At first glance, Lion Pose can seem a bit unusual. A crouched position, tongue protruding out the mouth, and eyes rolled back—not exactly what you typically think of when envisioning yoga. From the Sanskrit word Simhasana, Lion Pose mimics the bold stance of the king of the jungle and evokes the lively spirit of the animal. The pose combines both asana (physical posture) and pranayama (breath work) to produce a roaring deep exhalation during the peak of Lion Pose. Lion pose is a seated yoga posture which incorporates a powerful breathing technique to execute the full pose. It is an excellent posture for releasing tension in the muscles of the chest and face.
Benefits of Lion Pose
Lion pose has many benefits. Because the pose offers an airy reprieve from a sometimes rigorous practice (and life), Lion Pose helps release tension and reduce stress. Physically, the pose opens the throat, jaw, and neck which can help with jaw/neck pain and stimulate the throat chakra. It also stretches the face muscles and the chest. On the emotional side, the silliness of the pose can help boost confidence as the pose teaches to let go of what others think. This posture stimulates the tonsils and the immune system and helps to reduce stress and anger. It is also traditionally believed to eradicate disease.
How to Do Lion Pose (Simhasana)
- Begin in Hero Pose (Virasana) seated on the shins with knees together and big toes touching. Sit back onto the heels and elongate through the torso.
- Bring the palms to the knees.
- Inhale slowly as you again lengthen from the tailbone to the crown of the head.
- Spread the fingers (claws) wide.
- Open the mouth wide, sticking the tongue out and down with the tip reaching for your chin.
- Reach the eyebrows up and gaze up towards the third eye (space between eyebrows).
- Prevent slouching by broadening through the chest and drawing the shoulders back and down away from the ears.
- The exhale should be audible as you make a roar with a "haaaa" sound, emptying your breath.
- On the next inhale, bring the face back to neutral, relaxing the neck, chest, and hands.
- Repeat for at least 8 rounds of breath.
Lion Pose may be uncomfortable for those with knee or ankle problems. Be mindful when entering and exiting the posture and use modifications when necessary.
Lion Pose for Beginners
If you have knee issues, try placing a folded blanket on the back of the calves at the knee crease. Creating this extra space should make the seat of the pose more accessible and safe. Another option is to take a variation of the seated part of the pose. You can pretty much practice Lion’s Breath (the breath work with facial expression detailed above) in any pose. For ease try bringing your seat into Easy Pose (Sukhasana) and then use Lion’s Breath. A few favorite variations include using Lion’s Breath with Lotus legs, in Goddess Pose, and with Cat/Cow.
- Cross your ankles. One variation of lion pose is to cross one ankle over the other. If you try this modification, be sure to switch the cross of your legs and perform the pose the same number of times on each side.
- Sit with your legs in Frog Pose. To add a hip opener to the pose, try incorporating Mandukasana (frog pose) into your lion pose. Before extending your arms forward, reposition your legs so that your big toes are touching, but your knees are spread at least as wide as your outer hips. Then perform the rest of the pose as usual.
- Place your hands on your knees. If you would rather not lean forward, the muscles in your face and throat can still benefit from lion pose. Simply kneel on your mat and place your hands palm down on your knees instead of extending them in front of you. Then perform the rest of the pose as usual, being careful to keep your back straight.
- Sit cross-legged or in Padmasana (lotus pose). Sometimes it is simply not comfortable to kneel. If you have sensitive knees, you may want to sit in a different position. You can sit in a cross-legged position, or, if you are more advanced, you can Do the Lotus Position. Choose a seating position that is comfortable for you, and then perform the rest of the pose as usual.
Lion Pose for Advanced
The hands and shoulder blades are sympathetically connected. As you spread the right palm on the right knee, feel how the shoulder blade spreads across your back. Similarly, as you press each palm against the same-side knee, feel how the same-side shoulder blade presses more deeply into the back, helping to lift the heart.
Roar like Lion
When practicing animated Lion Pose, have fun and express yourself! The pose can open your practice to new levels of transformation physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Keep it light but whole-hearted, unleashing the courage within with powerful and cleansing breath work. So take the leap and give it a go!