Easy Pose — Sukhasana (soo-KAHS-uh-nuh) — is a basic seated yoga posture. It is depicted in some of the oldest images of ancient yogis in India, some of which are at least 2,000 years old. Also sometimes called “Simple Cross-Legged Pose,” Sukhasana is intended to be comfortable and calming. Its name comes from two Sanskrit words:
- “Sukha” — meaning “easy,” “comfortable,” or “joy” (from “su,” meaning “good,” and “kha,” meaning “space”)
- “Asana” — meaning “pose”
Sukhasana is a very common pose for practicing meditation and breathing exercises (called “pranayama”). It is also often used as an alternative to practicing Lotus Pose (Padmasana) for those whose hips are very tight.
Sukhasana is a pose that many people automatically practice as children, but lose the ability to do over time due to sitting in chairs. This is a very modern problem. Early yogis didn't have the “convenience” of chairs, so their hips were much more open. Sukhasana is especially good to practice if your hips are very tight — just be sure to prop yourself up so your hips are higher than your knees (see Modifications & Variations, below). A few times a day, come down to the floor and sit in Sukhasana. Notice how different it feels than to sit in a chair. Regular practice will gradually open your hips and bring your spine into correct alignment.
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Benefits of Easy Pose
Sukhasana strengthens the back and stretches the knees and ankles. It also opens the hips, groin, and outer thigh muscles (abductors). Sitting upright with your spine aligned also reduces stress and anxiety. It calms the mind and is known to be therapeutic for stress.
Avoid practicing this pose if you have a knee injury. If your hips are very tight, it might be difficult to cross your legs. Never force the pose. Instead, practice a modified version until your flexibility increases (see Modifications & Variations, below). 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 edge of a firm blanket. Extend your legs in front of your body and sit up straight in Seated Staff Pose (Dandasana). Then, cross your legs in front of you at the shins.
- With your knees wide, place each foot beneath the opposite knee. Fold your legs in toward your torso.
- Place your hands on your knees, palms down.
- Balance your weight evenly across your sit bones. Align your head, neck, and spine. Lengthen your spine, but soften your neck. Relax your feet and thighs.
- Gaze straight ahead with soft eyes.
- Hold for up to one minute or for the duration of your meditation or pranayama practice.
- Release and change the cross of your legs.
Modifications & Variations
Keep in mind the meaning of the name as you practice: Easy Pose. Since it's so important to be comfortable in this position, make whatever modifications you need to feel steady, safe, and supported in the pose. Here are a few suggestions:
- If your hips are tight, do not sit flat on the floor! Prop yourself up on a blanket, two blankets, a bolster, a block, or a meditation pillow. Lifting your hips above the level of your knees will greatly reduce stress and discomfort in your hips, knees, and back. It will also open your groins even further and bring your spine into correct alignment, which will help you to stay in the position for much longer periods.
- Experiment with various heights of support to find the one that is most appropriate for you.
- For those with extremely tight hips, practice the pose seated in a chair. Leaving one foot flat on the floor, cross the opposite ankle over the knee of the grounded foot. Hold the pose for up to one minute, then repeat on the opposite side.
- For more back support, sit with your back against a wall. Another variation is to place a yoga block between the wall and your shoulder blades.
- If you are practicing a mudra as part of your meditation, you can bring your hands into the correct position instead of resting them on your thighs.
Practicing Sukhasana in correct alignment will automatically begin to calm your mind and senses. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Keep your pelvis in a neutral position, balancing equally on both sit bones. To find neutral position, gently rock forward and back, and shift your hips side-to-side once you are in the pose. Once you are neutral, your pubic bone and tail bone should both be the same distance from the floor and both sit bones should have an even distribution of weight.
- Be sure 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.
- Let your legs cross naturally — there is no real “right” or “wrong” way for them to cross. In this regard, Sukhasana is slightly different from other seated cross-legged positions, such as Perfect Pose (Siddhasana) or Lotus Pose (Padmasana), which require a more precise foot placement. As long as there is a comfortable gap between your feet and pelvis and the pose feels “easy,” it is Easy Pose.
Take It Easy
Sukhasana is a simple and basic pose to come into at any time. Whenever you need to find peace, simply bring yourself to the ground and sit quietly. As you slow your breath, your mind will begin to calm down. Regularly integrate Easy Pose into your practice and into your daily life — you may notice serenity and ease flowing through all areas of your life!