Sukhasana, or the easy pose, is as useful as it is straightforward. It is perfect for beginners but even experienced yoga practitioners choose this pose for meditation and pranayama. But despite its simplicity, I see again and again how yoga practitioners get the easy pose wrong. Therefore, in this article, I want to set things straight and show you exactly how to do it right, and how not to do it.
Sukhasana is excellent for (nearly) all seated yogic practices
The easy pose is suitable for open awareness meditation (such as Antar Mauna, Mindfulness and Vipassana) as well as for concentration focused meditations. It is also adequate for pranayama since the pose allows for correct practice of the chin-lock, jalandhara bandha. Since the pose is gentle on the knees, it is an excellent choice for long sittings of any meditation.
There is no need to rush to more advanced meditation poses
When done right, the easy pose is the best meditation pose for beginners. But it is also an appropriate option for intermediate and advanced practitioners who are not comfortable with more demanding meditation poses. People who are stiff or start yoga late in life might fall into the latter category.
People sometimes get hurt trying to get into advanced meditation poses prematurely. I encourage my yoga students to take their time and use sukhasana until they are ready. For some people, that means years of practice.
The lotus pose, siddhasana and the half-lotus are all excellent meditation poses, once you are comfortable in them, but there is no need to hurry. For most yoga methods, the advantage you have in those poses over sukhasana is real, but not crucial in any way.
Some people, women to a greater extent than men, seem to be born to sit in advanced meditation poses. They are able to do them without any training because of their bone structure. If you are one of them, congratulations. Enjoy!
Sukhasana is not the tailor pose
Many yoga practitioners and teachers alike confuse sukhasana with the tailor pose. But the tailor pose is lousy for meditation. To their defense it should be said that names are used inconsistently in yoga and one name is often used differently in different styles and traditions. But the name “easy pose” to me signifies the easiest possible of all correct meditation poses. The tailor pose just doesn’t qualify.
Have a look at this picture. It is from a free online stock photo site, and I found it by searching for meditation images. It illustrates what I mean well.
This young man is sitting in the tailor pose, flat on the ground. He has his knees raised high from the ground and his feet underneath his forelegs. He can’t put his hands on his knees because that would give an awkward arm position. Therefore he rests his forearms on the knees. This position is not stable and he won’t be able to stay like this for very long.
This photo is an example of how not to sit for meditation and of the easy pose done wrong. If you look for it, you will find meditation pictures like this all over the internet.
So, how should you sit?
Use a cushion for sitting correctly in sukhasana
The first thing that you want to do is to sit on a firm cushion. Not necessarily a cushion made specifically for meditation. You just need something that will elevate your buttocks from the ground 5 to 10 centimetres or in some cases a bit more.
For the desired effect, sit on the front part of the cushion rather than on top of it. Sitting in such a way will allow you both to raise your buttocks and to tilt your pelvis forwards. This will work like magic for lowering your knees to the ground. At the same time, it will help you to get your spine erect, another critical feature of a meditation pose.
For the young man on the photo, a cushion would make an immense difference. He would be able to sit like a yogi.
We are all different; some people need just a thin cushion while others require a high one. Experiment and find the height that suits you best.
Place both of your feet in front of you
But how should you place your feet and legs?
For the tailor pose, you place your feet underneath your forelegs. For sukhasana, instead, put your first foot as close to your body as possible. If possible, this foot should touch your body or the cushion you are sitting on. Place your second foot immediately in front of your first one. Try placing your feet so that the insteps are facing downwards.
By sitting in such a way, you will be stable. Your buttocks have firm ground contact and so do your legs and knees. The print of your sitting body will resemble a triangle.
There are several ways to make a suitable cushion
As a cushion, a rolled-up blanket does just fine. This option is also flexible since you can control its height by rolling in different ways.
If you use a modern latex mat for your yoga poses, you can roll up one end of it and sit on that. For increased comfort place a blanket on top since a latex roll gets quite firm.
Another possibility is a special made meditation cushion. Loosely stuffed half-moon pillows can work well. On the other hand, very hard, high and flat ones will not be as good since they don’t allow you to get the tilt of the pelvis.
I do my yoga on a futon yoga mat, like the orange mat on the photo above. They are excellent for classical yoga poses, and by rolling up the end, I can create a sitting cushion that suits me perfectly.
The easy pose works well for the chin-lock
The cushion has a third benefit for practitioners of pranayama, mudras and bandhas. It makes it easier to do the chin-lock since it increases the distance between your knees and your shoulders.
If on the other hand, if you sit in the tailor pose like the young man above, you will not be able to do the chin-lock at all.
What if sukhasana is too challenging
Sukhasana is the best entry level meditation pose. If you find sukhasana challenging, try first to work with the size of the pillow and the tilting of your pelvis. Also, give yourself some time to let your body adjust to the pose. Sitting in it for a few minutes will usually allow you to sink into the pose.
You can also do a programme of yoga poses before, for example the pawanmuktasana sequence. That will not only soften up your joints but also calm your nervous system and make your meditation calmer.
There are even easier options
If you still find that the easy pose is too difficult, there are other ways to sit. The tailor pose is not one of them. Instead try sitting on your knees with a thick cushion between your heels and your buttocks. Or sit on a meditation bench.