We frequently recommended Siddhasana (Accomplished Pose) as the best sitting postures for pranayama. That is because this time-honored asana is not just the oldest but one of the most rewarding of all the meditation postures.
We might be spoiled for choice today. From Padmasana to Swastikasana and Bhadrasana, there are dozens of yoga poses to choose from - each with a unique set of challenges and advantages. Yet nearly a thousand years ago, a sage named Goraksha wrote a telling treatise on 9th-century yoga. Oddly enough, it mentions only two asanas for yoga - Lotus Pose and Perfect Pose.
Things are unquestionably more complex today. Choice is good. We are of the opinion that pranayama posture should be chosen with deliberation. One pose may be better at creating stability to sit for long sessions, another might be better for stimulating the spine, and a third pose could facilitate the optimum flow of prana to deepen your breathing exercises.
Those new to yoga breathing are directed to the Easy Pose or sitting in a chair. The ‘adept’ practitioners, on the other hand, have a wide range of sitting postures to choose from. Ultimately, you will select one based on your skill level, range of motion, and flexibility.
For those willing (and able), the Siddhasana pose is one of the options and a very commendable one at that. In this guide, we unravel its ins and outs and sprinkle them with our observances.
Siddhasana: What makes the Perfect Pose, Perfect?
The Siddhasana pose is a classical cross-legged sitting position used in yoga and spiritual practices. It targets the hips, pelvic floor, and lower/lumbar region of the spine. Siddhasana (sih-dh-AHS-ahn) is widely used in pranayama and meditation because it elongates the spine, provides stability, opens the chest, and balances the blood flow to the lower body energy centers.
The Sanskrit word Siddha can be interpreted in many ways. From a mystic to a devotee to a realized being, the term unequivocally refers to a person who has attained physical and/or spiritual perfection through sadhana. The practice of yoga kriyas in this context.
Siddha (Adept) and Asana (Pose) combine to become the Pose of the Adept. In the West, it is popular as the Perfect Pose, Accomplished Pose, or Adept Pose.
Benefits: Why pick this sitting posture over others?
Siddhasana is a well-balanced arrangement of the body that provides physical stability for spiritual practices. It helps a yogi maintain an upright posture with a flat back and free-flowing spine. One of the main benefits of Siddhasana is that it prevents energy from escaping through the pelvic floor and redirects it up the spine and into the brain.
The heel of the foot pressing against the pelvic floor stimulates the Sacral (Svadisthana) and Root (Muladhara) Chakra. The effect of the pose is similar to Mula Bandha (the Root Lock) and Sahajoli Mudra. According to Swami Satyananda, sitting in the pose can lead to “noticeable tingling sensations in the muladhara region, which may last for ten to fifteen minutes.”
Did you know? In the Shaiva tradition, the term ‘Siddha’ is used specifically for a yogi who has realized the non-duality (Advaita) of the Universe and attained enlightenment. This understanding is called Shiv Anubhava – to experience Shiva within oneself.
Additionally, Siddhasana brings composure to lower psychic centers by reducing the blood flow to those regiosn. Yoga texts state that Siddhasana balances the nervous system and lowers blood pressure. A peer-reviewed study (1) on meditative asanas observed that eight weeks of training lead to a significant increase in concentration (kinaesthetic perception) and movement speed among participants.
Sitting in this pose calms the body/mind and deepens spiritual practices, which makes it an ‘adept’ pose for yoga breathing. A comparative study(2) of three yoga poses noted that participants meditating in Siddhasana had significantly higher oxygen uptake and respiratory exchange ratio compared to those in Savasana or sitting in a chair.
There is - quite clearly - some evidences to the anecdotal claims.
According to Swami Satyananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga, the Perfect Pose is preferred by yoga practitioners because it redirects sexual energy and blood circulation away from the pelvic region and into the lower and lumbar spine. The flow of prana moves to the brain, helping a yogi focus while balancing his/her sexual urges to maintain brahmacharya.
Precautions: Is Siddhasana right for you?
Siddhasana is safe for healthy individuals. The pose is only contraindicated for people who suffer from sciatica or stomach/sacral infections. Although, you need baseline flexibility, range of motion, and fitness levels to perform this (or any other) yoga pose. People recovering from an illness, operation, or injury should avoid Siddhasana.
