Lion Pose Guide

Lion Pose is a traditional yoga posture that involves a forceful exhale and sticking the tongue out, stretching the face.

Written by:

Joanne Highland

Edited & fact checked by:

Jagpreet Kaur

Published Date:

Estimated reading time:

Lion Pose Guide

Key Takeaway

Lion Pose, or Simhasana, has its roots in Sanskrit tradition and offers a unique combination of facial expression, body posture, and breath technique designed to release tension and improve respiratory function. Learn the proper steps and execution for this unique asana so you can confidently add it into your personal yoga pose library.

LION POSE
Alternate name:Simhasana
Difficulty level:Beginner
Pose category:Kneeling
Muscle groups:Facial muscles (face)
Platysma (neck)
Intercostal muscles (ribcage)
Abdominal muscles (abdomen)
Physical benefits:Improves respiratory function, stimulates digestion, and relieves tension in the chest and facial muscles.
Therapeutic applications:Relieves tension in the chest and facial muscles, improves respiratory function.
Preparatory poses:Cat and Cow Stretch (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Hero Pose (Virasana)
Counterposes that follow well:Child's Pose (Balasana)
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Chakras activated:Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
Most helpful prop:Manduka Yoga Cotton Blanket - Yoga Prop and Accessory, Roll, Fold, Stack to Support, Made of Cotton,...
Blanket under knees - cushions and supports joints.

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Like many other yoga teachers, I am often drawn to the rich history and profound significance of more traditional poses. One such gem within the vast library of yoga poses is Simhasana or Lion Pose.

From my perception, this posture is not as commonly known or practiced in today’s modern yoga culture. Despite its somewhat lesser-known status, Simhasana contains a legacy of strength, empowerment, and the potential for profound transformation.

As you learn the correct execution and variations of the Lion Pose, you’ll follow a specific kind of breathing technique. By mimicking a lion’s roar, you’ll synchronize your breath, voice, and body to create a noticeable shift in energy.

The result is a holistic experience that extends beyond the surface of a simple yoga posture. Join me on this exploration to demystify one of yoga’s most dynamic poses, Simhasana. Clear your throat, take a deep breath, and prepare to discover your mighty roar!

Watch our recommended steps for entering, holding, and exiting the pose.

Simhasana’s Origin and Symbolism

The Sanskrit name for Lion Pose is Simhasana. It comes from the Sanskrit word for “lion,” simha. When practicing this asana, you embody the boldness and courage lions represent.

Historical Context

Simhasana is a traditional asana that appears in several classic yoga texts. The earliest of these is the 15th-century Sanskrit text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which includes Simhasana as one of the fifteen original Hatha yoga poses and provides brief directions for practicing.

Traditional yoga teachers and the authors of these classic texts believed that Simhasana held the power to cure disease.

Energetic Connections

  • Simhasana activates the throat chakra, known as Vishuddha in Sanskrit. This energy center governs communication and self-expression. Stimulating the throat chakra is an effective way to release pent-up emotions.
  • Pranayama, or breath control, is critical to performing Lion Pose steps correctly. In this asana, you use a deep breath and a powerful exhalation to affect your energy flow.
  • In the traditional expression of Simhasana, the body’s position engages all three bandhas, so-called “energetic locks” in the body that control the flow of prana.

The energetic effects of Simhasana can bring intense transformation. It provides a cathartic release, allowing your energy and emotions to flow more freely.

Mastering the Technique of Lion Pose

Proper execution of Simhasana requires attention to body position, alignment, and breath. I’ve broken it down step-by-step for each phase of the posture.

Preparation

  1. Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Rotate your lower legs inward, bringing your big toes together with the tops of your feet on the floor.
  2. Press your hips back to sit on your heels, keeping your knees separated.
  3. Place your hands on your thighs. Set your gaze on the tip of your nose.
  4. Take a deep breath in through your nose and grow taller through the top of the head, lengthening the spine.

Execution

With your exhalation, various things happen simultaneously:

  1. Bring your hands to the floor with your arms externally rotated, meaning your fingers will point back towards you.
  2. Arch your back and lift your chin, stretching the front of the throat. Keep your arms straight and press your palms into the floor.
  3. Open your mouth wide, stretching your facial muscles. Stick out your tongue and stretch it down to the bottom of your chin.
  4. Open your eyes as wide as you can and shift your gaze up to your Third Eye, in the center of your forehead.
  5. Lastly, as you exhale through your mouth, make a breathy “haaa” sound, like a lion’s roar.

Finish and Release

  1. Remain in the position and repeat the final steps two or three more times, perfecting your lion’s “roar.”
  2. When ready, return your hands to your thighs and sit tall in Thunderbolt.
  3. Breathe normally for a few moments before transitioning to your next asana.

Breath Coordination

Most yoga teachers provide breath cues during yoga sequences as a way to support the movement. In Simhasana, the breath is the pose’s main focus.

The Lion’s Breath is not a regular exhalation. It’s a conscious, forceful release initiated by your abdominal muscles. Your breath will feel warm as it passes over the back of your throat and exits your open mouth.

Customizing Lion Pose with Modifications and Props

As with most yoga poses, you can easily modify Simhasana to fit your needs and abilities.

Simhasana Cautions and Contraindications

The following medical conditions are good indicators that you’ll want to use a modified and more supported version of Simhasana.

  • Recent injury or surgery to the neck, spine, or wrist
  • Joint issues in the ankles or knees
  • Eye conditions like glaucoma
  • High blood pressure
  • Pregnancy and new moms who are still healing post-delivery

Prop Support

To make Lion Pose more accessible, props can be a big help. You might even try combining these supports to find what feels best in your body.

