How do I approach the Lion Pose?
The same way I approach a lion—either not at all or from a safe distance.
I confess that up until this time, I have not made the pose a consistent part of my practice. It requires effort to overcome my resistance to sticking out my tongue, rolling my eyes to the heavens and roaring. It’s not like me, I think.
Maybe it’s normal to avoid looking silly or to care too much about what other people think. But this kind of self-consciousness is not helpful. The Lion Pose challenges me to be bold, to be direct, to overcome fears. What if I were like this king of the beasts, afraid of nothing?
In some yoga traditions, the Lion Pose is practiced with the breath being simply exhaled. I’ve been taught to roar as I spring forward. Whichever method is used, the jaw is wide open, the tongue is stretched out, the breath is powerful. There is an obvious connection to the organs of speech. The aggressiveness of the position reminds me of anger, and awakens old fears of anger and all the ways I protect myself.
How much of my life has been spent in fear, trying to avoid anger? How much time have I spent restricting myself to quietness, to indirect speech, to innuendo so I don’t offend anyone? In the Lion, I cannot hide. If I learn to roar, can I destroy the fear?
Yoga is liberation from limitations, and fear is one of the biggest—a reaction, not a choice. Why should I allow emotions to control me?
I bring Durga to mind, the powerful warrior goddess, who rides a lion into battle and conquers legions of demons. Durga maintains a sweet demeanour, a divine ambience, as she destroys what stands in her way— fearless of being overpowered. What could those demons be except limitations like fear, anger, self-protection?
In the Lion Pose, I am learning to contact the source of power within myself. When I embody Durga’s power, I can conquer my demons instead of hiding them or projecting them out onto someone else. The Lion shows me that powerful emotions don’t have to be choked back or flung out. They can be released with the breath, transformed through sound, and elevated through intention.
Swami Sivananda advises yogis: “Roar like a lion. Don’t bleat like a lamb.” He instructs us to “Sit and roar Om three times, six times, nine times!” He dares us to be as powerful in our spiritual commitment as he was.
As I approach the Lion, it teaches me about courage, about taking risks. I overcome hesitations and tackle fears. At its best the Lion Pose leads me definitely, furiously, completely into the moment without an ounce of holding back. In that moment I experience the refreshing freedom of wholeheartedness.
How to Do Simhasana: the Lion Pose
1. Choose the sitting position that’s right for you, depending on your degree of flexibility and practice:
>> sitting cross-legged, placing the left foot under the right buttock, the right foot under the left buttock (doing it the opposite way the second time); or
>> sitting in the Lotus Pose (Padmasana).
>> bring your weight forward, place the palms on the knees and spread the fingers; or
>> bring the whole body forward, placing your palms on the floor to support yourself. Firm the buttocks, tuck the tailbone and open the chest.
As you move from sitting to springing forward, open your jaws, stretch your tongue out toward your chin, lift your eyes upward and exhale. You can exhale without sound or with a roar, allowing the sound to come forth naturally without straining the vocal cords. A supportive option is to start by chanting Om three times, creating an elevated atmosphere.
>> Do the Lion Pose while invoking the goddess Durga riding into battle on her lion. Ask yourself: What demons do I need to destroy in myself to expand beyond my limitations?
>> Repeat the pose asking: How do I use my personal power?
Swami Lalitananda is a teacher and author of two books, including The Inner Life of Asanas. For five years, she was the Director of Radha Yoga & Eatery in Vancouver, a space that embraces art, culture, yoga and community. She lived and studied with Swami Radha for over 20 years. Swami Lalitananda took sanyas in 1996 and is dedicated to making yoga accessible and significant in everyday life.
Editor: Brianna Bemel