The basic seated yoga posture, Easy Pose — called “Sukhasana” in Sanskrit — is a common pose used to stretch the knees and ankles, while gaining strength in the upper torso. Adding a forward fold is a simple way to make the pose calming, soothing, and restorative. The Sanskrit name for this variation, Adho Mukha Sukhasana (AH-doh MOO-kah soo-KAHS-uh-nuh), comes from four words:
- “Adho” — meaning “downward”
- “Mukha” — meaning “face”
- “Sukha” — meaning “easy,” “comfortable,” or “joy” (from “su,” meaning “good,” and “kha,” meaning “space”)
- “Asana” — meaning “pose”
Sometimes also called “Simple Cross-Legged Forward Fold,” this pose is beneficial for advanced practitioners, as well as those brand new to yoga.
Benefits of Easy Pose with Forward Fold
Adho Mukha Sukhasana stretches the back, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Folding forward calms the mind, and reduces anxiety and fatigue. This pose soothes, calms, and centers the mind, making it a therapeutic posture for relieving stress. When it is practiced with the head supported, it can also help to relieve neck and back pain. Forward folding restores balance and equanimity to the body, mind, and spirit.
The discipline is to get you to the place where you trust your intuition, and the yoga pose is an easy place to practice it.
Do not practice this pose if you have a current or recent 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). Women who are pregnant should also avoid practicing this pose. 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. Then, cross your legs in front of you at the shins. If your hips are very tight, you can sit on a bolster or block. With your knees wide, place each foot beneath the opposite knee. Fold your legs in toward your torso. This is Easy Pose (Sukhasana).
- Make sure your head, neck, and spine are aligned. Balance your weight evenly across your sit bones. Let your feet and thighs relax.
- On an inhalation, reach both arms up overhead, lengthening your spine.
- Then, exhaling, slowly bow forward with your arms still extended. Rest your arms, hands, and forehead on the mat. If your forehead does not touch the mat, bend your elbows, stack your hands, and rest your forehead on your hands. You can also rest your forehead on a pillow, bolster, or chair placed in front of you.
- Hold for up to five minutes.
- To release, use your hands to press yourself back to an upright, seated position. Let your head be the last thing to come into place.
- Change the cross of your legs, and repeat the pose for the same amount of time.
Modifications & Variations
Easy Pose with Forward Fold can provide a deep stretch to your torso and hips, while soothing and calming your mind. It's important to feel comfortable throughout the duration of the pose, so make whatever changes you need to reduce discomfort. Here are a few suggestions:
- If your hips are tight, do not sit flat on the floor! Instead, sit on a blanket, a pile of firm blankets, a bolster or block, or a meditation pillow. Sitting with your hips above the level of your knees greatly reduces stress and strain on your hips, knees, and back. Sitting propped up will also help to open your groins and will bring your spine into proper alignment.
- If your hips are propped up, make sure you also have a prop at the same level as your hips or higher on which you can rest your forehead and arms. For example, if you're sitting on a meditation cushion, place a yoga block or bolster in front of your body. Rest your forehead on the bolster during the pose.
- If you don't have a prop on which to rest your forehead, make fists with both hands. Then, stack your fists on top of the other and rest your forehead on your stacked fists.
- It is not necessary to support your head during this pose. However, doing so increases the calming and restorative benefits of the posture.
- Practice with different heights of support under your hips to find the one that is most comfortable and appropriate for you.
- If your hips are extremely tight, practice this pose seated in a chair. Leaving one foot flat on the floor, cross the opposite ankle over the knee of the grounded foot. Exhale as you fold forward, draping your torso over your crossed leg. Let your arms dangle. Hold the pose for up to one minute. Inhale to return upright, then repeat on the opposite side.
Easy Pose with Forward Fold can be a simple way to add restfulness and peace to your day. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Keep your pelvis neutral and balanced equally across both of your sit bones before you fold. To find neutral, rock back and forth and then gently shift your hips from one side to the other. In a neutral position, your pubic bone and tailbone will be the same distance from the floor, with both sit bones holding an even distribution of your body's weight.
- Be sure to change the cross of your legs and hold the fold for the same amount of time with each position.
- Keep your spine long and your collarbones broad throughout the pose. Do not overly round your back or hunch your shoulders. Use whatever props you need (blocks, bolsters, etc.) to maintain a long and supple spine.
- Allow your legs to cross naturally. Don't force them into any position. There is no real “correct” foot placement in this pose. It is more important to maintain comfort and ease with a slight gap between your feet and your pelvis.
Practicing Adho Mukha Sukhasana can be a simple way to reduce stress, tension, and worries at any time! Try practicing it at the end of your day, as a soothing way to relax into bedtime. As you learn to relax your mind, you'll gain all the benefits of yoga throughout the rest of your waking hours.