Most yoga asanas (poses) that have history also have a story or a myth behind the shape. Padmasana, or lotus pose, is a seated pose with ankles lifted on top of the thighs, so ideally the knees, thighs and sitting bones are rooted into the earth in preparation for a grounded seat for meditation.
The lotus flower starts as a tough seed. In order to grow, it needs to root down into the muck and grime at the bottom of a body of water, then grows upward toward the light of the sun until it breaks the surface of the water and finally blossoms at the top.
Like the lotus flower, our practice or life off the mat can start in the muck. In order to grow, we need to find roots. As we swim to the surface, the water can distort the appearance of the sun (or light, or Truth) and this distortion can become a source of frustration, concern or despair. However when we break the surface and see the light—or Truth—we are able to blossom as individuals. Even once the lotus—or person, or situation, or whatever—has blossomed, it can still fluctuate between open and closed with the light.
While padmasana looks very calm and relaxed, it can be very uncomfortable or impossible for some bodies. To prepare for this asana, you can move through a series of hip- and hamstring-openers, like eka pada rajakapotasana (half pigeon), baddha konasana (bound angle pose) and supta padangusthasana (reclined big toe pose).