Pose of the Week: Sukhasana (Easy Seated Pose)
Sukha = happiness, pleasure, ease, joy, bliss
Asana = pose
I’ve been putting off writing about Sukhasana. I have no idea why. Maybe I don’t feel qualified to speak about this pose. Maybe because it doesn’t involve action, I think there isn’t much to say. How strange. I take Sukhasana in every single meditation and yoga practice. Obviously it is very important. In fact, this is a pose I spend a lot of time talking about. So, yes, it’s very important.
I start most of my classes in Sukhasana. When I have the pleasure of students in-person (oh, COVID, how I miss in-person), I take note of how they sit in this pose. I can tell who is uncomfortable right away. They are usually hunched over, drawing the knees up high, cringing. I will offer something for them to sit on: blocks, a blanket, a pillow, a bolster. I love to see relaxation return when they can sit more comfortably.
Sukhasana is our first pose that reminds us that yoga shouldn’t hurt. If you’re uncomfortable in this pose, this doesn’t bode well for the rest of the practice! This is the first pose that gives me the opportunity to show you how you can be comfortable, how important it is to be positioned in a way that you can breathe. It is the first pose in which I introduce the idea of free movement of breath, keeping open energy channels, engaging in supportive and healthy posture.
What Sukhasana exactly? It is often shown like sitting cross legged. It’s a little different than that. It is sitting with your knees out to the sides, and your feet drawn close to your body, one foot behind the other. So it looks like cross legged pose, but not quite. While sitting, you want to be able to draw your heart and crown up, creating a straight and long spine. You want your shoulders to be able to relax back and down, and for your arms to be comfortable on top of your thighs, elbows close to the ribs. You want the torso to feel free, allowing breath to move easily up and down the body, filling it and expanding the ribs and back. Finally, you want to feel good, not tortured, while sitting this way.
I advocate for sitting on a meditation pillow, bolster, thick blanket, or a block to start. At the beginning of each practice, I use this time to connect with and deepen the breath. If I sit up on something, my hips can be higher than my knees and my knees can have the pace to drop down to the floor (or for most, at least below the hips). This creates two experiences. The first is the ability to sit up nice and erect without effort. The second is the ability to open up the hips. It is then that you can settle the body, settle the mind, get into the breath. It’s magical.
In Sukhasana I use several breath cycles to open up the all the structures of breathing, expand all the parts of the torso, ready the body to link breath and movement. In this process we calm the mind and prepare it for a deeply moving practice.
After reading this article by Nikki Costello, https://nikkicostello.com/2013/03/sukhasana-isnt-easy/, I’m reminded of why I paused before writing about Sukhasana. I find it intensely personal. It’s difficult for me to explain the way I’ve trained my body and my mind to take this asana, how it immediately drops me into a meditative state, and how it prepares me for each practice.
I invite you to take Sukhasana. Use props to make it more comfortable. Sit as high as you need. Lift up your heart, grow your spine long and tall. Feel the ease of your shoulders floating down your back. Find ease in the effort. Settle into the comfort of it. Feel your energy pulling down, anchoring you to the earth, rooting you. Draw that same energy back up, lifting you heart, lifting your crown. Ahhhh. Ohm. Namaste.