What does the Lotus have to do with Yoga?
by
Caron Bosler

    At first glance, crossing your legs and sitting quietly on the floor seems to have nothing to do with a flower, or a specific one at that. I started to question how this basic pose, or asana, in yoga, came to be so strongly linked with the lotus flower. While the lotus pose helps to open the hips, strengthen the back, and flexibility of the knees, it is also used as a base for meditation, chanting, and pranayama (breathing techniques).
    It turns out the symbol of the lotus flower, or lily, has been a spiritual symbol in Eastern religion for thousands of years. The lotus flower grows from the bottom of streams and muddy ponds to rise above the water and bloom. It symbolically represents being fully grounded in earth, yet aspiring towards the divine. At night, the lotus flower closes, and sinks below the water, just to resurface again untouched the next day. The lotus flower is an iconic symbolism of beauty because it lives in the muddy water yet remains unsoiled.
 

    The lotus flower is actually the asian water lily! Lotuses are 5 species of water lilies, three in genus Nymphaea and two in Nelumbo; both genera are members of the water lily family, Nymphaeaceae. So the connection can be made between the Eastern buddha sitting on a lotus flower, and the white lily, common throughout Christianity. The white lily is a symbol of purity associated with Christ and also the Virgin Mary. In both Eastern and Christian religions this flower represents spiritual unfoldment, and self- realization.
    The Indian Lotus flower symbolizes enlightenment, divinity, fertility, wealth, and knowledge. Many Indian deities are depicted sitting on a fully blossomed lotus flower, or holding a lotus flower. Lilies are often associated in Christianity with Easter and the resurrection of Christ. The Virgin Mary is often depicted with the lily, symbolically representing both her virginity and her purity.

   

The Lotus Pose, or Padmasana, takes its name from the position of the feet and legs representing the petals of the lotus flower. While this is a basic pose in yoga, many Westerners find this pose extremely difficult for the knees and hips. If the full pose is uncomfortable or you find yourself straining, sit in a comfortable variation until your legs are suitably limber to do the full pose. A comfortable variation of the Lotus Pose is to sit with your legs crossed and your wrists relaxed on your knees. Another variation is to sit with the knees bent and the heels in line with your pubic bone. Or, you can do the full Lotus Pose by taking the right foot and placing it on the right thigh so that the heel of the right foot is in the middle of the left hip. Then place the heel of the left foot in the middle of the right hip. The knees should be relaxed and comfortable. The spine should be erect and the chin dropped slightly forward. The eyes gaze softly forward, being neither open nor closed. The wrists should be resting on the knees. Once you are comfortably in this posture, you can use it for meditation, chanting, and pranyama (breathing).
This asana, or pose helps to keep the knees supple and strengthens the back muscles, improving posture. It aids in focusing the mind on inner contemplation, and helps prevent abdominal disease.
So the next time you are sitting in Padmasana, take a moment to connect to what the pose truly represents.

Caron has been teaching Pilates for over 15 years. She received her Yoga Teacher Training from Yoga Vida Gurukul. She is the
author of 3 books on Pilates. For more information please go to www.cor-e-nergy.com