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I'm a reasonably fit male with an athletic background, but can't sit cross-legged. Whenever I do, my knees stay really high and I have to really bend my ankles to get into the position at all. When I went to a yoga class, simply sitting cross-legged during the "rests" was way harder than any of the actual poses.

Question: What stretches or exercises can I do to open my hips up so that I can sit cross-legged?

A few websites and forum threads on the topic suggest doing deep squats/third world squats, except these are already very easy and natural for me to do, so the problem has to be something else.

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    Since you can do deep squats and third world squats easily, see if this question/answer helps about hip rotators. – BackInShapeBuddy Oct 20 '14 at 21:18
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Deep squats performed properly with decent weight will open up your hips. Your squat stance ends up being wide, and the weight causes your "hip" muscles (hamstrings, adductors, etc) to get pulled on like a rubber band, which stretches them.

Back squats really are just that magical.

  • Squats are great, but not for that kind of problem. My situation is the same - sitting cross legged is totally out of limits, while my squat form is very good. There is much more to squat than just opened hips, e.g. how your body is build. Case in point: my girlfriend, who is much more flexible than me (sitting cross legged included) would be considered to have "worse" squat form because of leverages in her body. – user24533 Jan 10 '17 at 20:49
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Butterfly stretch is a good one to open up the adductors (I think that's the name- anatomy newb).

Stretching your piriformis would be a good move as well, youtube by Kit Laughling.

Practicing activation of your pelvic muscles involved in anterior/posterior tilt movements, detailed here

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I'm on the heavier side myself, and so sitting crossed legged was a challenge, especially when I wanted to go to the temple or have a festive meal where the plate would be on the floor, can't be picked up, and has to be eaten by hand with no spoon.

What worked the best for me was sitting cross legged as much as I could on the floor every day for a meal, and butterfly stretches. Also, if it's easier for you, try to put your hands under your bum when doing this position. It helps because while the legs are adjusting, the arms provide support.

Good luck! Hopefully it helps.

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While it may fall under the obvious, sitting cross-legged is a good way to work on sitting cross-legged. From what you state, you can get into the position with, at worst, some difficulty. From there, gently push your knees down until you feel the stretch, but aren't in pain. Hold it there for several seconds. Relax. Repeat. That would be a static stretch for it. Dynamic stretching may not be a bad idea as an addition. Basically, it's the same, except that you only push until you feel a partial stretch, then you activate the muscles that you're stretching for several seconds (either by just contracting the muscles or by pushing back on resistance, such as your hands pushing on your knees.

If you're genuinely having trouble just getting into the position at all, consider easing into it from a location where you can hold yourself from going fully down, something like a very low dip where you can support yourself with your arms as you settle into the cross-legged position.

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