Lotus pose is a yoga classic and is one of the most recognized poses, even outside the yoga community. The Sanskrit word for this pose - "Padmasana" is named after the lotus flower, or "padma". In the full position, your legs become like the petals of a lotus flower, gently dropping open.
It is an advanced pose, however, and should be approached with caution by novices. Although this pose is often used for meditation, it may not be comfortable for beginners. Be sure to try alternative seated positions, such as half lotus, Hero Pose - Virasana, or Easy Pose - Sukhasana if you have less flexibility in your lower body.
Benefits of Lotus Pose
Lotus Pose is traditionally known to calm the mind and prepare the practitioner for deep meditation. It also stretches the knees, ankles, and hips; and strengthens the spine and upper back. This pose also increases circulation in the spine and pelvis, which can help to ease menstrual discomfort and distress in the female reproductive organs.
According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a yoga manual written in the 14th century CE, Lotus Pose is the "destroyer of all diseases." Ancient texts also claim this pose awakens Kundalini, the divine cosmic energy that brings forth self-realization.
An ancient meditation chant ("mantra" in Sanskrit), "Om Mani Padme Hum,” roughly translates to "Hail to the jewel in the lotus." It is believed in some traditions that chanting this mantra while in Lotus Pose will purify, liberate, and unite the mind, body, and spirit.
Avoid practicing this pose if you have a recent or chronic injury to the knees, ankles, or hips. Lotus Pose requires a great deal of flexibility and self-awareness to be performed correctly. Do not attempt to learn Lotus Pose on your own without the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable instructor. It is very easy to injure yourself if you try to move into it too soon. If you do not yet have the flexibility to do the pose in proper alignment, practice Half Lotus (Ardha Padmasana) or Easy Pose (Sukhasana) until you become more limber. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
How to Do Lotus Pose (Padmasana)
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended, spine straight, and arms resting at your sides. This is Seated Staff Pose - Dandasana.
- Bend your right knee and hug it to your chest. Then, bring your right ankle to the crease of your left hip so the sole of your right foot faces the sky. The top of your foot should rest on your hip crease.
- Then, bend your left knee. Cross your left ankle over the top of your right shin. The sole of your left foot should also face upwards, and the top of your foot and ankle should rest on your hip crease.
- Draw your knees as close together as possible. Press your groins toward the floor and sit up straight.
- Rest your hands on your knees with your palms facing up. Bring your hands into Gyan Mudra by creating a circle with each index finger and thumb, keeping the rest of the fingers extended.
- Soften your face and bring your gaze to your "third eye," the space between your eyebrows.
- Hold for up to one minute, or for the duration of your meditation or pranayama practice.
- Release the pose by very slowly and gently extending both legs along the floor in Staff Pose. Repeat the pose for the same amount of time with the opposite leg on top. Release the pose, and then rest in Corpse Pose (Savasana) for at least five minutes.
Lotus Pose for Beginners
If you have problem overlapping both your legs and sitting in Padmasana, you may also try to use some tips:
- If you are new to Yoga - first attempt Half Lotus, coming into only one side of the pose at a time.
- If your knees don’t rest on the floor, support each knee with a folded, firm blanket.
During the cradle warm-up the outer ankle is often overstretched. Push through the inner edge of the foot against the upper arm to equalize the two ankles. Then when you bring the foot across into the opposite groin, see that you maintain this even stretch of the inner and outer ankles. After you have practiced Lotus Pose, take some time to sit or lie quietly. Acknowledge your practice and the efforts you have made.
Lotus Pose for Advanced
Lotus Pose is sometimes held for long periods of time for meditation and pranayama, but that can be difficult if you’re not comfortable in the pose! Make whatever modifications you need to feel safe, supported, and steady in the pose.
- For a deep stretch to the upper body, those with more flexibility can come into Bound Lotus Pose (Baddha Padmasana): From the full expression of Lotus Pose, reach both arms behind your back, clasping your toes with your fingers. To deepen the stretch even further, fold forward.
- One you are in the pose, plant the palms on the floor on either side of the hips and lift your butt and crossed legs off the floor, coming into Tolasana. You can also come into lotus legs when in shoulderstand or headstand.
- Remember to change the cross of your legs, not favoring one side or the other. Hold the pose for the same length of time on each side.
Become the Jewel in the Lotus
Although Lotus Pose may look like the "perfect" yoga pose, it can take time to achieve the position, let alone feel comfortable in it. Be patient and take your time. It might take months, or even years, to achieve the full expression of the pose. And so what? Remember that achieving a pose is not the goal of yoga. Staying aware of the present moment is the heart of yoga. Learn to accept your current circumstances, instead of always trying to be somewhere — or someone — else. There, in the present moment, you may come to understand that you are whole and complete, just as you are. From that realization, you can bloom like a lotus flower.