Simhasana: Lion Pose

April 15, 2015    BY Anna Petrie

We use our voices to communicate. We can whisper, speak, sing, or scream, and shade our expression with many nuances. When we are nervous, scared, happy, or sad, others hear it in our voice. A friend may tell you on the phone that everything is fine, but you know by the tone of her voice it’s not true. Our voices reflect not only our state of mind but also the state of our nervous system.

As a singer, I felt an uncomfortable tension in my throat when I sang, and my voice sounded shrill. But the harder I tried to force it to be full and robust, the shriller it got. Eventually I came across simhasana (the lion’s pose), and one of its reputed benefits is a melodious voice. Sure enough, I soon found that the lion’s pose released the constrictions and brought energy and awareness to my throat. My voice became more free. I felt the tension release in my entire body, not just in my throat, and after a while I realized that the tension in my voice was a manifestation of deep-seated emotions that I was barely conscious of. By cultivating the essence of a leaping, roaring lion, I gave shape to unexpressed emotions and released them. My recalibrated throat began to resonate with a full, rich, and expressive voice.

Try simhasana when you feel angry or anxious, or when you haven’t expressed yourself the way you wanted. Perhaps you’ll find yourself happier, more grounded, and lighter—emotionally and physically. I did.

The Pose

The lion’s roar is the defining characteristic of simhasana. It’s the roar that releases tension in the body as it stimulates and energizes the throat. When you practice the pose, you will roar with a forceful exhalation, but it should come freely, without constricting the throat. The exhalation results from the contraction of the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor. The muscles of the throat do not force the air out of the body; they simply allow the breath to be released. The exhalation will naturally create a sound through your open mouth. But the roar should not be vocalized. It should sound like a very breathy ha.

Begin in vajrasana, kneeling with your toes pointed backward and your buttocks resting on your heels. Place your hands on your knees. Before you get into the pose, take a moment to breathe diaphragmatically and notice where your breath may be constricted. This will help you notice more clearly what is happening in your body during the pose.

Inhale deeply through your nose. Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue as far as possible, and exhale forcefully by quickly, strongly, and deeply contracting the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor. At the same time, roll your eyes up and focus at the center between your eyebrows. Engage your entire body by lifting slightly off your heels as you push your hands into your knees, fingers spread. As you fully engage the pose and make it come alive, you’ll find the natural momentum from the exhalation propels you forward, like a roaring lion, with spread claws, leaping on its prey. 

When you can’t squeeze any more energy out of the body, soften, relax, and sit back on the heels as you gently inhale. Repeat three times.

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