Thursday, 28 July 2011

Asanas for Meditation

There are six essential seated asanas for beginners to learn specifically for the purpose of meditation. Below is a listing of them as well as detailed information on their influence on the body and mind.

Dhyan Mudra (meditation gesture) - begin seated in full lotus position (Padmasana, see below). Place the palms on the knees, wrists facing upward, and palms open. The tips of the thumb and index finger are touching on both hands, forming a circle. The remaining three fingers of each hand should remain relaxed. This is the position of Dhyana Mudra. This mudra is the mudra of meditation. It helps the mind to concentrate on attaining spiritual perfection. As told from the Indian tradition, it is said that Buddha used this mudra when he was sitting under the Boddhi tree. It instills tranquility of mind, rest of the senses and balance of the thoughts, something all beginners to meditation can use.

Swastikasana (Auspicious pose) the legs take the shape of a swastika in this asana. For those of Western decent, this has nothing to do with the swastikas, which we associate (and understandably) with Hitler and the Third Reich. This is a very ancient symbol, however, used throughout India and other Eastern Countries. This symbol has as much significance as the sound ‘OM’. The Hindus use the swastika not as a syllable or letter but as a character in the shape of a cross. Its ‘branches’ bend at right angles to face the four directions. It symbolizes the Brahman or Absolute Truth. It is unfortunate that Hitler used the symbol to perpetuate such an opposite truth, but the word is actually derived from the Sanskrit, from Su meaning good and Asati meaning to exist. Take this position by spreading the legs approximately one to one and a half feet. Bend the left leg in the knee and place the soul of the foot to touch the inner side of the right thigh. Then bend the right leg and place the right foot in between the thigh and the calf of the leg. Rest each wrist on the same knee (left wrist on left knee, right wrist on right knee) in Dhyana Mudra. Breathe deeply.

Samasana (Balance pose) - In this asana the external organs of the body are kept divided in to two, hence the name which in Sanskrit (‘sama’) means equilibrium. Begin by spreading the legs approximately one to one and a half feet. Bend the left leg and place the heel against the procreating organ (in men the testes, in women the vaginal lips). Bend the right leg and place the heel of that foot against the left leg. The hands rest in Dhyanan Mudra. This asana resembles lotus except that the feet are placed differently in order to instigate the genital lock.
Chris (my other half) in Padmasana
Padmasana (Lotus pose) - Padma means lotus in Sanskrit. Your legs will mimic the blooming lotus. The asana has great importance in the Yogashastra. It is believed it is one of the best asanas for Pranayam, Meditation & concentration. Practice Padmasana by spreading both the legs a distance of 1 to 1.5 feet. Bend the left leg and place the left toe on the right thigh, leaving the heel on the groin of the left leg. Then bend the right leg and place the right toe on the left thigh and the heel on the groin of the right leg. Bring the hands into Dyhana Mudra.  This can be difficult for beginners to meditation, but work on it over time.

Padmasana Baddha (Tied lotus) is practiced the same way as regular lotus position, only the hands are crossed behind the back and the opposite toe is grasped with the opposite hand, opening the chest and creating a ‘tie’ with the body. (The left hand should grasp the right tow by reaching around the back and to the side, grabbing the toe at waist level and the right hand should do the same on the opposite side of the body.) In this position the pranic force is redirected continuously back into the body instead of escaping from the hands.

Padmasana Utthit (Lifted lotus) is practiced in a similar manner as regular lotus position with an emphasis on strength. The arms are placed on either side of the buttocks, instead of in Dhyana Mudra, and the entire lower body is lifted off the floor by pressing against the hands. The abdominal muscles must be used as well as all the strength of the upper body. Although not ideal for meditation, due to the asana’s difficulty, this is an excellent pose to challenge the arms and self-determination.
The above listed seated postures are all ideal for practicing mediation as they offer specific physiological benefits to the practitioner. The spine is erect which makes the body in an ideal position for many functions within it to go on normally as we work at being able to sit for up to three hours at a time in meditation. Balance is maintained in the heart, lungs, and digestive organs. Because the organs are positioned in a proper way, optimal functioning can occur. The gravity and anti-gravity muscles remove the weight-bearing load from the legs since they form a triangular base to support the weight of the body. Once the eyes are closed, one does not have to worry about loosing their balance since they are firmly rooted to the floor with the sit bones. The abdominal muscles, diaphragm and all the muscles of the chest endure less stress.
Less carbon dioxide is produced by the body because breathing is continuous and the diaphragm and ribs are moving very slightly. This also reduces stress on the nervous system for beginners and advanced meditators alike, freeing up energy in the body. The mind is able to stay alert and is less likely to fall asleep in these positions, as compared to Savasana, or corpse pose, for example. The pelvic region of the body receives a rich supply of blood, which results in the toning of sacral and coccygeal nerves. Blood from the legs can easily reach the heart reducing the effort of the lungs and respiratory system.
Although the benefits are numerous, these positions should be practiced with an awareness of the knees, as they can become fatigued and sore if the body is not used to sitting in this way. Also, the lower back can become fatigued if proper posture has not been maintained for a long duration before. 

It may take time for the beginner to allow the body to become comfortable in these positions, but their benefits for sustaining meditation is great.

No comments:

Post a Comment