The lotus position is a seated yoga asana, used frequently for meditation practices. It may also be used as part of a standard yoga practice to improve balance and to open the hips. The Sanskrit name for the lotus position is padmāsana; it is referred to as the "lotus" position because the position of the legs is said to resemble the shape of a lotus flower. As in any other asana, this position can take practice to achieve properly, and it is important to listen to the body and not push it too far.
The full lotus position may be difficult to achieve for people who have stiffness in the hips or knees, and it is important not to force it if it causes pain. People with knee damage should generally not try to get into the lotus position, and should instead simply cross the legs if possible. People with otherwise healthy knees should find over time that it becomes easier to get into the position as the muscles stretch and loosen up. It may then be possible to stay in the position for an extended period of time, such as for longer periods of meditation, because this position helps to keep the spine properly aligned.
To get into the lotus position, sit flat on the floor; if this is not possible, a bolster made be added under the buttocks to open the hips more. Then, cross the legs and put each of the feet on the opposite thigh, with the foot facing up. The heel should be pointed towards the ground and pulled in close to the body, and the knees should ideally be touching the floor, but this can be difficult to achieve in the beginning. This is another reason to use a cushion or bolster.
It is important to consider the rest of the body as well. The spine should be in a neutral position, meaning that the person in lotus position should be sitting up straight but in a natural way, not forcing the spine into a ramrod straight position. The shoulders and hips should ideally be in line with the head, though some people allow the head to tip slightly forward, which lengthens the back of the neck. The weight of the head should not be pulling on the shoulders or neck, though, because it can lead to discomfort. Once the body is in proper position, one should experience a feeling of balance and comfort.