While the Sanskrit word for a cross-legged posture, Sukhasana, translates as “Easy Pose,” sitting still in this position can be challenging. A comfortable seat is essential for yoga asanas, pranayama, Meditation, and other practices.
Where and how to cross your legs
There is no universal guideline for sitting with crossed legs. Everybody is different in terms of structure and flexibility. There are some common leg variations you can use to find comfort.
Most people can sit comfortably cross-legged in Easy Pose with their feet under the knees or calves. (This is how children learn to sit on the floor “Indian Style”). Keeping your legs a little further away may be better than tucking in tight to your groin if this causes tension in your hips.
This is a variation of the Easy pose that involves crossing the legs at the calves or ankles so both shins are on the floor. Although similar to Easy Pose, this leg variation is so different that it’s called Accomplished Pose or Siddhasana. Please note that, despite the name, there is no “advanced” or more “accomplished posture.”
It’s important not to force your body into a shape that doesn’t feel right. It’s important not to force your body into a position that is not comfortable. For example, Half Lotus or Full Lotus requires a lot of flexibility in the hips. If you are not anatomically prepared, this can lead to problems with the lower back, knees, and ankles.
Comfort props are a great way to relax
Lifting the hips above the knees in any cross-legged posture is important. This can be done by sitting on the edge of a pillow, folded blankets, bolsters, or another prop. It helps tip the pelvis forward and relax the hip flexors. Gravity and blood circulation work together when you slope your legs downward.
Add extra padding to the ankles, thighs, or knees as needed.
Crossed legs alternative positions
If you are still experiencing discomfort after trying the above options (or even if you have a stack of cushions but can’t get your hips to reach the knees), you may want to try a different seated position.
The Hero Pose is a great alternative if you prefer to sit on your knees. Use blankets or pillows to support your lower spine, maintain a straight spine, and relieve the weight-bearing pressure on your lower body. It can be more comfortable to sit on a block, bolster, or even your heels instead.
Consider sitting on a meditation bench or chair if you plan to commit to a long period in a seat, such as for Meditation or other practices that involve committing yourself to a position for an extended period.
Alignment cues to comfort
It feels more natural for cross-legged people to place their left leg in front of their right. It’s good to alternate your legs to feel balanced, but sitting cross-legged the way it feels natural can also be beneficial.
It is essential that, in any chair, you can maintain your natural lower back curve. If you are slouching or rounding your lower back, consider adding an extra cushion to your seat or leaning against a wall.
Take a moment before finding stillness to rock side to side. Ensure both your sit bones are exposed evenly to the surface you’re sitting upon. Find an equal position, from front to back and from left to right. Your shoulders should be directly above your hips. Open your chest and let your shoulders drop away from your ears. Gently tuck in your chin, then rest your hands on your upper leg or your lap. Check that you are relaxed and not holding any tension in your mind or body.
When finding the perfect seat, you should only consider what feels right for your body.
What is your favorite position to sit in for comfort? How have you modified it over the years? Whatever you do, I hope it brings comfort and ease to your life.