In Hinduism and Buddhism, the lotus flower has been associated with beauty, purity, enlightenment, abundance and rebirth since ancient times.
The Sanskrit word Padmasana is a combination of padma (lotus) and asana (pose, seat or throne). The lotus flower is a sacred plant and a popular image in Buddhist art, with elevated deities pictured sitting atop a lotus flower or holding one in the palm of their hand. Ancient Hindu texts claim that padmasana eradicates disease and awakens potent kundalini energy at the base of the spine.
Practicing meditation using the traditional seated lotus position with legs crossed and each foot resting on the opposite upper thigh may seem like a cliche, since the image of a blissful yogi holding this pose is what immediately comes to mind when one thinks of “yoga”. However, it has become a stereotype precisely because it has been practiced for countless centuries. And the lotus pose has been practiced for so long because it provides many wonderful benefits to the practitioner.
Now, most Westerners today are simply not able to pop right into the lotus pose. Doing so could result in lasting pain or even injury. Lotus pose requires a level of flexibility that the majority of the general population lacks.
If this is the case for you, start slowly with a gentle half-lotus or easy cross-legged pose. Over time, with dedication, your leg and hip muscles will begin to relax and you’ll eventually be able to perform full lotus without straining. Another helpful modification is to sit on a meditation bolster or two, so that your hips will be higher up than your knees and feet. This enables the knees to stretch, gradually, downward toward the floor.
Here are six amazing benefits of regularly sitting in padmasana:
1. Enables hip opening
We tend to hold old emotions and traumas in our hips. This is where we store buried memories and feelings that were not processed during childhood, adolescence or adulthood. By practicing hip-openers in yoga, we can access and release them.
Lotus pose is the ultimate seated hip opener. It helps bring increased blood circulation to the hips, pelvis, legs and feet. Be sure to practice on both sides, with one leg on top first and then the other. If you notice that one side of your body is significantly tighter than the other, you can practice twice as long on that side. Eventually, this will help balance the two sides and move toward greater equilibrium in both hips and knees.
2. Give a deep stretch to the ankles and knees
The ankle and knee joints are crucial to our ability to stand and walk, run and dance. Padmasana increases the flexibility in all the important joints and ligaments of the legs.
If you’re a beginner, be sure to seek an experienced teacher to help guide you into lotus pose, as it’s unfortunately easy to overstretch your ankles or knees when entering this pose. It’s important to warm up beforehand and not hold the pose for too long — nor to sit through serious pain and discomfort. Start where you are in a modified version of the pose.
3. Keeps the spine straight
Lotus pose assists with good posture. The position naturally keeps the back elongated and the spine straight. Most people sit with a slump in their shoulders and upper back and/or a rounded lower back. Furthermore, we usually sit on chairs or couches. Sitting down on the ground is a revolution.
Sitting up tall and with correct posture is key, and when it is done in lotus pose, your muscles will begin to remember and you’ll find yourself sitting and standing up taller as you move through your daily life. Practicing padmasana will reverse the bad habit of slouching and enable you to sit, stand and move with more grace and confidence.
How to sit in the lotus pose
To sit in the padmasana pose make sure to do proper warm ups. Stretching the hips especially but also the thighs and lower back through different stretches is generally a good thing before attempting padmasana. This useful and simple video above demonstrates how to go about it.
Your warm up can include preparatory sitting poses like sukhasana or cross-legged position as was mentioned in the introduction, do this with a proper and straight posture with shoulders relaxed and eyes shut. From sukhasana you can advance to ardha padmasana which is the half-lotus pose, when you’ve stretched and softened the body enough, you can go ahead and try the padmasana.
4. Relieves menstrual pain
Practicing the lotus pose regularly can help prevent the cramping, bloating, exhaustion and mood swings that often arise during a woman’s period each month. Padmasana, as mentioned above, opens the hips, while strengthening the core and back. When combined with pranayama breathing exercises, lotus pose aids a significant reduction in our stress level.
Yoga and lotus pose in particular can also relieve the discomfort of menstruation and even ease childbirth by stretching and toning the pelvic floor and softening the vaginal opening. While this pose may not be attainable in the third trimester, it is excellent for the earlier stages of pregnancy.
5. Cultivates calmness, awareness and focus
Sitting in full lotus pose even for just a few minutes has a centering effect on our human consciousness. The way the legs are crossed and bound together in the pose helps ground us and connect us to the earth. Lifting up the heart and the crown of the head, while maintaining relaxation in the face, jaw, shoulders, arms and legs, connects us to the sky and universe above. Sitting in this way and practicing conscious, deep breathing connects us to the heart.
6. Awakens the chakras
Last but not least, padmasana positively affects our subtle energy field. Each of the seven main chakra points in the subtle body correspond with glands in the physical body, such as the pituitary and adrenals. These points begin at the base of the spine and end just above the crown of the head.
Lotus pose actually redirects apana (the Sanskrit term for the downward-moving energy present in the body) through the lower half of our bodies, and moves it back toward the center of the pelvis and up the spine to activate the heart and upper chakra energy centers.
Allow yourself to bloom with a dedicated practice of lotus pose!