Beginner Yoga How To

Sukhasana Isn’t All Easy

When you bring awareness to your alignment and intention, there's plenty of work to do in Sukhasana.

For millennia, people all over the world have been sitting on the ground in cross-legged positions such as Sukhasana (Easy Pose). Although this seated posture looks simple and even commonplace, when you practice it with a clear intention, Sukhasana has the power to draw you deep inside, leading you toward a meditative state and revealing the immense joy present within your heart.

Sukhasana has a whole inner life that you will discover with practice. A well-aligned Sukhasana creates the conditions for a relaxed yet alert state in both the body and mind. The first alignment challenge of this pose is to sit with the legs relaxed while lifting the spine and opening the chest. You will make many small adjustments as you work to distribute your weight evenly over your sitting bones, to balance your shoulders directly over your hips, and to align your head on top of your spine. This takes a surprising amount of core strength, and so repeated practice will tone the entire circumference of your torso—front, sides, and back. As you make all of these small adjustments directed toward extending the spine, your attention will gradually draw inward, toward your heart, allowing you to sit in comfort, with physical balance and mental poise.

Despite its name, Sukhasana doesn’t always feel easy for a lot of people. We’ve become accustomed to sitting on chairs, and this encourages you to lean back and sink through the middle of your body, weakening the abdominal and back muscles. When you move to sitting on the floor, it can be challenging to sit upright, especially if you have tight hips, knee injuries, or lower-back pain. However, if you approach the pose with proper support, you can learn to hold yourself upright without a chair to lean back on. Elevating the pelvis by sitting on folded blankets will allow you to gradually release and open the hips while you lift and lengthen your spine.

To achieve the full length of the spine in Sukhasana, you must first master the balance at the base of the posture. Notice the position of your pelvis: Do you tend to sink back through the hips and low back? Or do you naturally tip your pelvis to the front with your belly falling forward? Instead, balance on the center of your sitting bones, positioning the pelvis so that the sacrum moves in and the abdomen lifts both inward and upward.

When you’ve found steadiness at your base, focus your attention on your upper body. An important aim of your work in Sukhasana is to support easeful breathing. To help the upper chest expand in Sukhasana, fold your palms together at the center of your chest and spread your collarbones. This firms the outer shoulder blades and the upper-back muscles, encouraging the upper spine to move inward. Lengthening the sides of the torso will also help you expand your rib cage and deepen your breath. Practice finding length by interlacing your fingers and extending your arms overhead. Actively lift your rib cage and feel the stretch of the muscles between the ribs. Try to maintain that length even after you lower your arms.

Finally, the back of the rib cage should widen and expand in Sukhasana. An easy way to practice this is by folding forward with your hands extended on blocks. Feel the back of your rib cage spread as you lengthen the spine forward. Keep that expansiveness when you sit upright in Sukhasana, noticing how the entire rib cage moves freely with your breath.

Although it is most commonly translated as “easy” or “comfortable,” the word sukha can also mean “happy” or “joyful.” This name is a reminder of the innate joy that is within you. In your yoga practice, when you find steadiness in your body and ease and expansiveness in your breathing, you may perceive this joy. In these moments, notice that you are no longer experiencing your body, mind, and breath as separate parts; instead all three have united, and your heart feels light and free in your chest.

Easeful Action

In yoga, you practice putting forth effort while staying connected to the part of yourself that is innately joyful and at ease. When you learn to act in this way—both on the mat and off—you are able to move through life skillfully without panic or fear.

Step 1: Sukhasana, Arms Overhead

Extend the sides of the body and lift the spine.

Set It Up:


1. Sit on 2 folded blankets with your legs extended in front of you.

2. Bend your knees, and cross your right shin in front of your left shin.

3. Move the knees closer together until your feet are directly underneath them.

4. Interlace your fingers, extend your arms overhead, and stretch.

Refine: To sit more firmly on the sitting bones, reach underneath the buttocks and slide the flesh outward and away from the bone. This broadens the floor of your pelvis and allows your inner thighs to release downward. Interlace your fingers so the space is sealed between them. Turn your palms forward and fully extend your arms and elbows. Lower your sitting bones, outer hips, and inner thighs as you raise your arms. Reach upward through your wrists, elbows, and shoulders to lengthen the sides of your body.

