The perfect place to begin to find our physical foundation to go within and develop observation. This is the basic meditation posture from which many other similar seated postures arise. While the English name is called “easy” it can be far from it if we have lived our lives in chairs and not sitting on the floor. Today we’ll go through the basic alignment and supports for this pose. Many of these can be utilized for other similar seated postures.
To begin, take a seat on the floor. Sukhasana is formed by crossing the shins and tucking the feet under the legs. When we were kids, this was called “Indian Style,” I think they call it “Criss Cross Applesauce” these days.
Now that you are in the pose, take a look at the level of your knees. This is the first landmark we can easily see in the body to notice if we could use some support. Ideally, the knees should be level with or lower than the top of the hip crests (top of the pelvis). Usually if the knees are higher than the hips than this pose is not very comfortable. The spine is probably rounding and the shoulders are likely hunching a little.
To solve this, all you need to do is elevate the hips. If you are in a yoga studio, you will likely have access to a few options. Blankets are great because they can be folded in a number of ways to create a lower or higher cushion to sit on. Blocks can be used for this same purpose. They are more firm, but are limited to one level for Sukhasana. Bolsters are softer and wider than blocks, yet still offer nice support. Finally, a meditation cushion can also be used.
Whatever prop you select, make sure the sit bones are firmly planted on the support. You don’t want to feel like you are falling off the cushion. We are also going for a neutral pelvis, one that is neither tilting forward nor backward. This will allow the spine to rise out of the pelvis neutrally as well, offering space and length through the spine and torso. The more neutral the spine is the easier it is to breathe and move into pranayama exercises. Elevating the hips onto a prop also reduces the pressure you may feel in your lower back, making it easier to sit in this pose for longer periods of time with less effort.
You have now found your perfect support for the hips (even if you don’t “need” a support sometimes it is lovely to take it anyways because it just feels good), lets take a look at the torso. If the pelvis is neutral as we talked about above, then the abdomen is neither collapsed nor dumping forward. The abdominal muscles can be supportive to the overall posture in your body. Pulling the belling in and gently up is called the belly lock or uddiyana bandha. The number one support for the lower back is the lower belly. And this is where you should feel most of the action in the abdominals. The number one support for the low belly is the pelvic floor. Activating the pelvic floor is called your root lock or mula bhanda. These two bandhas work together to seal in energy and guide it upward while supporting the lower body, pelvis and lower back physically.
Lets take a look at the shoulders and neck alignment. Most of us, because of all the things we do in life that are in front of us like driving, computer/desk work, phones, etc. generally have our shoulders rolling forward and our heads forward of our shoulders. In Sukhasana, we are going to roll the shoulders back and down, feeling the shoulder blades draw in toward each other and slide down the back. Then we’ll engage our neck locks or jalandhara bandha by moving our heads backward with the chin parallel to the ground. You’ll feel not only the head moving back and aligning with the rest of the spine, but the back of the neck near the skull becoming longer and more spacious and the crown of the head floating up. The most important thing to be aware of when practicing the neck lock is that you do not force the head backward. The process of realigning the head and neck does not happen in a snap. Be kind and patient with the process and move toward alignment gradually.
Once we are aligned within the torso, we can allow the arms to find a comfortable resting position on the legs using a mudra if you’d like.
Now just breathe and observe. How does this posture feel in your body? Are there areas that are holding on or resisting? Can you release tension anywhere? The inner thighs love to hold on just a little. Invite them to soften. Is the jaw relaxed? What about the space between the eyebrows? Where to do you have room to let go in order to embrace the now?
If you have questions, please leave a comment below. Enjoy the practice of Sukhasana and finding your foundation. The inward journey is well worth the outward practice.
With great respect and love,
Founder of Maitri Yoga