Padmasana, or lotus pose, is a common pose in yoga. This pose is often considered a signature of the practice of yoga, and is often depicted in pop culture and media.
The Sanskrit word padma means "lotus," and this pose is often used to bookend a yoga session. It involves crossing one leg over the other, and may be modified for those who don't yet have the flexibility to achieve full lotus, with both feet atop the opposite thighs. If you sit with only one foot atop the opposite thigh, this is known as the half-lotus.
Calling a cross-legged seated position "sitting Indian style" comes from this position.
When beginning a class with lotus pose, participants are often asked to sit in lotus or half-lotus, whichever they're more comfortable, with, and then to breathe deeply and clear their minds in preparation for the yoga practice to come. This is a great way to prepare the body and mind for your practice.
Lotus pose is thought to strengthen the nerves and muscles of the legs, and to encourage your body's energy to flow upward through your spine, revitalizing you as it goes. It loosens the lower joints of your body, such as your hips, knees, and ankles. Some yogis also believe that it can improve rheumatism and harmonize your body's energy flow and ability to function properly.
With daily practice, your lotus can improve fairly quickly. Many people enjoy practicing the lotus pose because it's also an opportunity to meditate and to reflect on the purpose of the practice to come.
At the close of a yoga session, it can help you to feel the energy that you've regained through your practice, allowing you to gauge your progress.
This basic pose is essential to the practice of yoga and will become a standard part of your yoga repertoire.