Finish: Continue to lengthen the sides of your body and lift the spine, moving up from the sacrum and lower back to the upper back and chest. As you bring extension to the spine, keep steady and firm through the sitting bones, hips, legs, and feet. Release the pose, change the cross of your legs and the interlacing of your fingers, and repeat.

Step 2: Sukhasana, Hands on Blocks

Relax the legs, open the hips, and rest your head.

Set It Up:


1. Sit on 2 folded blankets with your legs extended in front of you.

2. Bend your knees, and cross your right shin in front of your left shin.

3. Move the knees closer together until your feet are directly underneath them.

4. Fold forward over your legs.

5. Stretch your arms fully forward and place them on blocks.

Refine: As you fold over your legs, keep the sitting bones and outer hips descending. Walk the hands forward, and with each step, lengthen the sides of your body. Reach from the waist to your rib cage and finally to your armpits to fully extend your arms. Press the palms into the blocks and lift the underside of your arms away from the floor. Move your upper spine in toward the chest and keep the arms firm. Work to bring your whole trunk parallel to the floor.

Finish: Relax the legs from the top of your thighs down to your feet. Rest your forehead on the floor or on a blanket, and then soften any tension around your eyes. Allow your rib cage to widen at the back and sides. Breathe to bring quietness to your mind. Release the pose, change the cross of your legs and the interlacing of your fingers, and repeat.

Final Pose: Sukhasana

Set It Up:


1. Sit on 2 folded blankets with your legs extended in front of you.

2. Bend your knees, and cross your right shin in front of your left shin.

3. Move the knees closer together until your feet are directly underneath them.

4. Slide the flesh of the buttocks outward so you can sit directly on your sitting bones.

5. Press your palms together at the center of your chest.

Refine: When you cross your legs, look again and make sure you are crossing at the center of the shins. The cross should be in line with your pubic bone, navel, and sternum. Bring the palms together at your chest, and broaden your collarbones. Roll the upper arms away from the chest while dropping the elbows and the inner shoulder blades. Move the upper spine inward as you lift and stretch the abdomen. This strong action of the chest, arms, and shoulders directs the spine toward the center of the body. Extend the spine from the base toward the crown of your head while keeping the neck long and soft.

Finish:Take some deeper breaths in and out. Steady breathing will allow your body to remain firm and relaxed. Direct your attention to the movement of your breath expanding in your entire rib cage. Soften your eyes and relax your jaw and facial muscles. Repeat the pose, changing the cross of your legs.

Optimize Your Pose

Try these modifications for exploring Sukhasana:

  • To support your hips: Sit on additional folded blankets so the knees are level with or below the hips. Widen the knees to give your hips more space.
  • To relieve knee pain: Roll up your socks and put them behind the backs of your knees before crossing your shins. Or, support your outer shins with blankets.
  • To ease your lower back: If your lower back gets tired, try sitting with your back against a wall and supported by
    a cushion.
  • To relax tight shoulders: Interlace your fingers and stretch the arms overhead. Repeat several times to release any held tension in your neck and shoulders.

Elements of Practice

Even if you’re not an experienced meditator, in Sukhasana you learn to take a comfortable seat, and this is the beginning of meditation. Sitting in this way at the start and end of your practice creates a positive and memorable impression on your body and mind. You will notice a subtle and sweet shift from your active or even distracted mind toward a focused and centered meditative mind. After you have established your posture and alignment, turn your attention to your breath and the subtler sensations within the body. Start by releasing tension in the face by softening the muscles around your eyes, your jaw, and your mouth and tongue. Learning to detect these smaller inner movements can improve your ability to relax into meditation.

Watch a video demonstration of this pose.

Nikki Costello is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher living in New York City.