Never continue any pose if you feel pain or discomfort. In case of excessive pain or persistent discomfort, seek medical advice immediately.
Spread your yoga mat and sit on the floor in the Staff Pose (Dandasana).
Pull the right foot in, touching the heel to the pelvic floor (perineum). The heal should apply firm pressure as it presses against the soft tissue between the anus and testis for men. The sole will be pressed flat against the inner thigh of the left foot.
Women should perform a variation called Siddha Yoni Asana, which is essentially the same pose but with the lower heel pressed against the labia majora. The upper heel is aligned with the lower heel (one on top of the other) touching the groin without applying pressure.
Pull your left foot in and place it over the right foot. Ideally, you would tuck the toes and upper half of the right foot in the fold of the knee - between the calf and the thigh. Place the hands on the knees for now (more on that later). This arrangement of the body is extremely stable, which is desirable to sit for an extended period.
Open the chest and draw the shoulders down. The head, neck, and elongated spine should be in a straight line, perpendicular to the floor. The knees should be gentle touching the floor/ground (or as close to it as comfortable).
You need to fine-tune the pose as you progress through it. Ensure that one ankle is placed on top of the other and firm pressure of the heel is felt against the soft tissue of the perineum.
Note: The instructions for this pose are slightly different for men (Siddhasana) and women (Siddha Yoni Asana).
Modifications and Alternatives
Liberated Pose (Muktasana) and Ardha Siddhasana are easy variations of the Perfect Pose. The general idea is that you don’t tuck the foot (on top) into the knee fold. Instead, you place it on the ground. This reduces the strain on the ankle and knee joints.
It's important to note that several texts make no distinction between Siddhasana and Muktasana. If you still struggle with the sitting posture, revert to the Easy Pose (Sukasana) until your body has the prerequisite range of motion.
What do the hands do during Siddhasana?
The simplest thing to do with your hands in this pose is to place them on the knees. Alternatively, you can form yoga hand gestures (Hasta Mudra) to deepen your practice. Gyan Mudra, Dhyana Mudra, or Prana Mudra are excellent choices for meditation and pranayama.
Get creative with your hands because mudras can serve many purposes. Reference some of our resources to explore simple but powerful yoga mudras for pranayama:
Remember, either leg can be on top. It’s recommended to change the leg on top in every session to develop flexibility on both sides.
A video guide demonstrating Siddhasana using a meditation cushion - ideal for beginners.
Mistakes to Watch Out For
Ease In and Out of the Pose
DON'T lifting your knees too far up when you place the second leg on top. Moreover, don't try to force your entire foot into the knee fold. Ease into the Perfect Pose and rearrange your legs without excessive force. If you find yourself struggling, work on your hip flexibility before attempting Siddhasana.
DON'T omit the heel-to-pelvic floor connection. Not applying firm pressure on the pelvic floor negates most of the benefits of this pose. Be mindful of the pressure applied
Poor Form and Slouching Spine
DON'T let the shoulders stoop or the chest cave in. Sitting upright is not as easy as it seems. Most beginners round the back unconsciously after a few minutes of practice. Be mindful about keeping the spine extended. Using a rectangular yoga bolster under the buttocks might help.
DO use a folded yoga blanket or sponge to ease the pressure on the ankles. It’s not uncommon to feel a little discomfort when you start. Most beginners have trouble with the pressure on the ankles when they tuck the top foot into the knee fold.
Numbness or Tingling
DON'T panic if you experience numbness in the legs after a long session. It is a common occurrence if seated yoga postures. Gently massage the legs for a few minutes if you experience numbness or tingling sensations.
Physical and Spiritual Awareness
DONT forgo physical and spiritual awareness - it's implicit in every yoga pose. The object of your awareness in Siddhasana will vary based on your goals. As a rule of thumb, guide your awareness to the tip of the nose or eyebrow center while yogic breathing and meditation.
In pranayama, linking your mind to the breath will amplify the benefits of Siddhasana.
There is inexplicable variance in the online information available for Siddhasana, and some of it is downright egregious. The two main variations of the pose we have referenced are Siddhasana as per the writings of B.K.S. Iyenger and its gentle-on-the-knees cousin - Ardha Siddhasana. What you may learn or practice will vary based on your choice of text or teacher to guide you.