The laughing yogini pictured above (me, c. 1989) is demonstrating the seated pose called Samakonasana. Most people would be crying rather than feeling light-hearted in this position, as they struggled with the combination of external hip rotation and hamstring stretch. The technique that B.K.S. Iyengar describes in Light On Yoga for getting into this pose doesn’t make the pose one bit more user-friendly. He writes:
Stand in Tadasana, rest the hands on the hips and spread the legs apart sideways to your capacity.
Place the plams on the floor and with an exhalation stretch the legs further and further until you sit on the floor with both legs spread sideways in a straight line. The entire back of the legs, especially the back of the knees, should rest on the floor.
Even though this pose is rated difficult in the above book, some may want to pursue it because of the advantages it offers. Mr. Iyengar writes, “The spine is stretched and any defect in the lower part of the spine is cured.” A mighty claim, probably based on the movement it provides for hips and legs.
A simpler version of Samakonasana is Upavistha Konasana.
Upavistha Konasana serves men especially well, as they tend to need stretching their tight hamstrings. Women are benefited, according to The Women’s Yoga Book author, Bobby Clennell, because the pose”increases circulation to the lower abdomen, widens and relaxes the pelvic floor and reduces any obstruction to the menstrual flow.”
If you know your hamstrings need work, have a look at yoganas website for a safe practice that will warm them up gradually.