Butterfly Position

Please help my poor hips! Despite all the stretching, my knees stay at least a foot off the ground when I sit or lie down in butterfly. When gently pushing the knees down, I feel a sharp pain deep in joint. What can I do?

I’m so sorry to hear of your stretching challenges! Let’s try to deconstruct some of the issues that may be influencing your inability to sit in the butterfly position. First let’s talk about the the wide variations in hip joints.

Look at the different facings of the acetabulum (hip socket) of these 2 pelvises. The left is facing more forward and the right is more on the side.

This picture shows how the angle of the ball of the femur can vary quite widely!

This last picture shows a femur with a longer neck (area next to the head or ball of femur) and the one on the right has a much shorter neck.

Photos reproduced with permission from Paul Grilley

All of these structural variations will influence your ability to sit in the butterfly position. So first… DON’T push your knees down in this position which creates pain. That’s a good indicator that the butterfly position is not optimal for you to get at inner thigh tightness. We don’t want to stretch in positions that don’t allow us to start from neutral. Can you sit up easily with your feet together even with your knees way up? Or do you roll onto the back of the pelvis?

If you can’t sit up easily in the position try stretching out the hip flexors and hamstrings and see if that makes a difference in your sitting alignment. Next I would try to find other ways to stretch out your adductor muscles. You could try these suggestions from my Ask Deb column in Dance Teacher Magazine.

I also thought I would show a very simple way to stretch the front area of the inner thigh muscles in standing – so I did a quick video to explain. (Didn’t notice that my dog Misha was listening carefully until I watched it… love my dog:)

My suggestion… try other ways to stretch the inner thigh that might be more productive and doesn’t base your stretching success on the butterfly position, which may be challenged by your particular hip structure.

To your success,


1 reply
  1. Lauren Bauer
    Lauren Bauer says:

    Hi Deb,
    I was searching for these images to show my students how structural alignment varies from person to person. Perhaps I had first seen them in your blog or another article on the internet.
    Do you mind sharing the source or can you recommend something similar? I have tons of anatomy books but none that so clearly show the differences in the human skeletal structure. Thank you.


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