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Sukhasana (Easy Pose) may have been easy when you were a child, but as an adult, sitting cross-legged can be tricky, thanks to a chair-oriented culture that can cause tight hips and achy knees.
Yogis have been practicing Easy Pose for centuries to meditate, stretch the hips and ankles, and strengthen back and abdominal muscles. Sitting in a chair for several hours a day encourages your body to lean back and sink into your midsection. If you work at a computer, you may lean forward and round your shoulders. Sukhasana, on the other hand, requires you to engage your core and back muscles to distribute your weight evenly over your sit bones. You also have to balance your shoulders over your hips and align your head with the rest of your spine.
In many yoga traditions, the main purpose of Easy Pose is to drop into a meditative state. “Sukh” can also mean happy or joyful in Sanskrit, which is a feeling we hope to find within ourselves in a meditation practice. And Sukhasana is one of the many paths to getting there.
Easy Pose Basics
Sanskrit: Sukhasana (suk-HAS-anna)
Pose Type: Seated
Target Areas: Hips
Why We Love It: I tend to always begin my yoga practice here, from a humble and grateful place. Oftentimes the work that happens in your body here is overlooked. I’m reminded by my anatomy professor to keep the structural and functional goal of every posture top of mind. In this posture, I have learned to soften the subtle muscles in the face and shoulders, and to use Easy Seat to practice activating the abdomen while maintaining the integrity of my posture and spine. After making these mindful adjustments and modifications, I am able to enter into a gentle meditation, softening the gaze and engaging an intentional rhythm of breath. I repeat mindful reminders to myself here that I also take with me throughout my day. —Stephany McMillan, YJ Contributor
Easy Pose Benefits
Easy Pose can be calming and relaxing, if comfortable. It improves postural awareness, creates a foundation for meditation practices, and can help manage stress. When done in a relaxed manner, this pose activates the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and deactivates the stress response (sympathetic nervous system) Easy Pose may also help lower or regulate blood pressure. Holding it strengthens core muscles (including abdominals and muscles supporting your spine), and stretches your groin and inner thighs (adductors).
Easy Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
- Sit on your mat in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Cross your shins to bend and widen your knees. Slip each foot beneath the opposite knee and bring the shins toward your torso.
- Relax your feet so their outer edges rest comfortably on the floor and the inner arches settle just below the opposite shin. You’ll know you have the basic leg fold of Sukhasana when you look down and see a triangle, its three sides formed by the two thighs and the crossed shins. Don’t confuse this position with that of other classic seated postures in which the ankles are tucked in close to the sitting bones. In Sukhasana, there should be a comfortable gap between your feet and the pelvis.
- Keep your pelvis in a relatively neutral position.
- Either stack your hands in your lap, palms up, or lay them on your knees, palms down.
- Lengthen your tail bone toward the floor, firm your shoulder blades against your back to lengthen your upper torso. Don’t over arch your lower back or poke your lower front ribs forward.
- You can sit in this position for any length of time, but be sure to alternate the cross of the legs. A good rule of thumb: On even-numbered days, cross the right shin in front of the left. On odd-numbered days, do the opposite. Alternately, you can divide the practice time in half. Spend the first half with your right leg forward, and the second half with the left leg forward.
Sit with your back to a wall, slightly closer than the length of a yoga block, and wedge the ends of the block between the wall and your lower shoulder blades.
Variation: Easy Pose with Hip and Knee Support
- Try sitting on the front edge of a bolster or folded blanket so that it creates a downward incline. Sitting forward on the prop can help tilt your pelvis forward and create a more neutral spine. If your knees are lifted, place blocks or folded blankets underneath them to alleviate pressure in your hips and knees.