Lotus Pose is a tricky pose, it is not what it seems like..
It is considered in the yoga and Buddhist traditions as the classic meditation pose represented by many images of sages and yogis There are even some yoga texts that claim that Padmasana is a prerequisite for reaching higher states of yoga (meditation).
The lotus flower is a sacred image in Eastern traditions and is used as a symbol of growth towards perfection and enlightenment as it is rooted in the mud at the bottom of the pond, but rises and blooms above the water into a beautiful bright flower.
The main question from a more rational and modern point of view is why is it necessary to go through the trouble of crossing our legs in a position that requires deep hip-opening (external rotation of the thigh bones), and for some of us an additional deep bending of the ankles, in a way that can potentially harm our knees?
The answer is clearly - it is not necessary!
From my limited number of case studies I must report that I have never met anyone who got enlightened in Lotus Pose, and further more from my (and many other's) experience - meditation is equally effective in any other position, even (god forbid!) sitting on a chair.
(I could have been a wonderful Lotus Pose salesman ;-)
~ BUT ~
Why not try to at least do some preparations or modify it and get some benefits?
Creating this pattern of rotation of our thighs at the hip socket can counteract hours of sitting on chairs or doing forms physical exercise such as running, biking, or strength training. It can also relieve tension from our lower back and maybe even improve digestion.
Here are some things we can do to move in the direction of Lotus Pose:
☞ First assess your situation - Sit in a natural cross-legged position for a few minutes and notice how it feels. Do you have discomfort in your hips? your knees? your back? somewhere else?
TIP: Try and sit cross-legged on the floor or cushion as much as you can. Integrate it into your daily life in any situation that allows it. Build it gradually, start with 5 minutes a day and slowly go for longer stretches of time. It is a recipe for many physical benefits and ultimately can lead to aging much more gracefully in terms of mobility.
☞ Then start working on external rotation of the thighs in poses such as "Thread the needle" (on your back), "Sukhasana" (seated folding forward), and slowly building up to "Pigeon" and "Half Pigeon" Poses.
☞ Try to bring one leg to "Half Lotus". If you're feeling even the slightest discomfort in your knee go back to the previous steps and continue working on that for a while.
☞ Finally if you feel that you are ready, and you are motivated by curiosity and not ambition, find a good teacher that can guide you for the first time at least, and slowly with lots of care and attention, find your way into a full Lotus Pose.
70-80% of people will probably never be able to reach a full Lotus safely
Life can be wonderful, full of joy, peace and love, even when one can not sit in Lotus. And life can also be full of stress and anxiety even for people who can sit in Lotus comfortably.
Important Last Tip
If you ever incorporate Lotus Pose into your daily life or practice make sure you alternate which leg goes first. Traditionally we start with the right leg but be aware that this will create imbalance in your body that will certainly lead to undesirable issues.
Wishing you a happy Padmasana :)