  • Blanket: Place a folded blanket under your knees for extra padding.
  • Towel or cushion: To decrease the flexion in your knees, place a rolled towel or cushion between your thighs and calves.
  • Blocks: If you have trouble reaching the floor, place yoga blocks under your palms.

To set yourself up for success in Lion Pose, try this Hugger Mugger wool blanket and a couple of lululemon blocks like this one.

lulu's yoga block

lululemon’s Lift and Lengthen Yoga Block

Physical Variations for Accessibility

Joint issues are a common reason for adapting Simhasana. If you have pain in your ankles, knees, or wrists, try one of these altered positions.

  • Hands: Place hands on knees rather than bringing them to the floor
  • Table Top: Try a few lion breaths on your hands and knees rather than sitting back on your heels.
  • Chair version: Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Press your palms into your thighs. Lift your chin and arch your back as you lean forward slightly with your exhalation, sticking your tongue out as you release your breath.

Lotus Pose Variation

Variations can also provide an extra challenge. In this version of Simhasana, begin seated in Lotus Pose.

When you bring your arms to the floor, stand on your knees and then let your hips drop toward the floor with your exhalation and Lion’s breath.

This version of Simhasana requires more open hips, flexible knees and ankles, and strong arms.

Preparatory and Follow-Up Poses for Lion Pose

Hero or Thunderbolt Pose are perfect warm-ups for Lion, as they both start in a kneeling position.

Warm-Up Poses

Before Lion Pose, I prefer to start with gentle neck stretches to release tension in the throat area. Then, here are a few poses I suggest using in a sequence leading up to Simhasana:

  • Cat and Cow Stretch mobilizes the spine
  • Cobra or Sphinx Pose opens the chest
  • Cow Face Pose stretches the arms and shoulders
  • Hero or Thunderbolt Pose will prepare your legs for the kneeling stance of Simhasana

Try combining these poses with Simhasana to create your sequence. If you need guidance on some of these asanas, we’ve got you covered with detailed pose tutorials here.

The Wide-Ranging Benefits of Practicing Lion Pose

When done with proper intention, Simhasana is a highly beneficial yoga pose. It rejuvenates the body and mind on multiple levels. Here’s a more detailed look at all of its benefits.

Physical Advantages

  • It stretches the neck and throat, which feels especially great if you’ve been looking down at your phone or working at a desk.
  • Improves respiratory function by stretching the intercostal muscles (between the ribs)
  • Stimulates digestion by gently stretching the abdominal region
  • Improves circulation, especially to the face
  • Relieves tension in the chest and facial muscles, which are often neglected

Mental Perks

  • Increases concentration
  • Boosts self-confidence
  • Releases pent-up emotion and stress
  • Promotes mindfulness and breath awareness

Therapeutic Applications of Simhasana

Beyond its positive effects on the body and mind, Lion Pose brings many therapeutic and holistic advantages.

  • Emotional release: Extending your tongue and releasing a breathy roar-like sound is a symbolic action of releasing pent-up feelings.
  • Vocal health: Practicing Lion Pose improves voice quality by stretching vocal cords. When you roar, your throat opens up, which can benefit those—like yoga teachers—who use their voice often.
  • Jaw relaxation: Relaxing the facial muscles and releasing jaw tension can help alleviate issues like teeth clenching and grinding.
  • Thyroid stimulation: Stretching the throat in Lion Pose stimulates the thyroid, which is crucial to regulating metabolism.
Lion Pose can help release jaw tension and relieve related issues like headaches and teeth clencing.

Integrating Lion Pose into Your Routine

Including Lion Pose in your daily yoga is simple. It’s a good way to open or close your practice, and it fits seamlessly in a sequence with many other yoga poses.

I often add Lion Pose after a long day at work. It helps me release the stress from sitting at my desk. Not only does it improve my posture, but it also offers a cathartic release of any lingering stress from my day.

This is also a fantastic pose to practice in the mornings to give yourself a fresh start to the day. When I include Lion Pose in my morning yoga sequences, I find myself moving about my day with a clear head and calm demeanor.

Conclusion

Regular practice is essential to feeling the full benefits of any yoga pose, especially the Lion Pose. Make it a habit, and you’ll likely see improvements in your body and mind.

Besides its many physical and mental benefits, the magic of Lion Pose lies in its energetic and emotional effects. Tapping into my inner lion’s roar has been vital to my teaching practice, as I can speak confidently in my authentic voice.

Take a step toward boldness by embracing your inner lion. Focus on your breath, let go of pent-up emotions with your best roar, and clear the way for a more confident you!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Lion Pose in yoga?

Lion Pose is a seated or kneeling posture that involves a powerful breathing technique and an expressive facial gesture, mimicking a lion’s roar.

Can Simhasana be modified for beginners?

Yes, beginners can place their hands on blocks, use a folded blanket to support the knees or practice Lion Pose in a chair.

What are some therapeutic benefits of Simhasana?

Lion Pose can relieve tension in the chest and facial muscles, improve respiratory conditions and thyroid function, and may help release difficult emotions.

What poses should I do to prepare for Simhasana?

Preparatory poses may include Cat-Cow and Cobra Pose to warm up the spine and Thunderbolt or Hero Poses to improve flexibility in the legs and knee joints.

What are some follow-up poses after performing Lion Pose?

Child’s Pose or Corpse Pose are suitable follow-up poses to relax after Simhasana.

How often should I incorporate this posture into my yoga routine?

You can use Simhasana in your regular yoga routine, either at the beginning of practice or toward the end of your yoga sequences before your final resting pose.

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