Don’t let the name fool you. If you’re used to sitting in chairs, Easy Pose can be quite challenging as one of Yoga from the Heart‘s new-to-yoga students notes.
Q: Lynn, I continue to really enjoy the yoga practice at your studio but I have some more questions: The open and closing “cross legged” sitting position (Sanskrit still baffles me) is often anything but calming. My knees complain as I pull in my belly button, lengthen my neck, push down my shoulders, press my shoulder blades onto my back, and catch up with my breath. A Downward Facing Dog is more relaxed! What am I doing wrong?
A: Despite its name, Seated Crossed-Legs Pose also known as Easy Pose (Sukhasana in Sanskrit) 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.
You must first master the balance at the base of the posture. Balance on the center of your sitting bones, positioning the pelvis so that the sacrum (the triangular bone in the lower back situated between the two hipbones of the pelvis) moves in and the abdomen lifts both inward and upward.
Here are a few more modifications to try as you explore how to become more comfortable:
- To support your hips: If you are still uncomfortable, sit on more 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 bolster.
- 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.
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.
Q: Last week I farted during a difficult pose. Should I have apologized or tried to blame it on someone else?! What should I have done?
A: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. People fart in yoga. It happens. You are not alone. Even the ancient yogis knew about farting, aptly naming one folded asana, Pavanamuktasana, the wind relieving pose. It’s best to empty the bowels before practicing. If we all refuse to feel embarrassed from here on out, then liberation will be ours!