Q: Is meditating in Padmasana (Lotus Pose) inadvisable if I get pins and needles in my legs after 15 minutes? Also, I'm not interested in Indian scriptures but would like to read about raja yoga. What books or Internet sources not couched in scriptures give guidance on how to master raja yoga meditation?
—Owen McGee from Dublin, Ireland
Read Frank June Boccio's response:
Pins and needles while meditating is a common difficulty. When the legs or feet go to sleep, many students worry that they will suffer permanent harm. I've never seen this happen. But if your pins-and-needles feeling occurs in only 15 minutes, try not to be overly attached to Padmasana. Try a less rigorous posture such as Half Lotus. I also recommend the Burmese posture, in which the thighs are spread out so the knees can rest on the floor, with the feet tucked one inside the other. Many people find this easier than other cross-legged postures. Work on being able to sit with either foot inside the other.
Make sure that you have a supportive cushion, so that both knees can rest on the floor and the groins can relax. The pins-and-needles feeling may still arise. When it does, mindfully observe the phenomenon and let go of reactivity.
As for your second question, the core raja yoga text, Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, is an Indian scripture. Often, students want to get to what they think is the pinnacle of practice but neglect the foundation. Raja yoga meditation is practiced within the full eight-limbed matrix of yama, niyama, asana, Pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Practice, and cultivate an understanding of the context of practice. Ideally, this means working with a teacher. Meanwhile, Chip Hartranft's translation and commentary on Patanjali (Shambala Classics) is among the most user friendly and practice oriented.
Frank Jude Boccio is a yoga teacher, Ayurveda practitioner, hypnotherapist, and the author of Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath, Body, and Mind.