I'm not a budding Zen master or a Yogi, but I like sitting in the lotus position. Besides, it's a great way to convince yourself that your knees haven't locked up permanently, which would be a sure sign of old age creeping up on you.
I was taught this exercise when I was about ten years old by my schoolteacher Meneer Geel. (which incidentally is Dutch for Mr.Yellow, but any similarities with Tarantino films are coincidental, since all this took place in the early eighties.) Meneer Geel was both a schoolteacher and a fully qualified yoga instructor, who felt the need to bring yoga into the classroom (Ahhh the joys of a Montessori education...) Of all the things he tried to teach me, two things stayed with me; decimal fractions and how to get into the lotus position.
Stretching your legs to prepare them for the lotus position.
Warning, disclaimer and tips:
1 If you do this, and try to force your legs in position, YOU WILL HURT YOURSELF. Be careful, don't push or pull too hard. Use patience, not force. Don't say I didn't warn you.
2 I am not a yoga instructor. Information given here is an account of what I do to get into the lotus position. It may work for you, it may not. If you hurt yourself, it's your own fault for blindly trusting a layperson. If you have trouble with your knees, it's probably wise to consult a doctor beforehand. Use common sense, and re-read point 1.
3a It's best to do this wearing loose fitting long pants. If you can handle bare legs, it's even better, but I find that putting my bare foot on my bare thigh stretches the skin in a painful way.
3b I prefer to put on some music while doing this. The stretches are repetitive and can get boring. Besides, since most songs are about four minutes long, it's a good way to keep track of time. Simply do each stretch for the duration of one song.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.
Do each of these excercises for about five minutes:
I. warming up (Look mom I'm flying!!!)
Sit on the floor with your feet close to your body, and their soles touching eachother. Cup your hands over your toes to keep your feet together and start bouncing your knees up and down as if you were trying to fly away.
IIa. stretch phase one (I'm getting longer)
Still sitting on the floor, stretch your legs in front of you.
Take your left foot, and place it on your right thigh, with the sole facing the sky. Place your right hand on the floor (or use it to hold your foot in place if it starts slipping off.) Rest your left hand on your left knee.
Now start to bounce your knee. Push it down, and let it come up again. Do not force your knee. If it hurts, you're pushing too hard. If you're afraid of forcing things, you can also push your knee using just your thumb. This ensures that you don't use too much force.
After five minutes, slowly stretch your leg to get back to the starting position. You may notice that your left leg has become considerably longer than your right leg. This is perfectly normal. It means that the muscles in your leg are looser than before (which is why they call it stretching.) It also means that you will have to repeat the exercise with your right leg.
Repeat excercise IIa
, but with your right foot on your left thigh.
...and both your legs are equal again. (Or as equal as they were before.)
IIIa. stretch phase two. (Madonna and Foot, or awakening the maternal instinct)
Put your right hand in front of your stomach, rest your left foot in the crook of your right elbow. Place your left hand on top of your right hand and slowly rock from side to side. This looks and feels a lot like comforting a baby, your leg will feel heavy, and you may feel silly, but it really works.
Repeat execise IIIa
with your other leg.
...and with that you've completed the exercise. Now you can try the lotus position. It may still be out of reach for you, but you should be able to come closer than before, and your legs will feel much looser. Keep practising daily, don't force things, and maybe, one day, you too can do the full lotus.