The Lotus Position is a posture used in Yoga and meditation. It consists in sitting cross-legged with each foot placed atop the opposite thigh and the hands resting on the knees.
In fiction, this position is used as a visual shorthand for any character practicing meditation, using Psychic Powers or entering any kind of trance. Even if in the context (different world, time period, dimension, etc.), said character would have absolutely no contact with yoga or Eastern meditation techniques.
Beginners start with a Half Lotus, in which only one foot is resting on the opposing thigh. The Full Lotus is considered an intermediate or even advanced posture. The real-life purpose of the Lotus Position is to be uncomfortable enough to stop sleep, but not meditation. See also the Useful Note.
See Levitating Lotus Position for when the meditator is also floating a few feet above the ground. Compare with Seiza Squirm, its Japanese counterpart.
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The Granola Girl customer in the Direct Line house insurance adverts, who insists the salesman also does so.
Salesman: Is it supposed to hurt? Customer: A little bit.
Anime & Manga
In the 3×3 Eyes manga, Yakumo Fujii uses this posture to contact the Sanjiyan through telepathy.
In Ranma ˝, Ranma and Genma have assumed this pose on occasion; though sometimes they alter it, such as doing it upside-down (head on the floor, crossed legs in the air).
L is shown this way in one of the early chapters of the Death Note manga. He doesn't seem to be meditating, though; on the contrary, he's thinking consciously and hard.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Meditation is an integral part of a Guardian's training. It pops regularly, most of the time in Knuckles-centric stories. levitation comes into play only when Chaos Forces are involved. Besides Knuckles, Locke and other Guardians, other characters that are shown meditating are Espio (comes with being a Ninja) and Guru Emu (more like a tripped-out trance. It's sill his default sitting pose, though).
The introduction of Seraph in The Matrix Reloaded.
God of Cookery has a partial subversion, as a shaolin master sits down like this in the middle of a cookery contest and appears to be levitating — until the camera moves and reveals that he's being carried out by security officers.
In Shaolin Soccer, Empty Hand the goalkeeper is seen in this position above the ground when the Shaolin monks start getting serious. He's not levitating, though, but holding himself up effortlessly with just one hand on the goal post.
Swellhead has Diogenes Club hero of The Seventies, psychic detective Richard Jeperson, come of retirement in the modern era to take on a reality-warping supervillain. In their final confrontation Jeperson gets into this position for a battle of willpower, but not without some assistance from his pretty female sidekick as he's not as flexible as he used to be. The position comes in handy though when the supervillain tries opening a trapdoor to his pit of alligators beneath our hero.
Stargate Verse: Interestingly, it is implied in Stargate SG-1 that Earth Buddhism is somehow connected with the ascended Ancients. It is likely that meditation practices (including the Lotus Position) were brought by them when they returned to Earth. Thus the following examples are found:
Jaffas like Teal'c use this position to achieve the Kelno'reem state, a deep meditation akin to sleep, allowing their Goa'uld symbiote to heal diseases and other ailments the Jaffa may suffer from.
The Lotus Position was apparently introduced in the Pegasus galaxy too. It is adopted by the Ancients trying to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence — and by the Humanoid Replicators copycatting them.
Teyla Emmagan from Stargate Atlantis use this posture when practicing meditation, or trying to contact the Wraith Hivemind. Her efforts to teach meditation to her teammates don't go well, though. Ronon manages to fall asleep while keeping the posture, and McKay (in "The Tao of Rodney") favors more lying on the floor.
Kwai Chang Caine of Kung Fu, regularly. Sometimes barechested.
And Kwai Chang Caine the second in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, naturally.
In Three's Company, Jack and Chrissy are meditating in the lotus position when the doorbell rings. Chrissy runs right over Jack to answer the door, causing Jack to somersault while maintaining the position. (Crowning Moment of Physical Comedy?)
Tara sits in this position when doing a location spell in "Bargaining".
Tara: Willow and I always know how to find each other. Anya: With yoga?
Buffy is sitting on a picnic table this way in "The Wish", causing Xander to address her as "Wise One".
The cover of Technical Death Metal band Gorguts' Magnum OpusObscura depicts an old man seated in the lotus position, although it is difficult to tell this on the CD cover. On the vinyl cover it's obvious.
Japanese pro wrestler Konaka Pale One can work entire matches while in the Lotus Position, even performing complex moves like arm drags and kip-ups without breaking posture.
The rarely seen lotus hold involves sitting on the opponent's back and putting your legs in a lotus position to suspend his arms. It's rare because applying it can be convoluted and the lotus position is actually uncomfortable to sit in for long periods of time. A more common variation also called a lotus hold is to wrap your legs around someone's arms while sitting before them, though it really doesn't look the part (Melina in particular made it look more like a leg full nelson). Another variation is to force your opponent to sit in a lotus position, though its more preferable to have his back on the mat while you press his legs so he can't just push you away and you can maybe get a three count.
In "W.C. Fields Forever" by The Firesign Theatre (off the album Waiting for The Electrician Or Someone Like Him), the listener is given a guided tour through a hippie commune. When you get to the athletic department, you're greeted by Mello Jello, who then says "Okay, beginners — everybody do the Full Lotus Position!" Cue agonized groans and moans, with Mello saying "Very good! Now you are going to stay there until you attain True Enlightenment!"
In the 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons supplement "The Complete Psionics Handbook", the symbol for the Metapsionics discipline is a character in the Lotus Position.
Yoshimitsu of Soul Calibur heal himself by sitting in the Lotus Position.
Poo from EarthBound does this during his Mu training.
In the United Kingdom, the Natural Law Party, a political party who field candidates at general elections, practice "yogic flying"... which while it sounds really cool, consists, disappointingly, of bouncing around a soft mat in the lotus position. Same thing in France with "le parti de la lévitation transcendentale"; largely considered a laughing stock.
Ring-tailed Lemurs do something a lot like this in the mornings, as the sun rises, to soak up sunlight and warm themselves.