Lotus Pose is perhaps the most recognized yoga pose today, even by people who don't practice yoga. It is considered by many to be the "classic" yoga pose. Lotus is often used for meditation, and many yoga classes begin or end with this pose. However, Lotus Pose is an advanced pose that is not suitable for those who are new to yoga. Be sure to try alternative seated positions, such as Easy Pose (Sukhasana), if you are a beginner or if you have less flexibility in your lower body.
The Sanskrit word for this pose, "Padmasana" (pahd-MAHS-uh-nuh), 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.
Prep Your Hips
Since this pose requires a good amount of flexibility, be sure to incorporate plenty of hip-opening poses into your regular practice before trying Lotus. A few good ones to include are:
- Half Lotus (Ardha Padmasana)
- Bound Angle/Cobbler's Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Hero Pose (Virasana)
- Head-of-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)
- Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
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.
You must be a lotus, unfolding its petals when the sun rises in the sky, unaffected by the slush where it is born or even by the water which sustains it!
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.
- 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.
Modifications & Variations
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. Here are a few suggestions:
- If your knees don't rest on the floor, support each knee with a folded, firm blanket.
- If you are not yet able to perform Lotus Pose, practice Half Lotus (Ardha Padmasana) until you have gained the flexibility and strength to sit comfortably in the pose. If Half Lotus is difficult, try Easy Pose (Sukhasana) first.
- For a greater challenge, those with more strength can come into Scale Pose (Tolasana): Press your palms into the floor alongside your hips. Lift your buttocks and legs off the floor and allow your body to swing slightly.
- 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.
- Various poses can be done with the legs in Lotus Pose, including Headstand (Sirsasana), Fish Pose (Matsyasana), and Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana).
Practicing Lotus Pose can be a way to immediately connect your modern practice with that of the ancient yogis in India from 5,000 years ago. This classic seated posture can take your meditation and pranayama practice to the next level! Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Do not attempt learning Lotus Pose on your own. It’s best to learn the pose from a qualified and knowledgeable instructor who can provide you with guidance on the alignment before practicing it alone.
- Beginners and those with less flexibility should first attempt Half Lotus (Ardha Padmasana) before trying the full version of the pose.
- Only practice this pose if you can sit comfortably in Half Lotus with your back straight and away from a wall. If that is not possible, continue to practice Half Lotus with your back against a wall until you have built up enough strength to sit away from the wall with your spine straight.
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. If you are practicing the pose for an extended period, such as in a meditation or pranayama practice, you have a few options:
- Set a timer; then change the cross of your legs halfway through your practice.
- Practice with a different leg in front each day. This usually works best if you practice the pose every day.
- If you practice the pose both at the beginning and end of your practice, start with the opposite leg position at the end than the one you used at the beginning.
- After you have practiced Lotus Pose, take some time to sit or lie quietly. Acknowledge your practice and the efforts you have made.
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.