In the CHAPTER TWENTY The main object of all meditation poses is to enable the practitioner to sit completely still for extended periods of time. For advanced stages of meditation it is necessary to remain in one position for a few hours without physical discomfort. In fact, only when the body is steady and still can deep meditation take place. The asanas listed are such that after practice they can be maintained without strain and discomfort for a long time. Other asanas do not have this virtue. Furthermore, these meditative asanas keep the spinal column straight (a prerequisite for deep meditation) and they keep the body locked in a steady position without conscious effort. This counteracts the effect of deep meditation, where the practitioner loses control over the muscles of the body.
Beginners to meditation practices can first sit in sukhasana (the easy posture), but they should slowly progress to the classical meditation asanas such as padmasana and siddhasana. Persons with very stiff legs or who are infirm from any debilitating disease can practise meditation sitting on a straight backed chair or lying on a hard bed, if necessary. When sitting in a posture, imagine yourself as firm as a rock. The steadier you are in your asana, the better your concentration and the more one-pointed the mind will be.
After one year of regular practice, you will surely be successful and will be able to sit for three hours at a time. Even people with very stiff bodies should eventually be
able to sit in padmasana if they persevere and do not slacken in their practice. For these people, the practices of Pawanmuktasana 1, 2 & 3 and the pre-meditation asanas illustrated in the book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha are recommended to quicken the limbering process. One should progressively prolong the duration of sitting by one minute daily. The ability to sit in padmasana does not only depend on the flexibility of the body, but also on the state of mind. If the practitioner believes in his own mind that he will eventually be able to sit in padmasana with perfect ease, the mind itself will help to prepare the body.
The classical meditation asanas are: padmasana (lotus pose), siddhasana (accomplished pose for men), siddha yoni asana (accomplished pose for women) and swastikasana (auspicious pose). Simplified meditation asanas for beginners are: sukhasana(easy pose) and ardha padmasana (half lotus pose). Subsidiary asanas which can also be usefully employed for meditation practices are: vajrasana (thunderbolt pose), bhadrasana (gracious pose) and shavasana (corpse pose). We have additionally included vipareeta karani asana (inverted pose) and nadanusandhana asana (discovering the psychic sound pose) in this section because they are used in certain specific meditation practices, although they are not suitable for most of the basic techniques of meditation.
The classical asanas are generally practised in conjunction with chin or jnana mudra which are illustrated in the following section on mudras.
Do not on any account use undue force or strain to sit in an asana. If you find severe pain in the legs after some time in a meditation asana, slowly unlock the legs and massage them. The classical and simplified meditation poses should not be practised by persons suffering from sciatica or sacral infections. For these people only vajrasana, bhadrasana or shavasana should be employed.
Sukhasana (easy pose)
Sit with legs stretched in front of the body.
Fold the right foot under the left thigh.
Fold the left foot under the right thigh.
Place the hands on the knees in chin or jnana mudra.
Keep the head, neck and back upright and straight, but
without strain. Close the eyes.
Relax the whole body. The arms should be relaxed and not held straight.
Benefits: This is the ideal meditation pose for beginners who have difficulty sitting in any of the classical meditation poses. Once the practitioner can comfortably do any of the other meditation asanas, sukhasana should be disregarded.
Practice note: Sukhasana is a relaxing posture which may be used after extended periods of sitting in siddhasana or padmasana.
Although sukhasana is said to be the simplest meditation posture, it is difficult to sustain for long periods of time unless the knees are close to the ground or on the ground. Otherwise most of the body weight is supported by the buttocks and backache develops. The other meditation asanas create a larger and steadier area of support.
Variation: For those who are extremely stiff, sukhasana may be performed sitting cross-legged with a belt or cloth tied around the knees and lower back.
Hold the spine upright.
Concentrate on the physical balance and equalising the weight on the right and left side of the body. A light, spacey feeling may be experienced.
While maintaining the posture, place the hands on the knees in chin or jnana mudra (see chapter 11).
Ardha Padmasana (half-lotus pose)
Sit with the legs straight in front of the body.
Bend one leg and place the sole of the foot on the inside of the opposite thigh.
Bend the other leg and place the foot on top of the opposite thigh.
Without straining, try to place the upper heel as near as possible to the abdomen. Adjust the position so that it is comfortable.
Place the hands on the knees in either chin or jnana mudra.
Keep the back, neck and head upright and straight.
Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Benefits: As for padmasana, but at a reduced level.
Practice note: This meditation asana can be practised
by people who can nearly do padmasana, but who have difficulty in attaining the final pose. It is to be practised in preference to sukhasana.
Padmasana (lotus pose)
Sit with the legs extended forward.
Fold one leg and place its foot on the top of the opposite thigh. The sole of the foot must be upward and the heel should touch the pelvic bone.
Fold the other leg and place its foot on the top of the other thigh.
Benefits: Padmasana allows the body to be held completely steady for long periods of time. It holds the trunk and head like a pillar with the legs as the firm foundation. As the body is steadied the mind becomes calm. This steadiness and calmness is the first step towards real meditation. Padmasana directs the flow of prana from mooladhara chakra in the perineum, to sahasrara chakra in the head, heightening the experience of meditation. This posture applies pressure to the lower spine which has a relaxing effect on the nervous system. The breath becomes slow, muscular tension is decreased and blood pressure is reduced. The coccygeal and sacral nerves are toned as the normally large blood flow to the legs is redirected to the abdominal region. This activity also stimulates the digestive process.Siddhasana (accomplished pose for men)
Sit with the legs extended forward.
Fold the right leg and place the foot flat against your left thigh with the heel pressing the perineum, the area between the genitals and the anus.
