Padmasana, also known as lotus pose is intended to be a position of comfort.
Is Lotus pose bad for your knees?
I get asked this question by students. In short, Lotus pose or Padmasana is not bad for your knees, provided you do not force anything. That being said, Lotus pose is an advanced yoga position and is not for beginners. It is one of the finishing postures in the Prana Vashya Yoga™ Primary Series as it releases tension from the neck, shoulders and chest.
The important thing about doing Lotus pose is not to force it. Lotus pose is an “asana” (as opposed to a “yoga asana”) so it literally means ‘pose held in a position of comfort’ and is not meant to be an exercise; don’t force it! On the one hand, if your hips are open enough, your heal will face your face when you cross your legs onto your thighs, and holding lotus is perfectly safe. In fact, you can walk around on your knees in lotus (as pictured). If, on the other hand, you are struggling to get your leg on your thigh in the first place, then this is a sure sign that you are NOT ready for lotus. If you do force it, you run a real risk of permanently injuring your meniscus.
The knee joint is predominantly a hinge joint so if you look at it from the side you will notice that it flexes and extends. Towards the side of the knee (at the top of the tibia) is your meniscus; it is like a shock absorber in the knee; without which you would not be able to withstand the impact of things like running.
Your meniscus is made from non-regenerative tissue; any damage to the same is therefore permanent and to be avoided at all costs! Which just goes to show that there is no room for sayings like: “no pain; no gain” in yoga. In fact, if your body hurts in any way when practicing yoga then STOP! Something is not right.
How to get into the position
Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you; spine straight and arms by your sides. Then bend your right knee and take it towards your right side to open the hip before bringing your heal towards your chest and folding the foot on your left thigh in the crease of your left hip (so your heal faces your own face).
Then, bend your left knee. Cross your left ankle over the top of your right shin (again, so your heal faces your own face) and the top of your foot and ankle rests on your hip crease.
As a variation to the full posture, try sitting cross-legged a.k.a.: “Easy Pose” and work your way up to Half Lotus, that is just one leg folded on the thigh, to reduce pressure in the knee. When you can comfortably bring your heal to the center - so it faces your own face - then, and only then, will you be ready for full posture.
Ancient sages of India claim this position awakens Kundalini, the divine cosmic energy that can awaken the inner-Self.
Avoid this posture if you have any ankle or knee injury.