Of all the yoga positions for beginners, lotus flower/ padmasana or lotus position is perhaps the most iconic, and therefore the most appealing. It's also one of the most difficult qi gong exersises for Westerners.
Which may, of course, simply amplify the challenge, therefore the attraction, and have beginning yogis tieing themselves in a lot of unnecessary knots.
There are many qi gong forms and yoga techniques which don't require contortionist skills such as those involved in the lotus position - runners' yoga, for example. But if you're like me and insist on learning the lotus position, here are a few tips.
For a start, Professor Salgar reported in the Indian Journal of Medical Research that merely sitting in the Lotus pose has a positive influence on the metabolism and on overall body fitness. A host of other health benefits have been chronicled in Psychophysiological Effects of Yoga and other papers, including benefits to brain waves and osteoporosis.
That's the good news. The bad news is that Westerners have sat on chairs for most of their lives. The originators of yoga and qigong spent a lot of time sitting cross-legged on the floor. The difference in hip flexibility is enormous.
The key to padmasana is hip flexibility. If you grab your foot and drag it up onto the opposite thigh - the natural inclination of most beginning to learn lotus position - the odds of doing permanent damage to your knees is huge.
I must admit it's what I did. Some people immediately get pain in the side or back of the knee - I didn't. But when I tried to straighten my legs afterwards, oh boy! That's when I figured there must be a better way either to learn the lotus posture, or to look for more suitable yoga positions for beginners.
Roger Cole writes in The Yoga Journal that by learning basic anatomical principles, you can learn how to safely open your hips without injuring your knees. He warns that forcing the legs into Lotus is one of the most dangerous things you can do in yoga.
"If a student can achieve all of this outward rotation at the hip in Lotus, they can then safely lift the foot up and across onto the opposite thigh without bending the knee sideways," he says.
Another hint that helps achieve that is to use the right hand to grasp the outside of the right leg just above the ankle, and gently assist the leg into position as a single unit, thereby avoiding twisting the knee joint.
That is easier said than done. The key is patience. If you are a beginner at qigong or yoga, give yourself plenty of time to gradually work your way into lotus posture. Despite the appeal and the benefits, it's not one of the preferred yoga positions for beginners.
Be gentle on yourself. It may take years. In the meantime, have a look at runners' yoga - no kidding!