Fold the left leg and place the left foot on the top of the right calf.
Press the pelvic bone with the left heel directly above the genitals.
Press the toes and the other edge of this foot into the space between the right calf and thigh muscles. It may be necessary to move and replace the right leg.
Grasp the right toes, either from above or below the left calf and move them up into the space between the left thigh and calf.
The legs should now be locked with the knees on the ground and the left heel directly above the right heel.
Make the spine steady, straight and erect, as though it were planted in the ground.
Benefits: Same as for siddha yoni asana.
Practice note: Siddhasana can be practised with either leg upward and is done in conjunction with jnana mudra or chin mudra. Many aspirants, especially beginners, find it easier to assume and maintain siddhasana for long periods when their buttocks are slightly elevated by a cushion.
Siddha Yoni Asana (accomplished pose for women)
Sit with the legs extended in front of the body.
Fold the right leg and place the sole of the foot against the upper left thigh.
Place the heel inside the labia majora of the vagina.
Fold the left leg and place its foot on the top of the right calf and thigh.
Pull the right toes up into the space between the calf and thigh.
Make the spine fully erect and straight, feel as though it were planted in the earth.
Benefits: Siddhasana and siddha yoni asana are meditation poses in which one can maintain the spinal steadiness necessary for long, productive meditation. They automatically activate two sexually related psychomuscular locks (moola bandha and vajroli mudra) which redirect sexual nervous impulses back up the spinal cord to the brain. They give the practitioner control over the sexual function, which he/she can use either for the maintenance of brahmacharya and the redirection of sexual energy upward for spiritual purposes, or to gain greater control over the sensory sexual function. Siddhasana and siddha yoni asana have a calming effect on the entire nervous system.
Practice note: This pose can be practised with either leg uppermost and is best practised without underwear. It is always used in conjunction with jnana or chin mudra. Many practitioners, especially beginners, find this pose easiest to assume and to maintain for long periods if they place a low cushion under their buttocks.
Swastikasana (auspicious pose)
Sit with the legs stretched in front of the body.
Fold the left leg and place the foot near the right thigh muscle.
Similarly bend the right leg and push the foot in the space between the left thigh and calf muscles.
The toes of both feet should lie between the thighs and calves of the two legs.
The hands can be placed on the knees in jnana mudra or in chin mudra, or they can be placed on the lap.
Benefits: As for siddhasana and siddha yoni asana, but at a lesser level since moola bandha and vajroli mudra are not automatically performed.
Practice note: This is the easiest asana to do among the classical meditation asanas. Outwardly this asana resembles siddhasana. It is, however, different in that the perineum is not pressed by the heel.
Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose)
Stand on the knees with the feet stretched back and the big toes crossed.
The knees should be together and the heels should be apart.
Lower the buttocks onto the insides of the feet. The heels will be at the sides of the hips.
Place the hands on the knees with the palms downwards.
Benefits: Vajrasana alters the flow of blood and nervous impulses in the pelvic and visceral regions. It increases the efficiency of the entire digestive system. It is the best meditation pose for people with sciatica or sacral infections.
Note: Vajrasana is the prayer and meditation posture of Moslems and Japanese Buddhists.
Bhadrasana (gracious pose)
Sit in vajrasana.
Separate the knees as far as is possible while keeping the toes in contact with the ground.
Then separate the feet just enough to allow the buttocks to rest flat on the floor, between the feet.
Try to separate the knees further but without strain.
Place the hands on the knees, palms downwards.
Benefits: This is predominantly a pose for spiritual aspirants as it has a stimulating influence on mooladhara chakra. It is an excellent meditation pose. The benefits are basically the same as for vajrasana.
Practice note: If necessary, a folded blanket may be placed under the buttocks. Whether a blanket is used or not, it is important that the buttocks rest firmly on the ground in order to stimulate mooladhara chakra.
Vipareeta Karani Asana (inverted pose)
Lie flat on the back with legs and feet together, arms at the sides with palms on the floor.
Use the arms as levers and raise the legs to a vertical position, but the back should be at an angle of 45° to the floor, with the trunk and neck slightly bent.
Use the hands to support the buttocks.
Breathing: Retain the breath inside while assuming and returning from this asana.
Breathe normally in the raised position.
Duration: Practise for a few seconds at first, gradually increasing to a few minutes over a period of weeks.
Contra-indications: Not to be practised by sufferers of enlarged thyroid, liver or spleen, high blood pressure or heart ailments.
Note: Vipareeta karani asana provides the basis for vipareeta karani mudra, which is one of the important kriyas of kundalini yoga, used for awakening the flow of
amrit, nectar, at vishuddhi chakra.
Shavasana (corpse pose)
Lie flat on the back with the arms beside and in line with the body and with palms facing upwards.
Move the feet slightly apart to a comfortable position.
Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Do not move any part of the body even if discomfort occurs.
Benefits: Shavasana gives relaxation to the body and mind of the practitioner and is the best pose for yoga nidra and any other practices which require complete relaxation. It is an excellent pose for sleeping. This is, however, the one drawback of shavasana as a meditation pose. Many aspirants, especially beginners, tend to sleep if they attempt to practise meditation in shavasana.
Nada Anusandhana Asana (discovering the psychic sound pose)
Squat on a rolled up blanket or cushion, keeping this beneath the buttocks and between the legs. The cushion should be high enough so that the back is not cramped.
The head and spine must be straight.
Rest the elbows on the knees, and place the fingers on the top of the head and the thumbs in the ears.
Alternately, the index fingers can be used to seal the ears.
Note: This pose is used in the practice of nada yoga, the yoga of psychic sounds.