In the previous lessons, Swami Satyananda described eight exercises to loosen up the body, particularly the legs, in preparation for meditative asanas and other types of asanas. In this topic, we will explain two of the simplest sitting positions, which can be used for various meditation, pranayama, and kriya yoga practices.
The following two asanas are very useful in the early stages of practice. However, the best sitting positions are the classical meditative asanas. These are padmasana (lotus pose), siddhasana (accomplished posed for men), and swastikasana (auspicious pose for women). Your aim should be eventually to sit in one of these classical asanas. Therefore, the exercises previously given for loosening up the legs should be continued so that the more advanced meditative asanas can be mastered in the future.
SUKHASANA (EASY POSE)
This is the easiest of the meditative asanas, and everyone should be able to sit in it. Although it may be used for meditation practices, it has one basic drawback: most of the weight of the body is supported by the small area of contact between the floor and the buttocks. After a period of time, this area soon becomes a little painful. However, this can be overcome to a degree by using a cushion under the buttocks. The other meditative asanas have a larger area of contact between the floor and the body - the weight of the body is supported partly by the buttocks and also by the legs, which reduces aches and pains from developing.
Note: As soon as one is able to comfortably perform any other meditative asana, sukhasana should be discontinued.
VAJRASANA (THUNDERBOLT POSE)
Many people find this asana a little uncomfortable at first because it is a sitting position that few people ever use. At first, the ankles and knees tend to ache, but with practice, this asana will become most comfortable and almost a joy to sit in. Besides being an excellent meditative asana used by Muslims and Japanese Buddhists, it is the starting pose for a large number of other asanas.
The Sanskrit word vajra means 'thunderbolt.' The psychic vajra nadi, which is greatly affected by this pose, is an important energy pathway which carries nervous impulses of the genito-urinary system from the brain. It is the same word that has given the name Vajrayana to a form of Tantric Buddhism, which uses sexual union as part of its spiritual sadhana (practice). The term has various other meanings, all connected with the same subject. As such, vajrasana is said to enable the practitioner to gain control over the sexual functions and direct the energy towards expanding consciousness.
ADVICE FOR BEGINNERS
Beginners may find it difficult to sit on their feet without the support of the arms. A good method for loosening up the legs is to support your body weight with your arms and then slowly lower your buttocks towards the feet. Bear the discomfort for a second or so and then take support of your arms again to release the tension. Then again, lower your buttocks and repeat the procedure. With practice, you will find that the tension disappears, and eventually, you will be able to sit on the feet for longer periods without the slightest difficulty. Remember, the loosening up exercises will also help you very much to make your legs more supple and allow you to sit in vajrasana.
Beginners who find that their legs and feet ache after a very short time in this position should return to the kneeling position and then sit on the floor with the legs outstretched. Bend one leg, hold the ankle, and vigorously shake the foot until all signs of stiffness have disappeared. Repeat with the other leg. Then again, sit in vajrasana.
Vajrasana is one of the few asanas which can be performed after taking meals, as asanas, in general, are strictly contraindicated after food. We actually recommend that vajrasana be practiced for five or ten minutes after meals. The reason is simple: vajrasana is a very relaxing position, conducive to a calm mind and body, so it stimulates the digestive processes working in the stomach.
As we have already explained, vajrasana is an excellent meditative asana and, in fact, is the only practical meditative asana for people who suffer from sciatica or sacral infections.
Vajrasana has one notable advantage over sukhasana: one tends to automatically hold the spine straight while doing vajrasana, whereas in sukhasana there is more of a tendency to slump forwards. For this reason, vajrasana is far superior to sukhasana once it is mastered.
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Saraswati, Satyananda. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Yoga Publications Trust, 2013.