5 simple ways to make sitting cross legged possible again (even with arthritis!)

Sitting cross legged may not be the most comfortable, especially if you have stiff and/or painful joints from arthritis. It may even seem impossible to get into that position again. But, what if I told you that it can be possible to sit cross legged if you regain mobility and reduce joint irritation. As a physical therapist I have helped hundreds of people with osteoarthritis learn how to move in ways that feel good that open the doors to so many different possibilities. Here are the 5 best tips to make sitting cross legged doable again. 

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It is possible!

Sitting cross legged may not be as far off as you think. No matter if you have knee arthritis, hip arthritis, or stiff joints- it can be worked up to! The two things you need to be successful with this position is:

  • appropriate knee bending
  • appropriate hip rotation

If your knees and/or hips are sensitive or are highly painful- working to reduce irritation first will make sitting cross legged much more feasible.

I do want you to know it is possible. As a physical therapist- I work exclusively with those that have osteoarthritis. Even with bone on bone arthritis- sitting cross legged is possible with the right steps.

Take a look at these women below, who have been able to get into this position, a position that honestly shocked them!

Too often people are led to believe that if they have osteoarthritis or chronic pain- it’s normal as you get older. There are also positions you may lose due to stiffness and loss of range of motion.

I’m here to tell you this does not need to be something you accept. Odds are you’re reading this right now because you’ve said to yourself: “There has to be another way“. Trust me, there is.

With the right movements and consistent practice, sitting cross legged does not have to be something you have to rule out.

sit cross legged with knee arthritis
woman sitting cross legged
sit cross legged

The one thing all of these ladies have in common is they are all members of the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint and have been working on these 5 things we will discuss. If you want to get a jump start on making this possible for yourself along with other activities like climbing stairs, squatting, travelling, and getting up  from the floor– click the button below to get started.

Arthritis Adventure Blueprint

5 simple ways to make sitting cross legged possible again

Now to the fun part, how to make it happen! Here are 5 suggestions for movements depending on what you need to work on most.

If your knee doesn’t bend very well, start there. If your hip is stiff- start with the hip movements.

Make sure to master each of the first 4 movements before moving onto number 5. Taking it slow and listening to your body is truly the key to success here.

Please keep in mind, all of these movements should feel good. No movement or stretch should cause significant pain. If it doesn, then it’s not the movement for you right now.

1. Knee bending

When sitting cross legged, knee bending is vital to your success. You may lose the ability to bend your knee due to stiffness, swelling, scar tissue from a previous injury, muscle tightness, and/or pain.

It is important to challenge knee bending for it to improve. Here is one way to do it sitting in a chair.

Try this movement for 8-10 repetitions at first.

Don’t force the bending. Start going back as far back as your knee allows then slowly try to increase a little more with each repetition.

2. Knee bending progression

Once the above movement feels easier- it’s time to move one. In this movement you will now be using your bodyweight as leverage to get more knee bend.

When sitting cross legged- you need to be able to get into a pretty deep knee bend which can be achievable with this movement.

Again, just like above, start out in a range of motion that feels comfortable then start trying to increase gradually with each repetition.

Try between 5-8 repetitions on one or both sides to start out. Progress as you’re able to (no increase or pain and/or swelling afterwards).

3. Hip rotation

If your hip feels stiff- this movement will help to regain the rotation you need to sit cross legged.

The movement you need to gain is called external rotation which essentially means your knee moves outwards, away from your body. This is important because as you’re sitting cross legged, your knees need to be able to move away from your body.

This is an example of movement you can do on a bed or on a couch, especially if it is hard for you to get on the floor.

You will need a small loop resistance band- my favorites are here.

Try between 8-12 of these when starting out and make sure no significant pain is caused. The key is keeping your full foot on the ground as you do this.

4. Hip rotation Progression

This is one of my  (and my dog’s 😂) favorite exercises that so many people benefit from.

You will use the same band from the previous exercise but now you’re going to practice in a standing position.

You will essentially be standing up and sitting down in a chair using the same knees out position you were using with the bridge above.

Being able to achieve hip external rotation in a deeper knee bend will help you get closer to sitting cross legged.

Start with a higher chair so you can get used to the movement but decrease the chair height as it starts to get easier. Complete 8-10 of these to start with and progress from there.

5. Figure 4

Once you master the movements above, now you’re ready to try to start working into the cross legged position.

This figure 4 exercise mimics the positioning of sitting cross legged but you will work one leg at a time. Take note if one side feels more difficult than the other and prioritize working on that side further.

Hold for 15-30 seconds when first trying. Do not force your leg into a position that does not feel good. This will likely cause more irritation or injury.

Do what feels comfortable and have patience on this one, especially if it isn’t perfect right away. This will take time.

Success with sitting cross legged

These movements above require consistency. Most of the time, working at least 4-6 weeks on these movements can help you begin seeing results. This of course does depend on how much range of motion you are missing and how stiff/painful your joints are.

When you start sitting cross legged, it may not be very comfortable at first- especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve been in that position. Start with only small amounts of time (1-2 minutes) as your body gets used to it.

If you want to speed up your progress- adding in other strength movements as well as further reducing inflammation through other avenues can be incredibly powerful.

Inside the Arthritis Adventure Blueprint I have put everything you need including movements, foods to eat, how to think about pain, which supplements work and more!

You have so much potential that you may never know about until you get started. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish- no adventure is too big 💪🏼

Want to know more? Watch this free webinar below detailing the 3 Secrets to Adventuring with Osteoarthritis!

sign up for the free webinar here

sitting cross legged

arthritis adventure blueprint

The Arthritis Adventure Blueprint

Dr. Alyssa Kuhn’s signature program to help you go from hopeless to hopeful with osteoarthritis. You will learn the secrets to arthritis pain relief that actually work- including exercise, diet, and other ways to control inflammation! Say goodbye to short term pain relief, it’s time to make it last.

Learn more!

Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.

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