What is Lotus pose?
The ‘Padmasana’ pose or Kamalasana translates to ‘Lotus Pose’. Named after a lotus that is rooted in mud, this asana is particularly powerful for grounding. The lotus is associated with many deities like Lakshmi (the goddess of prosperity). This seated posture has many physical and psychological benefits. It is also the most powerful meditative posture. This deep lotus pose has been described as the ‘destroyer of a yogi’s diseases’ in the popular yogic text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
In this sitting lotus pose the body is locked firmly in its position and physical movements are very minimal. The lower back is naturally straight and when you go deeply inward and try to observe the body, you can almost feel the balancing effect that’s happening on the body. As it is a meditative posture, to truly experience all benefits, it is best to keep the palms in a mudra or gesture like jnana, chin, bhairavi, bhairava or yoni mudra.
It is difficult to practice this asana initially, even though it looks simple. It takes a lot of preparation and effort to open up the hips, make the legs supple and flexible to be able to do this.
Lotus posture benefits
Padmasana posture benefits are profound when combined with pranayama, bandhas and mudras leads to the rising of prana or life force, therefore, it is extremely effective for the last 5 steps of the eight limbs of yoga - Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense control), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi. Padmasana balances the prana, bringing changes in the metabolic structure and brain patterns. This helps create balance in the whole system. It also is said press and stimulate the acupuncture meridians of the stomach, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys and liver. When the digestive organs are functioning well and gut health is good, then overall health is considered good.
Padmasana tones the sacral and coccygeal nerves by supplying them with an increased flow of blood. Blood flow to the legs is decreased and directed towards the abdominal region. This is helpful for people with emotional and nervous disorders. However, people with sciatica or sacral infections should not do padmasana until their health is good.
Other lotus pose benefits include stretching the ankle and opening the hips. Muscular tension in the legs is reduced. The increased blood flow relaxes the entire mind and body, inducing a deep meditative experience.
Position type: Seated
Posture type: Locked legs meditative asana
Ideal for: Flexibility
Targets: Hips and legs
Pose level: Intermediate
The anatomy of the Lotus pose:
The knee is a hinge joint that is meant to bring stability in the movements of the lower limbs. This makes the movement in the knee limited as compared to say, the hips. Owing to this limited mobility, extreme care must be taken in doing asanas that involve movements of the knee like hyper extension, hyper flexion, rotation at the knee joint etc. Padmasana is one such extreme movement of the knee joint. This makes it very important to prepare well before practicing this deep lotus pose.
How can you prepare for the Lotus pose
The preparation primarily includes increasing mobility of the hip and ankle joints, and not so much work on the knee itself. Here’s a sequence one should work on before attempting the lotus pose.
- Legs, knees and ankle flexibility: The legs, ankles and knees should be very flexible. Be extremely gentle with the knees and do the required warm ups. You can do knee rotations, ankle rotations, crow walking, butterfly pose, etc. Improve stability of the knee through the triangle pose, lunges, standing balances and the warrior series. Ankle mobility can also be improved through the garland pose, downward facing dog, chair pose, etc.
- Hip flexibility and mobility: Hip flexibility and mobility is important. Practicing standing triangle pose, lunges and simple hip openers like bound angle pose, garland pose, bow pose, seated forward bend and pigeon pose regularly can help develop the required mobility and flexibility.
- Lower back flexibility: It is also good to improve lower back flexibility. Practice the cobra pose, locust pose, and forward bends like seated forward bend and standing forward fold to improve flexibility.
How to practice Lotus pose
Getting into the posture
- Sit on the mat with legs stretched out in front of you. Make sure your spine is erect and not curved.
- Now bend the right knee and place the foot at the top of the left thigh. Make sure that the sole of the foot points upward and the heel is close to pubic bone.
- Now, bend the other leg and place it on top of the opposite thigh.
- Now both the legs are crossed and feet placed on opposite thighs. Now place your hands on the knees. You can place the palms in a mudra as well.
- Keep the back straight and head up. Take slow, deep breaths. You can also close your eyes.
Getting out of the posture
- As you exhale, release the top leg and straighten it out. Now release the other leg and straighten.
- Gently shake your legs a little to release stiffness
Lotus Pose Variations
- Perform Ardha Padmasana where only only one leg is on top of the opposite thigh
- If Ardha Padmasana is also difficult, one can sit in Sukhasana
- Baddha Padmasana or full Padmasana where the feet from behind you. Here you will take your right hand behind you and grab the right toes. The left hand will go behind you to grab the left toes. This is called the locked lotus pose.
What are the contraindications of Lotus pose
As this posture adds a lot of pressure on the legs, especially knees and ankles, care must be taken to do proper warm ups to loosen up the joints. Anyone with stiff hips, sciatica or an injured knee or ankle should avoid the asana.
Counter poses of Lotus pose
So a few rounds of ankle and knee rotation to loosen up and improve blood flow in the legs. You can also sit in Dandasana, the staff pose, and shake the legs slightly to let go of stiffness.
What are the safety precautions when practicing Lotus pose?
Start by practicing half lotus pose, known as ardha padmasana. Most injuries to the knee in Padmasana happen while moving in and moving out of the asana, so make sure you use your hands to bring the legs out of the asana rather than quickly stretching the leg out of it. While still training to become stable in padmasana do not practice it early morning and without any warm up asanas. It's best to practice the lotus pose towards the end of the class after sufficiently engaging major joints of the lower limbs.
Advice for beginners
This is a meditative asana. So if you are able to sit in this position during meditation, the effects are tremendous. However, it may be difficult to sit for very long initially. So start with a minute and slowly increase. You can also start with Ardha Padmasana and slowly progress to Padmasana.
Practice tips for Lotus pose
- Do not let the back curve. The spine should remain straight. Only then will you feel the energy and prana increase in the body as well as experience the physical benefits.
- There is a tendency for the knees to lift up. Avoid this as much as you can. The knees should remain close to the ground.
- Keep alternating between which leg goes on top. This way there is no excess pressure on any one leg.
The lotus pose adds a lot of pressure on the legs. You must be very careful to avoid any injuries. It is best to learn the right way to do the asana, practice with variations and progress in an injury-free manner live with a Shvasa teacher. A teacher will know if you are ready for the full lotus pose or if you need to start with the half-lotus pose, preparatory poses you need, etc.
For further reading
The effect of Lotus pose on the Prana
By practicing the deep lotus pose, the potential force in the pranic system and the higher faculties of the mind are awakened. Yogi Swatmarama in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says, everyone has this potential, but most of us only operate on a very low amount of energy, and thus only utilize a very small portion of the brain’s capacity. To awaken the dormant centers of the brain, the energy level has to be increased. And to increase it, the positive and negative energies have to be brought together. When they unite an explosion occurs, releasing a greater quantum of energy. This union must take place in one of the vital centers so that the released energy travels through the sushumna nadi to the higher brain centers. This energy is called kundalini.
Kundalini is our potential spiritual energy which is responsible for all the higher qualities of mind. The shakti is created in the lower body centers and rises to the higher brain centers, thus manifesting pure consciousness. When this takes place, the finite awareness operating through the senses and the sensory experiences ceases to function. Only higher awareness exists at this level.
Practicing padmasana for a few minutes initially, and then sitting in the lotus pose during a meditation practice encourages this pranic activity and leads to the awakening of this higher consciousness.