Lotus pose is so named because of the resemblance of the legs to lotus petals.
Lotus pose has a wide range of physical benefits. As well as opening the hips and encouraging good posture, it is thought to stimulate the pelvis, abdomen and bladder. The position redirects some of the normal blood flow from the legs to the abdomen. This is believed to help stretch the hip flexors and sacral area, and to improve digestion. Lotus pose is also thought to have particular benefits for female practitioners as it can relieve menstrual pain and help in childbirth.
Lotus pose is also considered very calming for the brain and, hence, is widely used for meditation. In this position, breathing slows and pressure is applied to the lower spine, which encourages relaxation.
Lotus pose can be modified for beginners, or those tighter in the hips, by performing half lotus pose. In this modification, only one foot is lifted onto the opposite thigh, the other is beneath the opposite knee. It should be practiced alternatingly on both sides, so as not to create unevenness in the openness of the hips. A blanket or cushion should also be placed under the seat to tilt the pelvis forward, unless the practitioner is very flexible.