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Sthira Sukham Asanam (Seated posture should be steady and comfortable.)

Patanjali's basic advice in the Yoga Sutra may sound simple, but many find sitting in meditation painful and difficult. This sequence of poses can help bring ease to your seated posture.

By Linda Sparrowe

The Perfect Seat
Traditionally, padmasana has been considered the meditative posture par excellence. But why all this reverence for the Lotus? According to yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar, Padmasana is the only pose in which all four areas of the body are perfectly balanced: the feet, legs, and pelvis; the torso; the arms and hands; and the neck, throat, and head. When the body achieves perfect balance, Iyengar says, the brain can rest correctly on the spinal column and breathing comes easily. In other words, once the legs are settled in Lotus, the torso can soar upward without any effort and the diaphragm is able to expand more fully.

But getting down on the floor to sit doesn't mean forcing yourself into Padmasana if your body doesn't belong there. Even seasoned asana practitioners who can get into Lotus without a problem may not find it comfortable for long sits. Luckily other seated meditation poses exist and can provide many of the same benefits. If you can't do full Lotus, try Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose). Siddhasana (Adept's Pose) is another sitting pose that comes with sterling historical credentials: The Gheranda Samhita lists Siddhasana as a legitimate meditation posture, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika even promises that it will lead the practitioner to Samadhi if practiced consistently for 12 years. For very many practitioners, Siddhasana puts less strain than Padmasana on the ankles, knees, and hips. Sukhasana (Easy Pose)—sitting upright with legs crossed at the shins and your feet under your knees or thighs—also allows many people to sit upright without experiencing strain in the leg joints. For would-be meditators who cannot conceive of ever sitting in any cross-legged position for more than a just a few labored breaths, Virasana (Hero Pose) also gives a firm foundation; in this pose, you kneel and then sit back onto the floor or a yoga block placed between your feet.

These poses all work well for meditation because they share certain essential qualities. Physically, a good meditation pose should be one you can hold for an extended period, quietly, without fidgeting or fussing. It should provide a solid foundation, a base on which you feel secure and stable. You should experience a balance between release and effort, surrender and exertion, and grounding and lifting. Energetically, you should feel firmly connected to the earth and yet light as a feather. Finally, a good seated pose should bring a sense of clarity and alertness.

Western Challenges
Unfortunately many Westerner practitioners suffer more discomfort than lightness in meditation poses: pain and instability in the knees, tightness and aching in the hips and sacrum, as well as fatigue and cramping in the back muscles. Ironically the Western culture's attempt to find comfort and stability in sitting by creating ever-cushier chairs and sofas has backfired. Our reliance on such props has weakened our back muscles, kept our hamstrings in a constant state of gripping, forced our heads to jut forward, pushed our sacrums backward, and rounded our upper backs.

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Reader Comments

Veena Grover RYT

I started My meditation practice & lessons in 1986, but could not understand the real meaning of Stillness.Body comfort is very important,Relaxation does not come with the thought of how to sit?Make yourself comfortable,either on chair or on floor or on the mat.Each person's body is different.Focus on the breath & relax.The above article is very helpful for all age group students.We make meditation painful, when we keep holding & don't try to relax.Relax, Relax & surrender.

althia

This was such good information for me as an instructor with problem sitting cross legged. I wish there would have been some poses to download for instruction.

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