Sukhasana, For Composure and Concentration of Mind
Sukh, a Sanskrit term means comfort or ease when translated to English. Asana means a body posture, which makes Sukhasana mean a body posture in which one feels comfortable or at ease. It is more popularly known as easy pose, comfortable pose, or just sitting in crossed legged position. The word easy doesn’t mean that it is an easy pose to get into, but it means that sitting in this posture is equivalent to sitting at ease. Sukhasana along with Padmasana is one of the oldest Hatha Yoga postures mentioned in Yoga literature and known for being used for doing meditation.
In fact, before the Indian culture began being smothered, and impaled by the onslaught of the Western lifestyle most of us were habituated to carry out our daily activities – cooking, reading, entertaining guests etc. - while sitting on the floor. Sukhasana is not that easy to get into for people who are habituated to sitting on chair than on floor. This is because sitting on chair for long durations daily takes away the flexibility needed in the hips, ankles, and knees for getting into Sukhasana.
Sukhasana is one of the fundamental meditative asana which all the beginners of yoga must master before venturing on to the other postures. Irrespective of the interest level of a yoga student he/she must master at least on meditative posture which can lead to composure, ease, breathing, and concentration. Though the old tradition in yoga had always regarded Siddhasana or Padmasana as more suited to meditation, Vacaspati, the great yoga commentator, has found the easy-pose, or Sukhasana as the most preferable and convenient in actual practice.
This pose readily conforms to all the bodily requirements of comfort and steadiness (Sthirasukhamasanam). It allows the beginners to sit for long durations while practicing yoga breathing exercises or meditation. Sukhasan provides a very firm base for the body while keeping the energy centered.
Preparatory Postures for Sukhasana
It is recommended that Sukhasana be done on an empty stomach and bowels.
To begin with sit in Dandasana on the mat; both the legs stretched straight, together in front of you
Now bend one of the legs and place its heal under the opposite thigh
Now fold the other leg and place the heal under the opposite thigh, sit like this in a crossed legged position with one ankle crossed over the other
Keep the body straight, spine erect, abdomen slightly tucked in, and head perfectly poised
For making the body straight sit exactly over the sitting bones to move the pelvis in neutral position, neither tilting forward nor backward, the knees must be kept close to the floor
Grab the knees with the palms and pull the spine up and forward by pull stretching the arms against the knees
Draw the tailbone inwards and let the thoracic part of the spine slightly curve inwards towards the sternum
The outer edges of the feet must be resting on the mat, adjust to a comfortable distance between the feet and the pelvis
Now place your palms facing downward on the knees, lengthen the spine a bit more upwards by pressing the sitting bones further into the mat
Keep the head vertically aligned to the spine, the chin must be maintained parallel to the floor
The shoulders must remain slightly pulled down away from the ears, first pull the shoulders slightly up on an inhalation and then slide them down on an exhalation
Sit in this position for as long as possible, you can close your eyes and mentally observe your breath going in and out till you feel the serene clam setting in the mind.
Try to alternate the position of legs, which one is up and which one is down, with each practice of Sukhasana so that the muscles of both the legs are stretched equally.
Follow up asana for Sukhasana
In order to help the blood gush back into the legs after doing Sukhasana one can practice these postures.
Sukhasana - Alignment Essentials
In order to gain the intended benefits of Sukhasana one must practice it with recommended alignment considerations. A lot of times, since we are more oriented to the western style living today, in the beginning one may find getting into these alignments as not very easy, comfortable. Correctly aligning the body parts as per the requirement of each posture ensures that the entire body gets oriented towards contributing to the purpose of the asana being practice.
Given here is a set of alignments one needs to adhere to while practicing Sukhasana.
The whole body must be kept erect but relaxed
The entire back – spine- must be kept straight
The knees – in the crossed leg position – must be kept as close to the floor as possible, raised up knees can cause strain in the spine, especially the lower back
Head is positioned erect over the neck
Keep the chin parallel to the floor
Shoulders are kept slightly below the ears but relaxed
The body must not be leaning to any of the sides
In order to evenly stretch the leg muscles, keep alternating the position of the legs – which leg is up and which one goes down – with each practice session
The lower spine – lumbar region – must be kept vertically neutral, it should not arch inwards or outwards
Sukhasana – Essential Modifications for Correct Alignment
In case one’s body lacks the basic flexibility to sit in Sukhasana one can use props for making certain modification in order to maintain the required alignment.
