Seated yoga poses are first of all comfortable and stable for meditation. Even though we don’t realize it immediately, but having mastered at least one sitting asana (if you can hold it at least 30 minutes), you realize that it is much more comfortable to sit like that than on a chair. The spine automatically straightens, and the body does not get tired.
This is because the supporting area in the seated pose is much larger than in ordinary sitting on a chair. It consists of not only the buttocks and part of the flattened hips, but the entire surface of widely spread legs.
However, most of the people in Europe and America didn’t get used to sit with their legs crossed. Even genetically their joints are less mobile than those of Indians.
As a result, many beginners get injured trying to master the seated asanas. It is especially relevant for padmasana (lotus pose), and to a lesser extent – virasana. In both of these poses knees are bent to the sides. Such a flexion is very traumatic, it stretches the ligaments and the articular capsule, leads to pain, and hypermobility. It may result in a dislocations of the joints and injuries of the meniscuses. Therefore, for beginners, it’s better to replace these asanas with simpler and safer postures. These are siddhasana, sukhasana, baddha konasana and vajrasana.
Benefits and effects of seated yoga poses
Seated poses are mainly used for meditation. When the body is stable, the mind also calms down. Therefore, relaxation and emotional stability is the main beneficial effect of the practice of seated asanas.
Seated asanas improve mobility of joints and stretch the muscles of the legs. It will be beneficial for people who want to increase flexibility. These poses can be also a part of yoga therapy of arthrosis and arthritis. They improve blood circulation in the joints and eliminate their stiffness. It is necessary, however, to remember that mobility in these diseases can be significantly limited. So, it makes sense to start with the light versions of sitting postures using blocks, bolsters, pillows, etc.
Seated asanas improve blood supply and innervation of the pelvic organs. They contribute significantly into the treatment of reproductive system diseases (baddha konasana, siddhasana, sukhasana etc.)
Finally, a long stay in a seated pose with a straight back trains the correct posture and strengthens the muscles of the spine, which is important if a person has a stoop.
Restrictions and safety
Sitting postures cause a beneficial therapeutic effect on the joints, increasing their mobility. However, at the same time they can overload them, provoking pain and injuries. This is especially relevant if talking about padmasana and virasana. Also, in these positions it is possible to injure ankles.
Other seated yoga postures are safe for healthy joints, but if a person has arthritis, and previous injuries, they can provoke pain, and exacerbation. If such problems exist, it is better to practice light versions of poses, to use pillows or yoga blocks under the pelvis and knees.
These poses are potentially dangerous also for varicose veins of the legs. Long exposures can cause pain in the legs, swelling and further development of the disease. In case of varicose veins, the time in sitting postures should be no longer than 3-5 minutes with subsequent compensation: raising the legs upwards.
Another danger of long exposures is nerve injury. In the seated postures, there is a risk to pinch the nerves, which will cause numbness in the legs. With extremely long exposures, this numbness can turn into atrophy, loss of sensitivity, paresis and even paralysis. Safety here is simple: avoid numbness in the legs, gradually increasing the time in the asana; practice light poses, place a pillow or block under the pelvis, especially in Vajrasana and Virasana.
In addition to the leg joints, it is also possible to overload the lumbar spine if you performe the postures incorrectly (with the knees up and the back stoop). It is unlikely to have a significant impact on a healthy person, but people with spinal diseases can feel pain in the lower back after performing seated poses. In this case, practice light asanas variants with a pillow or block under the pelvis. In this case the knees will be at the same height or lower than the pelvis. It allows to straighten the back without overloading spine muscles.
Seated yoga poses can be divided into 2 categories: postures with knees dropped out to the sides and postures with knees together.
Sitting yoga poses with knees dropped out to the sides
This group includes: baddha konasana, siddhasana, sukhasana. Hips here are set aside, knees are bent, feet are brought together. These poses are good for stretching the inner thighs and hip joints.
When practicing seated postures, the main requirement is the straight spine. Straighten your shoulders by pushing them back and down.
If the mobility of the legs is limited, and the knees are raised too high, the pelvis “falls” back, and the lumbar spine slouches, then simplify the posture by placing a pillow under the pelvis and thighs or a block as high as it will allow the hips to be parallel to the floor. Then the back will straighten automatically, and it will be much more comfortable to sit.
If in these positions you feel pain in the knees, as happens with joint diseases and injuries, you should put a pillow or a block under each knee so that the knees rest on them. This will relieve the lateral load on the joints.
Seated yoga poses with knees together
This group includes virasana and vajrasana. In these positions, the ankle joints are fully extended, the knees are bent and brought together, the back is straight. Performing these asanas, straighten your shoulders by pushing them back and down. Do not slouch and do not overload the lower back.
The main load here comes to the knees and ankle joints. With insufficient mobility and joint diseases, postures can provoke pain and injury. Their cautious practice, however, has a therapeutic effect, increasing the mobility of the joints and improving their blood supply.
If there is a pain in the knees area, put one or several yoga blocks between the heels. Then the pelvis rises up and the pain goes away.
If the mobility of ankle joints is limited and you feel the pain and cramps in the ankle and foot, in this case, place a twisted towel under the ankle bend. This will allow to gradually increase the mobility of the joints without injuring them.
With insufficient mobility of the knee joints, the lower back may slouch, while with the excessive flexibility, excessive bend forward may occur. In the first case, place a pillow or a block under the pelvis, in the second case – avoid bending the waist, control its position.