Lotus position or Padmasana (Sanskrit: पद्मासन [pɐdmaːsɐnɐ], IAST: padmāsana) is a cross-legged sitting asana originating in meditative practices of ancient India, in which each foot is placed on the opposite thigh. It is an ancient asana, predating hatha yoga, and is commonly used for meditation, in the Yoga, Hindu, Tantra, Jain, and Buddhist contemplative traditions.
Variations include half lotus, bound lotus, and psychic union pose. Advanced variations of several other asanas including yoga headstand have the legs in lotus or half lotus.
Etymology and origins
The name of the pose is from the Sanskrit पद्म Padma, "lotus" and आसन, Āsana, "posture" or "seat". The lotus symbolises growth towards perfection and enlightenment as it is rooted in the mud at the bottom of the pond, but rises to shine as a beautiful flower in the sunlight above the water.
The pose is ancient, being one of the first asanas to be named, for example in the 8th century Patanjalayogashastravivarana. A figure seated in lotus position on a lotus flower is shown on dinar coins of Chandragupta II, who reigned c. 380–c. 415 AD. The first tantric text to discuss posture (Āsana), the 6th-10th century Nisvasattvasamhita Nayasutra (4.11-17, 4.104-106), directs the meditator and "user of mantras" to sit in lotus or a similar posture. The 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that the pose destroys all diseases, and that a yogin in the pose who retains the air breathed in through the nadi channels attains liberation.
From sitting cross-legged on the floor in Sukhasana, one foot is placed on top of the opposite thigh with its sole facing upward and heel close to the abdomen. The other foot is then placed on the opposite thigh as symmetrically as possible.
In half lotus, अर्ध पद्मासन (Ardha Padmasana), one leg is bent and resting on the floor, the other leg is bent with the foot in lotus position. It is an easier meditation position than full lotus.
In bound lotus, बद्ध पद्मासन (Baddha Padmasana), the practitioner sits in full lotus, and each hand reaches around the back to grasp the opposite foot.
For psychic union pose, यओगमुद्रासन (Yogamudrasana), the practitioner bends forward in full lotus, bringing the forehead as close to the floor as possible. The pose is both an asana and a mudra; easier variants begin from Ardha Padmasana or Sukhasana.
In other asanas
Variations of several other asanas such as Sirsasana (yoga headstand), Sarvangasana (shoulderstand), Simhasana (lion pose), Matsyasana (fish pose), and Gorakshasana (cowherd pose) have the legs in lotus.
B. K. S. Iyengar notes that people unused to sitting on the floor will initially feel "excruciating" pain in the knees, but that this subsides with practice, until the pose becomes relaxing, both restful and alert and hence ideal for pranayama.
Twentieth century advocates of some schools of yoga, such as Iyengar, made claims for the effects of yoga on specific organs, without adducing any evidence. Iyengar claimed that Padmasana encourages blood circulation in the abdomen and lumbar region, toning the spine and abdominal organs.
Lotus is one of the yoga poses that most commonly causes injury. Attempts to force the legs into lotus pose can injure the knees by squeezing and damaging the medial meniscus cartilage; this is painful and takes a long time to heal. The hip joints must rotate outwards freely approximately 115 degrees to permit full lotus. Students who cannot achieve this much hip rotation may try to compensate by bending the knee joint sideways, risking injury. Safer alternatives include Baddha Konasana (cobbler's pose), provided the knees are not pushed down. The thighs can be encouraged to rotate using hand pressure or a strap.
Thomas Tweed wrote in 2008 that "the prevailing image of Buddhist practice has been the solitary meditator, eyes half closed, sitting in the lotus position."
Ian Fleming's 1964 novel You Only Live Twice has the action hero James Bond visiting Japan, where he "assiduously practised sitting in the lotus position." The critic Lisa M. Dresner notes that Bond is mirroring Fleming's own struggles with the pose.
The BBC journalist Megan Lane commented in 2003 that since yoga as exercise had become mainstream, lotus position (like tree pose) had been used by advertisers to sell "all manner of goods and services." She noted that both "healthy living" goods such as vitamins, fitness clubs, water filter and probiotic yogurt, and unrelated items such as cars, airlines, financial services "and even beer" have made use of images of yoga to convey a message of well-being. For example, Poland's Obory Dairy gave its advertising agency the goal of creating awareness of their "Jogi" yogurt as exclusive and with a positive image. The agency responded with a photograph of two young women meditating in lotus at dawn under the heading "Start your day with Jogi", the brand name also meaning "yoga" in Polish.
- Kukkutasana, cockerel pose, a balancing asana with the hands threaded through the folded legs of Padmasana
- List of asanas
- Padmasana (shrine)
- Budilovsky, Joan; Adamson, Eve (2000). The complete idiot's guide to yoga (2 ed.). Penguin. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-02-863970-3. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
- Temple 2007, p. Chapter 1, The Symbolism of the Lotus Flower.
- Iyengar 1991, pp. 129-133.
- Zimmer, Heinrich Robert (2015). Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Princeton University Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-4008-6684-7. Archived from the original on 6 September 2017.
- Mallinson & Singleton 2017, p. 97.
