Aligned and balanced postures our ability to achieve persistence and practice proper breath control. To calm the activity of our thoughts it is important that we understand the benefits to the mind and body that an aligned postrings. You will need to decide which practice position is both comfortable for you and that you will be able to maintain for increasing periods of time. Meditation cushions are one instrument used to manipulate the body so we may achieve alignment.
Any posture that you may choose requires upper and lower body alignment. Upper body alignment focuses from the crown of your head to your sacrum and coccyx bone. Low body alignment focuses on your legs, the region of the body below the sacrum and coccyx bone. This article will focus on the poses of the cross-legged subjected positions: full lotus, half lotus and Burmese positions. Remember, your choices may be determined by your post evaluation because the goal is to be comfortable enough to achieve the stillness necessary to observe your thoughts and eventually eliminate them.
Let's first discuss the names you may find for each of the three positions depending upon your practice. Full lotus is referred to as vajra, kekka fuza and padmasana. Half lotus is also called hanka fuza and siddhasana. The third position, Burmese, is known as sukhasana or agura.
Full lotus and half lotus are the two preferred cross-legged positions. However, to be comfortable in either of these poses requires flexible muscle tone in the thighs and calves as well as open hips. Full lotus provides the ultimate stability because the pose forms a symmetrical posture. Your meditation cushions should be on top of your zabuton and you will sit on the edge of your meditation cushions to form a tripod. If you sit too far back on the meditation cushions you will feel numbness in your thighs. The objective of meditation cushions is to assist you with maintaining a vertical back alignment. Lay your right foot with the pad of your foot facing up on the top of your left thigh. Lay the top of your left foot with the pad facing up on the top your right thigh. Your knees will rest firmly on your zabuton. The zabuton protects your knees as well as your ankles. Rest your hands on your lap with your right hand under your left and your palms turned upward.
Many of us are not capable of getting into this pose; however there are several yoga poses that may be practiced so we may ever practice meditation in this position. The poses are as follows: Ardha Matsyendrasana also known as Half Lord of the Fishes Poses; Baaddha Konasana, the Bound Angle Pose; Janu Sirasasana, the Head-to-Knee Forward Poses; and Virasana or the Hero Pose. These poses will open your hips, lengthen your spine, ground your sitting bones or help to provide comfort with the stiffness of your ankles.
Half lotus is the second pose that provides stability and requires slightly less flexibility; therefore it is a little easier to assum. This is an asymmetrical pose that provides direct energy to the lower chakras, especially the first two chakras so it supports concentration. Your meditation cushions should be on top of your zabuton and you should sit on the edge of either your round or crescent meditation cushions. The objective of meditation cushions is to assist you with maintaining a vertical back alignment. Lay your left foot on the floor under your right leg. Lay your right foot on top of your left thigh. Rest your hands on your lap with your right hand under your left and your palms turned upward.
There are many reasons to choose the half lotus pose because this cross-legged position position tends to calm the nervous system as well as redirecting blood circulation in the lumber spinal areas. Several of the benefits are stabilizing sexual energy; reducing stress which may also reduce your blood pressure; accelerating insomnia, asthma and strengthening the abdominal region. This pose put less strain on your ankles, knees and hips.
Both the full and half lotus positions may compromise the vertical alignment of your upper body as well as raising your shoulders. When beginning to use either of these positions, sit on your meditation cushions in front of a mirror so you may monitor your alignment.
Do not be concerned if, at first, you are unable to assume these positions. There are yoga poses that will assist you. Several poses are Adhomukha Svanasana or down facing dog; Ardha Uttanasana, the standing half forward bend; uttanasana aka, standing forward bend; virabhadrasanal, the warrior I position; and Virabhadrasan or warrior II poses.
The simplest cross-legged laid pose to gain comfort is Burmese. Your meditation cushions should be on top of your zabuton and you should sit on the front third edge of either your round or crescent meditation cushions to avoid numbness in your thighs. Meditation cushions will assist you in maintaining a vertical back alignment. Cross both legs. The top of your feet and knees should rest on your zabuton. Hands are positioned the same as in full and half lotus.
Proper alignment is essential for achieving the benefits of meditation. Faulty posture can result in sleepiness, dullness or physical discomfort. Sleepiness and dullness occurs when your back is not straight and your head is bent too far forward. Remember to maintain the natural curve in your back. Stiffness or tension in the shoulders or a cramp in the abdomen is caused by the buttocks / pelvis tilted backward. This may occur when meditation cushions are too thin causing the hips to lower and the abdomen to cave in.
Another pose to explore is the kneeling post if the cross-legged placed posts are too difficult. This pose is the topic of my next article.