At first glance, Lion Pose can seem a bit unusual. A crouched position, tongue protruding out the mouth, and eyes rolled back—not exactly what you typically think of when envisioning yoga.
Simhasana actually looks more like a pose you would strike in front of the camera when someone shouts “funny face pic!” but alas, the free-spirited pose is a refreshing reminder to not take yourself too seriously and to keep your yoga practice light-hearted. In fact, every time I’ve practiced this pose in a studio setting, a soft chuckle always ensues and spreads across the room. It feels good, it looks funny, and overall awakens our inner child.
Etymology & Benefits
From the Sanskrit word Simhasana, Lion Pose mimics the bold stance of the king of the jungle and evokes the lively spirit of the animal. The pose combines both asana (physical posture) and pranayama (breath work) to produce a roaring deep exhalation during the peak of Lion Pose.
In addition, the posture has many benefits. Because the pose offers an airy reprieve from a sometimes rigorous practice (and life), Lion Pose helps release tension and reduce stress. Physically, the pose opens the throat, jaw, and neck which can help with jaw/neck pain and stimulate the throat chakra. It also stretches the face muscles and the chest.
On the emotional side, the silliness of the pose can help boost confidence as the pose teaches to let go of what others think. Read on to learn how to do Lion pose as well as different ways to change it up.
How to Do Lion Pose
- Begin in Hero Pose (Virasana) seated on the shins with knees together and big toes touching. Sit back onto the heels and elongate through the torso.
- Bring the palms to the knees.
- Inhale slowly as you again lengthen from the tailbone to the crown of the head.
Here comes the fun part, the exhalation for Lion’s Breath! As you exhale deeply, do the following:
- Spread the fingers (claws) wide.
- Open the mouth wide, sticking the tongue out and down with the tip reaching for your chin.
- Reach the eyebrows up and gaze up towards the third eye (space between eyebrows).
- Prevent slouching by broadening through the chest and drawing the shoulders back and down away from the ears.
- The exhale should be audible as you make a roar with a "haaaa" sound, emptying your breath.
- On the next inhale, bring the face back to neutral, relaxing the neck, chest, and hands.
- Repeat for at least 8 rounds of breath.
Lion Pose may be uncomfortable for those with knee or ankle problems. Be mindful when entering and exiting the posture and use modifications when necessary.
Modifications & Variations
If you have knee issues, try placing a folded blanket on the back of the calves at the knee crease. Creating this extra space should make the seat of the pose more accessible and safe.
Another option is to take a variation of the seated part of the pose. You can pretty much practice Lion’s Breath (the breath work with facial expression detailed above) in any pose. For ease try bringing your seat into Easy Pose (Sukhasana) and then use Lion’s Breath. A few favorite variations include using Lion’s Breath with Lotus legs, in Goddess Pose, and with Cat/Cow.
With the latter, you’ll reverse the typical breath that’s practiced, so instead, inhale as you tuck into Cat Pose. And as your feline transitions into Cow, release your roar with fearless exhale.
When practicing animated Lion Pose, have fun and express yourself! The pose can open your practice to new levels of transformation physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Keep it light but whole-hearted, unleashing the courage within with powerful and cleansing breath work. So take the leap and give it a go!