Sukhasana is a cross legged seated position in yoga. While it’s called easy pose, for some it’s far from easy. In this post I discuss, step by step, how to do Sukhasana. Modifications and variations of the pose for beginners, those with tight hips, knee or ankle pain. Plus the benefits of sitting cross legged.
Often when we see this pose we think “meditation pose”. Honestly, for many years I found this a really uncomfortable position. It’s still not my favorite pose for meditation. Because I cannot sit in it long without something in body complaining. I’ve learned a few ways over the years to support my body and make this a pain-free pose.
The video has all the information in this post. You can view the video on YouTube. Maybe add it to a playlist? Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel. I upload new videos every Tuesday and Friday. For exclusive longer format videos sign up for my Patreon community.
How to do sukhasana
So, there are going to be a lot of people reading this saying “isn’t this just sitting cross-legged?”. And the answer is yes, and no. While yes it is a cross-legged positions when we look at the technique in how to do sukhasana we see that there is more going on that “just sitting”.
- Begin seated in dandasana, then draw the knees up and bring the feet to the floor
- Cross one leg in front of the other, it doesn’t matter which. Let the knees open out one to each side. The feet rest under the opposite leg.
- Root down through the sit bones, to rise up through the spine. Lift up through crown of the head imagine you have a beanbag (or yoga block) on your head. Lift it!
- If, like me, you are prone to back bending, draw lower ribs in towards the spine.
- Imagine a line from the head, to the heart and down to the hips
- The arms can rest in a variety of positions. Either down the sides, or hands at the heart in prayer. Perhaps the hands come to the knees and you take a mudra. Or rest the hands in the lap.
- Imagine a line from the head, to the heart and down to the hips
- Remember to SWITCH LEGS. Take 8-10 breaths with the legs crossed one way. The uncross and recross in the opposite configuration.
Now that you know how it should feel, and look. How does it actually feel and look? Take time to experience both sides. How are they different?
Sukhasana high knees
While this looks like an easy pose (maybe hence the name?) it really can be painful for many people. Whether you have tight hips, knee pain or ankle discomfort there are options and variations you can try to make things more comfortable.
If your knees are super high and your hips just won’t open. First of all, don’t force them! I suggest using props. Grab a bolster, blocks or a blanket, and sit on them. Get a butt lift with props.
This can change the pose so dramatically that suddenly this pose becomes accessible for longer periods of time. This is one of the quickest fixes for this pose. And, it’s the first thing I suggest for beginners as it can fix a lot of issues.
Sukhasana Knee Pain
If knee pain is your issue there is a fix for that too. And yes, it involves more props! If lifting the pelvis doesn’t help the knees, and it’s worth trying, then let the feet be further away from the body.
Offer some support for the legs. Either with blocks, bolsters, cushions or blankets. The feet do not have to be close in to the crotch. Especially if that’s not comfortable for your body. Ease the legs away, and provide support.
Ankle pain sitting cross legged
One other area that can feel uncomfortable in this pose is the ankles. Especially those of us, me, that have pronounced ‘boney’ ankles. For this I whip out my blanket and use that underneath my body.
Honestly, I use my blanket for a lot of yoga poses for cushion against a hard wood floor. A thin sticky yoga mat is great for balance and flow, but it’s short on comfort for more mature bones. Grab a blanket or cushion!
Knee height discrepency?
When you switch the leg that is in front how does it feel? Different this side? For me, my right leg opens more than my left. So, there is a big difference in knee height and my left leg feels like it’s ‘gripping’. It’s just not comfy.
To help with this I use props to pad that side. Using a blanket and block I can support the leg and let the hip relax. The second side may always feel unnatural because it’s likely you do it less. Because, it feels unnatural. Then, we have a catch 22 situation. Support, breathe, stay.
While we may now enjoy sitting in sukhasana in comfort, what are the benefits of this pose? Well, if it looks like meditation you are on the right track. But, there are so many more benefits to this cross legged easy pose.
