How to Do Half Lotus Pose in Yoga
Half Lotus Pose is a seated posture that opens the hips and stretches the knees and ankles. It is a variation of the traditional seated meditation posture, Lotus Pose (Padmasana), that is more suitable for students with less flexibility in the lower body.
The Sanskrit name for this pose, "Ardha Padmasana" (ARD-uh pahd-MAHS-uh-nuh), comes from three words:
- "Ardha" — meaning "half"
- "Padma" — meaning "lotus"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
While this variation is usually easier than the full version of the pose, it is not recommended for absolute beginners, as the depth of flexibility required may be too demanding. Be sure to incorporate plenty of hip-opening poses into your regular practice before trying Half Lotus. A few good ones to include are Bound Angle/Cobbler's Pose (Baddha Konasana), Hero Pose (Virasana), and Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana).
Benefits of Half Lotus Pose
Half Lotus strengthens the back. It also stretches the hips, knees, ankles, and thighs. Sitting upright with your spine aligned calms the mind, reducing stress, anxiety, and mild depression. Additionally, this pose improves circulation and blood flow in the pelvis, which can ease menstrual discomfort for women.
As with other seated poses, such as Easy Pose (Sukhasana) and Perfect Pose (Siddhasana), Half Lotus is traditionally used for long periods of meditation and breathing exercises (called "pranayama" in Sanskrit). The soothing effects of this pose can allow for greater awareness of your mind, body, and spirit — which can spill over into your everyday life. You may discover that practicing this pose brings you peace, even outside of your yoga class.
Avoid practicing this pose if you have a recent or chronic injury to the knees, ankles, or hips. If your hips, knees, or ankles are very tight or painful, it might be difficult to cross your legs. Never force the pose. Instead, practice a modified version until your flexibility increases (see Modifications & Variations, below). Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended, spine straight, and arms resting at your sides. This is Seated Staff Pose (Dandasana).
- Bend your right knee and hug your knee to your chest. Then, bring your right ankle to the crease of your left hip so the sole of your right foot faces the sky. The top of your foot should rest on your hip crease.
- Bend your left knee, and cross your left ankle beneath your right knee.
- There are several hand variations you can take:
- Rest your hands on your thighs with your palms facing up or down.
- Place your palms together in prayer position (Anjali Mudra) at your heart center.
- Gyan Mudra, create a circle with each index finger and thumb.
- Any other mudra appropriate for your meditation.
- Keep your spine straight.
- Close your eyes and turn your gaze inward.
- Hold for up to one minute, or for the duration of your meditation or pranayama practice.
- Release the pose by extending both legs along the floor in Staff Pose. Repeat the pose for the same amount of time with the opposite leg on top. Release the pose, and then rest in Corpse Pose (Savasana) for at least five minutes.
Modifications & Variations
Since this pose is often used for long periods of seated meditation, it's important to feel comfortable in Half Lotus Pose. Be sure to make whatever modifications you need to feel steady and supported in the pose. Here are a few suggestions:
- If the knee of your top leg doesn't rest on the floor, support it with a folded, firm blanket.
- For more back support, sit with your back against a wall. For even more support for your upper back, place a yoga block between the wall and your shoulder blades. Practice this way until you have built up enough strength to sit away from the wall with your spine straight.
- If you are not yet able to perform Half Lotus, practice Easy Pose (Sukhasana) until you have gained the flexibility and strength to sit comfortably in the pose.
- For those with very tight hips, practice the pose seated in a chair. Leaving one foot flat on the floor, cross the opposite ankle into the hip crease of the grounded foot. Hold the pose for up to one minute, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Practicing Half Lotus Pose in correct alignment will automatically begin to soothe your thoughts and calm your body. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Be sure to change the cross of your legs, not favoring one side or the other. Hold the pose for the same length of time on each side. If you are practicing the pose for an extended period, such as in a meditation or pranayama practice, you have a few options:
- Set a timer; then change the cross of your legs halfway through your practice.
- Practice with a different leg on top each day. This usually works best if you practice the pose every day.
- If you practice the pose at the beginning and end of your practice, start with the opposite leg position at the end than the one you used at the beginning.
- Take it slowly.
- Keep your breath smooth and even throughout the pose.
- If you feel any pinching or jarring pain (particularly in your knees), immediately back out of the pose.
- Never attempt to force your body beyond its current level of capability just to achieve a pose! When your hips and legs become more open, then attempt full Lotus Pose.
The Pose is Half Full
Many students feel they "should" be able to get into full Lotus Pose, but it's crucial to remember never to attempt a pose you're not ready for. Practicing Half Lotus provides all of the benefits of Lotus Pose with the added benefit of not injuring a body that's not ready for full Lotus! Take it slowly and be patient. Practice Half Lotus regularly, even if it's only for a minute a day. Flexibility will come in time with patience, dedication, and repetition. Remember to enjoy the benefits of whatever variation of the pose you can do today!