the lotus : padmasana

(opening up in padmasana)

photo by andrea rollefson

Life isn’t always calm, so it’s nice to take a moment, slow down, breathe and just sit. Frazzled nerve endings get renewed. Breath evens out and nothing seems quite as pressing. This is the gift of the Lotus, the pose of meditation. From a sitting position, rest the mind, feed the soul (the inner Light, the spirit, the essence, the Buddha nature, Christ consciousness … or whatever you call that invisible power that germinates the desire to know and connect, that propels movement toward beauty and unfolding).

As I sit observing body and mind, I imagine a lotus rooted in rich mud, growing through murky pond water to flower in a diffuse freedom of air and sunlight. My mind, too, moves from the gross to the subtle. It feeds off the ground of daily experience, wanders through the fluidity of its interpretations, and occasionally breaks through to openness and receptivity as thoughts release with breath. Shrinking in self-importance, “I” becomes a minuscule speck in an interdependent universe. A warm glow arises.

When I open my eyes, I see the thangka of Tara above my altar. She is seated on a lotus blossom, calm, aware, ready. Floating above the mountains of the world, she rides her double lotus on waves of sky. Embodiment of compassion, Tara symbolizes our potential to care, to respond and expand beyond self-concern. The lotus – which is the seat of most deities in the Eastern tradition – is sacred. The flower is essentially pure and untainted by the mud it grows from, representing the ability to compassionately accept all life and rise above it.

In Kundalini Yoga the lotus is also a significant symbol. The mantra of the Anahata Chakra in the Kundalini system describes “this pair of swans which swim in the mind of the great, feeding on the unique honey of the Lotus (heart) that is the opening of understanding.” Sitting in the Lotus, unfold the petals of your heart and begin to taste this sweet honey of devotion, generating a desire to nourish others with loving and kind thoughts. Like the open lotus saturated with sunshine, we can fill ourselves so full of Light that we effortlessly, inevitably emanate its fragrance of hope, of healing, of compassion.

The Kundalini system maps higher consciousness as a series of seven lotuses growing ever more complex, from four petals at the base of the spine to a thousand petals in the head. As we sit in the Lotus pose, we can explore our unique map to greater awareness from our specific Earthly existence – the family we were born into, the circumstances that shaped us, the conditioning of culture – to the Divine. What is the seed of our potential? What is our essence? How do we grow? Recognize the unity – the root, the stem, the flower – all one, all sacred.

The main gift of the Lotus is sitting still, letting the mind become receptive. Find a position that works for you, crossing your legs to complete the energy circuit and sitting with spine erect and head aligned. The full Lotus is not essential for receiving the spiritual nourishment of the pose. In fact, discomfort or pain will keep your mind focused there. Watch for ambition, which is the root of most injuries. The lotus blossom opens effortlessly but it takes four hours of sunlight to unfold. Practise compassion toward your body. Practise patience.

Warm up the hips with stretches such as the Cobbler (Baddhakonasana), the Window stretch, or a supine wall stretch with the legs stretched in a V.

how to do padmasana : the lotus

    half lotus

  1. Sit with one leg relaxed on the floor and the foot tucked into the groin, the other leg crossed on top with the foot resting on the thigh beneath.
  2. Keep the spine lengthened and the face soft. Place the hands in a receptive position on the lap or knees, or bring the thumb and first finger together in the unity mudra.

    full lotus

  3. Cross each leg over the other, with ankles and feet resting on opposite thighs. Start by holding for just a short time.
  4. Repeat on the other side. If you notice any strain in your ankles or knees, release and come into a half-lotus or a relaxed cross-legged position.


  5. As you sit, visualize a lotus growing from the root upward to the stem, the leaves, the bud, the full blossom opening in sunshine. Relate this image to yourself.
  6. Visualize the lotus of the heart centre opening, and ask to taste the sweetness of understanding.
  7. Sit, watching the breath and feeding the mind on silence.
    Swami Lalitananda's latest book,The Inner Life of Asanas,is a collection of her hidden language hatha yoga columns, from timeless books . She is a resident teacher and part of the collective at radha yoga & eatery - a yoga centre, cafe, arts and events venue at 728 Main Street in Vancouver, BC. Contact her at .

       read more of swami lalitananda's past columns

Copyright ©2007 ascent magazine, first Canadian yoga magazine, yoga for an inspired life