Simhasana / Lion Pose
June at Reyn Studios means the temps outside are just as hot as those in the studio! The heavy, sticky heat of New Orleans can really take its toll on us. We move slower, feel confined to the climate controlled indoors, and are always looking for some sort of relief. Simhasana (sim-HAHS-anna), or Lion Pose, gives us the opportunity to cool the body with our breath. A seated pose, with many options for modifications to fit every yogi’s practice, Simhasana is characterized by its distinctive roar produced on our exhalations. The exaggerated opening of the eyes and stretching of the mouth and tongue encourages us to embody our inner lion. Utilizing this pranayama tool we are able to unlock our voice, release contradictions in the throat and chest and to bring energy and awareness to our throat.
By cultivating the essence of a fierce, roaring lion we are able to release nervous energy and find new strength within ourselves. Routine practice of Simhasana can help manage anger and anxiety, especially if we feel as though we have not be able to express ourselves the way we’d like. The grounded, intentional power and release we find in Simhasana builds our confidence and gives clarity and conviction to our voice allowing us to use it wisely and to address the injustices around us without feeling burdened, scared or overwhelmed.
Blowing off steam mindfully through Simhasana we can lighten our load and practice. Physically Simhasana relieves tension in the chest and face. Working with the humidity to keep our skin plump and wrinkle free Simhasana stimulates the platysma (a flat, thin, rectangular-shaped muscles on the front of the throat) which when contracted pulls down the corners of the mouth tightening the skin and muscles and smoothing the wrinkles in the skin on the neck. According to traditional texts, Simhasana destroys disease by activating the tonsils and immune system. Lion pose facilitates activation and awareness of the three major bandhas (Mula, Jalandhara, Uddiyana) which help us throughout our entire practice.
From a table top position cross the right ankle over the back of the left. Feet point slightly out.Sit the hips back on the heels, allowing the perineum to rest on the right heel.
Bring hands to rest on either the knees or the floor just in front of them. Fan the fingers out and press down through the palms like a lion sharpening its claws.
Inhale deeply through the nose.
As you exhale open your mouth wide and stretch your tongue out, curling its tip down toward the chin, open your eyes wide, contract the muscles on the front of your throat, and exhale the breath slowly out through your mouth with a distinct "ha" sound. The breath should pass over the back of the throat. Option to lift slightly off the heels and you push into the hands and gently arch the spine. Gaze (drishti) at the spot between the eyebrows (bhrumadhya-drishti) or at the tip of the nose (nasaagra-drishti).
Modifications for Greater Access or Depth
Those with knee injuries should take caution when practicing Simhasana and opt for a different leg variation when necessary.
Simhasana can be practices with many leg variations.
Legs Uncrossed (Vajrasana is a kneeling pose- sometimes called thunderbolt)
Legs Crossed in front of you in Sukhasana or Siddhasana (Easy pose- can find more space in the pelvis by sitting on a block)
Legs in Mandukasana (Frog Pose- to add a hip opener- for this modification try placing your palms on the floor in front of you with your fingers facing towards you. Keep your hands a few inches from your body, and then lean forward slightly.)
Legs in Padmasana (lotus pose- more advanced variations of this pose walk the hands forward to to tilt the pelvis towards the Earth, fingers face the knees)