Sukhasana ( Easy Pose / Sitting Cross-legged ) - Issues and solutions
List of some of the issues that can be relevant for practising this pose:
· Upper back and neck
· Lumbar Spine
· Circulation in the legs
Upper back and neck
There is relatively little strain in the pose on either the neck or upper back.
However, some people do tend to slouch forwards – a solution here is to
think in terms of lifting the breastbone and imagining the shoulders broadening away from each other.
Some people tend to jut their chins forwards (putting compressive extension into the neck) – a solution here is to draw the chin into the front of the neck
or to imagine the top back of the neck being gently pulled upwards (or both).
A few people will find that in this pose they tend to allow the lower back to curve inwards. Those that do find this will probably find
the degree of lumbar extension is relatively small, so that the adjustment needed is also quite small. A helpful approach is to imagine
the tailbone (the base of the spine) sinking downwards – this encourages the pelvis to tilt backwards slightly and the lumbar spine to
straighten upwards (usually creating a nice feeling of space, length and strength).
Another thing that can help is to imagine the lumbar spine relaxing backwards with each out-breath.
Some people allow their lower back to curve outwards. Problems with this include putting the lumbar spine into compressive flexion
and also encouraging the upper back to curve outwards, tending to thoracic kyphosis type problems. In this case, a solution is to tilt
the pelvic girdle forwards. Putting padding under the buttocks so that the hips are raised a little can, for some people, make it easier to
sit with the pelvis tilted forwards sufficiently. It can also help to put wedge-shaped padding under the
buttocks with the slope facing forwards as this will encourage the pelvis to be tilted forwards.
Circulation in the legs
In this pose the circulation to and from the legs is not as restricted as in many seated poses – however, it is still somewhat restricted. Thus,
when sitting in this pose for more than one exercise, it is a good idea to uncross your legs between the exercises and give them a bit of
a shake, then re-crossing legs the other way. Those with an already compromised circulation in the legs (e.g. varicose veins, thrombosis
in the legs or oedema in the legs [or pregnancy]) should take particular care that there are never any signs that the circulation in the legs
has been compromised (e.g. legs or feet going slightly numb, or pins and needles upon releasing the cross-legged position). Placing the
feet slightly further away from the pelvic girdle can help (as this makes the knees less fully flexed) as can sitting on some padding. Some
will find that it is only the feet that have a circulation issue. This is a result of the veins at the surface of the ankle being compressed
between the bone of the ankle and the ground – putting soft padding under the ankles can help in these circumstances. The main
solutions to circulation issues in the legs are to either hold the leg position for short(er) periods or to adopt a pose which does not restrict
the circulation in the legs as much (Egyptian Pose and Dandasana are better in this regard).
The flexibility (or, rather, lack of flexibility) of the hip joints with regard to outward rotation is usually a key limiting factor in this pose –
however, it simply means that the knees don’t end up quite so close to the ground. It can, however, have “knock-on” effects on
the rest of the posture and, in particular, with regard to the positioning of the pelvic girdle - and thus on the shape of the spine. Also,
if the knees are not close to the ground, one tends to feel “less grounded” or less stable and, traditionally for pranayama and meditation
practices, one is advised to have the knees lower than the hips. For these issues relating to stiff hips, an effective solution is usually to
place some padding (e.g. folded towel or yoga blocks) under one’s buttocks – the stiffer the hips are, the more padding it is usually
helpful to have. Sometimes it can also be helpful to place some firm(ish) padding under the knees and hold the pose while gently
pressing the knees in to the padding – this gives a good feeling of stability (both with regard to the ground and internally).
If the knees are high off the ground this can cause the ankles to have a significant degree of sideways flexion – if this is uncomfortable
you may find that placing more
padding under the buttocks helps – if not, you might do better with a different sitting pose.
The other issue is that some people find that the “bony bits” of the ankles press uncomfortably down into the ground / yoga matt –
placing some soft padding under the ankles helps enormously
(but bear in mind that this might mean you need a little more padding under the buttocks).
Practising yoga in the first trimester is considered by most yoga teachers to be contra-indicated. The only explanation I have
heard for this is that in the first trimester there is a fairly high tendency for spontaneous miscarriage and this could in principle be exacerbated
by yoga (although, as far as I know, there is no evidence for this). Possibly a mid-wife or an expert pregnancy yoga teacher might be able to
give a better explanation.
A key issue here is the reduction in circulation in the legs which makes this a posture to avoid sitting in for extended periods – but
it is usually fine and comfortable if one remembers to move and swap the legs around regularly. This is a pose in which a pregnant
lady can go “to town” in pampering herself by sitting on lots of padding (under buttocks and knees) with her back to a wall and a
soft folded blanket between back and
wall. Aim for a sense of relaxing the back against the wall and the knees against the padding.