Sitting in Sukhasana generally restricts the flow of blood into the legs, due to which one may feel numb in the legs if one sits for extended periods of time in easy pose. Especially people who already suffer from restricted blood flow conditions in the legs like Varicose veins and edema must consider modifying the pose by a keeping the feet away from the pelvis.
This will help keep the knees from getting into an extreme bend restricting the blood circulation int eh process. Sitting on a soft cushion will also prevent excessive blood flow restrictive bending in the knees. Also, people who experience numbness in the legs while sitting in Sukhasana must avoid sitting for too long in the pose.
Some times stiffness in the hips doesn’t allow the knees to be placed down on the floor while doing Sukhasana. Sitting on a blanket or some soft cushion can help lower the knees to the desired level of alignment.
High raised knees can also cause extreme flexion int eh ankles which may hurt due to the pressing of the outsides of the ankles into the floor, one can relieve this discomfort by place some padding – yoga blocks, cushions, or folded blanket - under the ankles or using two mats placed over each other.
Placing the feet under opposite shins instead of under the thighs can also help relieve the ankle strain.
Ankle stress can also be relieved by brining one of the heels closer to the pelvis and placing the other foot rests on the floor aligned with the first heel.
Keeping some padding under the hips will also help align the lower back and the pelvis as otherwise the lower back can be under strain in this posture. The padding under the hips helps tilt the pelvis forward which brings it in the neutral position as per the principles of alignment.
If the knees remain raised one can place some cushioning under the knees in order to relieve the pressure in the hips and the knees.
Beginners can sit against the wall to help keep the back straight till it becomes strong enough to stay erect on its own with practice.
Instead of keeping the palms facing down on the knees one can even place the hands in Chin, Gyan mudra. In Chin mudra one places the back of the hands on the knees and join the tips of the thumbs and the index finger keeping the other finger stretched out.
Another comfortable hands position can be by placing both the palms facing upward in the groin with the fingers of one hand interlinked to the corresponding fingers of the other hand.
Contraindications for Sukhasana
Avoid practicing Sukhasana in case the conditions listed below are present.
Any knee injury or related inflammation
Any hip injury or related inflammation
Any ailment to the sacral region of the spine
Slipped disc – use under hip cushioning while doing Sukhasana
This easy and simple looking posture can give immense benefits if we practice it regularly with the right alignments.
It calms the mind and the body
Practicing Sukhasana relieves one of all stress and anxiety
It corrects any defects in one’s body posture and is used in yoga for improving posture regimes
It helps broaden the collar bones and opens the chest improving the overall quality of clavicular breathing and the respiratory process in general
It imparts strength and steadiness to the back
It helps improve the length and strength of the spine and is thus excellent posture to be included in yoga for a healthy spine
Sukhasana helps improve the flexibility of the knees and the ankles
Regular practice of Sukhasana improves one’s concentration power, thus it help one in one’s meditation practice
Practicing this asana induces the state of relaxation in the mind as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system
Sukhasana is the preparatory asana for Padmasana and Sidhasana as it benefits by increasing the flexibility of the hips. Knees and ankles
It is good for hypertension and is a good conditioning aid for beginning a class on yoga therapy for high blood pressure
The flow of blood is blocked to the legs and directed to the lower abdominal region which helps improve digestion
Easy pose is good for stretching the legs
It helps open up tight hips in external rotation and is good for hip flexibility
Practicing Sukhasana as a conditioning aid in the beginning of a yoga sessions help ready the mind for the ensuing practice
Sukhasana works upon which Chakra
Sukhasana helps activate and works upon the Muladhara Chakra, or the root chakra.
Sukhasana – Muscles which are Impacted
In an effort to maintain an erect posture flexors and extensors of the vertebral column are exercised.
The abductors, flexors, and medial rotators of the hips are exercises while getting into the asana.
Knee flexors and shoulder joint flexors are also exercised while doing Sukhasana.