give you the tactile awareness of knowing that your back is aligned when it is touching the wall behind you. It is still important to actively create height in your spine even as you are contacting the wall. The stretching of the spine is what creates space between the vertebrae and minimizes compression or pinching.

You find yourself leaning forward:

  • The first and simplest modification is to engage your core to straighten your spine, stacking your shoulders directly over your hips with the length of your spine in between the two.
  • Additionally, placing supports under your knees can help to alleviate the need to lean forward in an attempt to get the knees to the ground. To do this, place a block, bolster or pillow under each knee. Adjust the height of your supports to your comfort level. You can experiment with the exact positioning to find what feels best for your body.
  • Alternatively, you can practice this pose with your back against a wall. This can give you the tactile awareness of knowing that your back is aligned when it is touching the wall behind you.

Common questions:

  1. When is Seated Cross-Legged position contraindicated?
  2. What do I do if my knees don’t go to the ground?
  3. What do I do if I feel a pinching in my back?

When is Seated Cross-Legged position contraindicated?

  • Acute hips, knee or ankle injury
  • Acute spinal injury, including disc maladies
  • Acute backache
  • Untreated arthritis in hips, knees and/or ankles (or flare-ups)
  • Acute sciatica

What do I do if my knees don’t touch the ground?

  • There are a number of ways to modify the pose to accommodate knees that don’t touch the ground. See the modifications section above to find the option(s) that feels best for you.

What do I do if I feel a pinching in my back?

  • Pinching in the back is most often a compression in the spinal vertebrae. This is commonly caused by misalignments in the spine and upper body. The first course of action is always to engage the core and correct the alignment. You can also choose from the modifications above to find ways to support the pose and alleviate the pinching sensation.

Additional Resources for beginners

Beginner Yoga Workouts

Yoga For Beginners Guide

Yoga For Back Pain

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