For some, Easy Pose isn’t that easy.
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.
Easy Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
Fold a thick blanket or two into a firm support about six inches high. Sit close to one edge of this support and stretch your legs out in front of your torso on the floor in Dandasana (Staff Pose).
Cross your shins, widen your knees, and slip each foot beneath the opposite knee as you bend your knees and fold the legs in toward your torso.
Relax the 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 the feet and the pelvis.
As always, you should sit with your pelvis in a relatively neutral position. To find neutral, press your hands against the floor and lift your sitting bones slightly off the support. As you hang there for a few breaths, make your thigh bones heavy, then slowly lower your sit bones lightly back to the support. Try to balance your pubic bone and tail bone so they’re equidistant from the floor.
Either stack your hands in your lap, palms up, or lay your hands on your knees, palms down. Lengthen your tail bone toward the floor, firm your shoulder blades against your back to you’re your upper torso, but don’t over arch your lower back and poke your lower front ribs forward.
You can sit in this position for any length of time, but if you practice this pose regularly, 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, and on odd-numbered days, do the opposite. Alternately, you can divide the practice time in half, and spend the first half with your right leg forward, and the second half with the left leg forward.
|Contraindications and Cautions|
|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.|