- Strengthens back body – sitting in this position as described above, can strengthen the posterior muscles of the core
- Stretches knees/ankles – However, this may cause discomfort. Use the tips you’ve learned above to support.
- Opens hips – It can be a great prep pose for butterfly pose, or pigeon.
- Activate the base chakra – Because we connect the sit bones of the pelvis to the earth we can connect and unlock the muladhara chakra.
- Aids meditation – Again, when we think of this pose we may think “meditation”. But if you struggle to meditate due to comfort, then using these tips and taking time to explore supportive variations will help.
- Clears and calms the mind – because we associate this pose with meditation we may automatically begin to clear our mind and focus on the breath in this pose.
- Reduce anxiety & stress – As we find comfort, and ease in the pose. We can focus on the breath, allowing our stress and anxiety to reduce greatly.
So, how was Sukhasana for you? Easy? Maybe, try some of the variations, tips and tricks in your next practice. Or even just for meditation.
- What joint it your least flexible?
- Do you sit a lot?
- Can you do the pose?
Hi, thanks for such a great article! This position really gives me a hard time. Ankle pain, back pain.. and very high knees. Is there something I can do about those knees? How to push them lower? Is there a chance that with training I could eventually put the knees on the ground or is it just anatomically impossible.. thanks!
Hi Niki, Yes there is something you can do! Go read this post about improving a yoga pose, then and see how I did it! 5 years ago my knees were in my armpits in butterfly, now I have them down almost to the floor. The key is letting go of your ego and using support under the butt! I cannot stress this enough, SUPPORT!!! DO NOT PUSH THEM LOWER!!! It took me a LONG time but I got there!
Thanks! Great video! I can never quite figure out what to do with my feet. From all the videos and instructions I’ve looked at, you are supposed to keep your feet perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other, resting on the outside edges of your feet with your toes pointing forward and peeking out from under your shins. I feel like my feet are getting horribly squashed when I sit this way, especially the one closest to my body. I’m much more comfortable with the tops of my feet resting on the floor, tucked under my thighs. Any tips?
In the pose the tops of my feet rest on the floor too and tuck under my thighs. This is more a hybrid of sukhasana and siddhasana. IMO from an anatomy perspective, the folks with less open hips sit with toes forward and feet parallel, allowing the legs to rest on the feet for support. Go with what’s comfortable. There is no “right way”. Sukasana is the base pose, then more challenging is siddhasana (feet closer to pelvis and tops of feet on floor as you described). I need to do a A vs B post!
This is something new for me but definitely something I can use to reduce hip pains.
For sure! Great for those of us that need some support.
As I am getting older I find that I probably need to work on my flexibility more and these different variations on how to do the sukhasana pose look like a great place to start for myself. Plus, I love all the tools you can use to make it a lot more easier since I am as stiff as a board.
All about the props!
I love yoga. It’s a stress releaser
It really is!
It’s definitely a pose to use often
Thanks for sharing it.
Awesome! How do you feel in the pose?
I literally tried to cross my legs and I thought that’s it my back is gone. This clearly showed me I need more exercises and stretches to increase flexibility.
I think we all need more movement right now! I know I’been guilty of too much computer time! Do you struggle with back issues?
I need to workout more and you offered great poses. Thanks so much. Love it
Thanks. It seems like a simple pose, but depending on your body it can be challenging.
I have been doing this for a week and it really helps your mind to be calm and helps you from the stress. Thanks for sharing.
100% it’s a great stress reliever!
My husband has a hard time with this pose. We’re definitely going to try this. Thank you!
Honestly, a lot of guys struggling with poses like this. Tell him he’s not alone!
I love this! I actually do this pose often, and I was aware that it opened the hips, but I did not know all the benefits of this pose. Those benefits are great. Thanks so much for sharing this.
Yep it’s a great pose for so many reasons!