How to Comfortably Sit Cross-Legged in Yoga
Modern life being what it is we hardly get a chance to sit down on the floor for any of our daily activities. Wherever we go there are chairs, benches, reclining seats, and couches which make us slouch. The result is that we all have weak backs that always need support to be able to sit for long periods.
However, many of us wish we could practice yoga postures and pranayama or do regular meditation by sitting cross-legged on the floor. Though we may have been flexible as children it has become a difficult task to be able to sit on the floor without feeling uncomfortable after some time. Many yoga teachers have found a way around this by using props and other supports to help beginners sit cross-legged on the floor.
Traditionally, for practicing yoga, a person sits on a flat surface on the floor or a low wooden platform called an asana. The back is unsupported and the legs are crossed in some fashion in front of the torso at the same level as or slightly lower than the pelvis (if using a platform). This position forms a wide base of support, which opens and grounds the groin, lengthens the spine, and frees the diaphragm.
Often the sitter's heels press on sensitive areas of the body, such as the perineum or genitals, to stimulate the vital energy and seal it in the torso.—Richard Rosen
Sukhasana (The Easy Pose)
Sukhasana or Easy Posture
Sukhasana, or easy posture, is one of the eight sitting yoga postures and is the best one for beginners. Sukhasana is a combination of two Sanskrit words, sukha and asana. Sukha generally means 'pleasant, happy, agreeable, comfortable, mild, gentle, easy.' Asana literally means 'seat' or 'sitting'.
The posture of sitting cross-legged on the floor is easy for most of us, but not for all. If you are a beginner with tight groins, you will need at least three blankets for support.
- Sit on the edge of a thickly folded blanket.
- Cross your legs in front of you, each foot under the opposite thigh.
- Fold two blankets and place one under each of your outer thighs.
- Support your knees a little above where they would otherwise naturally fall.
If you are just beginning the sitting practice then you will need more support:
- Sit against a wall with the blankets as described above
- Roll up a towel to support your lower back.
- Position the sitting lift near or against the wall.
- Settle down so that your sacrum and shoulder blades, but not the back of your head is in contact with the wall.
- Place the rolled-up towel between the lower back and the wall.
Sit in the easy posture for 5-10 breaths, to begin with, and slowly increase your time. Try to do it several times in a day. The main purpose of this pose is to align the head, heart, and pelvis in a straight line.
Once you have practiced for some time, check out how you naturally get into the pose. Sit down on the floor without thinking about it too much, cross your legs in the Easy posture. Which leg is forward and which one is backward. It is important to alternate them or it will over time cause your hips to become unbalanced. Richard Rosen has a strategy for remembering which way to cross the legs each day. On even-numbered days of the month, the right leg is the forward or higher leg, while on odd-numbered days, it is the left leg. This formula can be applied to any other sitting postures as well.
Butterfly Yoga Pose to Stretch the Inner Thighs
If you feel your groins are too tight, then you can loosen them with the butterfly exercise before your sitting practice:
- Sit on the floor.
- Bring your feet together bringing the toes and balls together.
- Hold your feet with your hands and pull them as comfortably close to your groin as possible.
- Move your folded legs at your knees up and down.
- Flutter them like the wings of a butterfly as fast as you can.
Doing this several times a day is also helpful and you will see the difference when you try to sit down in the easy posture.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor is only the beginning that will lead to many other yoga and pranayama practices. Easy Posture or Sukhasana will get you ready for floor sitting in pranayama and meditation and also many other yoga postures.
How Easy do you think it is to sit cross legged on the floor?
© 2012 Sushma Webber