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Pal, Pratapaditya (1986). Indian Sculpture: Circa 500 B.C.-A.D. 700. University of California Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-520-05991-7.
Reverse: Goddess, nimbate, sitting en face on lotus with legs folded in lotus position. Diadem or noose in right hand, lotus flower turned towards her in left. .. Legend: Śrī-vikramaḥ (the courageous one).
- Mallinson & Singleton 2017, pp. 99-100.
- Mallinson & Singleton 2017, p. 111.
- Hua, Hsuan (2004). The Chan handbook: talks about meditation (PDF). Buddhist Text Translation Society. p. 34. ISBN 0-88139-951-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
- Rinpoche, Patrul; Padmakara Translation Group (trans.) (1998). Words of My Perfect Teacher: A Complete Translation of a Classic Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism (Revised ed.). AltaMira Press. p. 440.
- Powers, Sarah (2008). Insight Yoga. Shambhala. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-59030-598-0. OCLC 216937520.
- Mehta, Silva; Mehta, Mira; Mehta, Shyam (1990). Yoga: The Iyengar Way. Dorling Kindersley. p. 54. ISBN 978-0863184208.
- Pynt, Jenny; Higgs, Joy (2010). A History of Seating, 3000 BC to 2000 AD: Function Versus Aesthetics. Cambria Press. p. 101, note 18. ISBN 978-1-60497-718-9.
- Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1996). Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha (PDF). Munger, Bihar, India: Yoga Publications Trust. p. 97. ISBN 978-81-86336-14-4.
- Sjoman, Norman E. (1999) . The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace (2nd ed.). Abhinav Publications. p. Plate 6. ISBN 81-7017-389-2.
- Saraswati 2004, pp. 182-183.
- Vishnudevananda (1988). The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. New York: Crown Trade Paperbacks. pp. plates 128–129. ISBN 978-0-517-88431-7. OCLC 32442598.
- Iyengar 1991, pp. 204-206, 230-237, 137-139, 142-143.
- Iyengar 1991, pp. 98-99, 270-276.
- Iyengar 1991, p. 131.
- Newcombe 2019, pp. 203-227, Chapter "Yoga as Therapy".
- Jain 2015, pp. 82–83.
- Iyengar 1991, pp. 131-132.
- Acott, Ted S.; Cramer, Holger; Krucoff, Carol; Dobos, Gustav (2013). "Adverse Events Associated with Yoga: A Systematic Review of Published Case Reports and Case Series". PLoS ONE. 8 (10): e75515. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075515. ISSN 1932-6203.
- Penman, Stephen; Stevens, Philip; Cohen, Marc; Jackson, Sue (2012). "Yoga in Australia: Results of a national survey". International Journal of Yoga. 5 (2): 92. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.98217. ISSN 0973-6131.
- Cole, Roger (5 February 2019) . "How to Protect the Knees in Lotus and Related Postures". Yoga Journal.
- "Lotus-Enthroned Buddha Akshobhya, the Transcendent Buddha,8th–early 9th century". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
- "Representation of: Buddha (Śākyamuni/Gotama/Shaka)". British Museum. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
- Dehejia, Vidya (February 2007). "Recognizing the Gods". Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Zimmer, Heinrich (1953) [April 1952], Campbell, Joseph (ed.), Philosophies Of India, London, E.C. 4: Routledge & Kegan Paul, p. 209–10, ISBN 978-81-208-0739-6
- Tweed, Thomas A. (2008). "Why are Buddhists so nice? Media representations of Buddhism and Islam in the United States since 1945". Material Religion. 4 (1): 91–93.
- Fleming, Ian (1964). You Only Live Twice. Chapter 1.
- Dresner, Lisa M. (2016). ""Barbary Apes Wrecking a Boudoir": Reaffirmations of and Challenges to Western Masculinity in Ian Fleming's Japan Narratives". The Journal of Popular Culture. 49 (3): 627–645. doi:10.1111/jpcu.12422. ISSN 0022-3840.
- Lane, Mega (9 October 2003). "The tyranny of yoga". BBC.
- Lee, Monle; Johnson, Carla (2005). Principles of Advertising: A Global Perspective. Psychology Press. pp. 213–215. ISBN 978-0-7890-2300-1.
- Iyengar, B. K. S. (1991) . Light On Yoga. Unwin Paperbacks. ISBN 978-1855381667.
- Jain, Andrea (2015). Selling Yoga : from Counterculture to Pop culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-939024-3. OCLC 878953765.
- Mallinson, James; Singleton, Mark (2017). Roots of Yoga. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-241-25304-5. OCLC 928480104.
- Newcombe, Suzanne (2019). Yoga in Britain: Stretching Spirituality and Educating Yogis. Bristol, England: Equinox Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78179-661-0.
- Saraswati, Satyananda (January 2004). A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Nesma Books India. ISBN 978-81-85787-08-4.
- Temple, Anton (2007). Becoming the lotus: a systematic course of stretching and posture leading to the safe and comfortable adoption of the lotus posture, including a guide to the symbolism and spiritual meaning behind the lotus flower. Merkur. ISBN 978-1-885928-18-4.