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Advanced Yoga Practices
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Lesson 33 -
A New Way to Sit in Meditation
Date: Fri Dec 5, 2003 5:03pm
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: In a yoga class I went to, the instructor said
one should always sit vertically without back support on a floor mat or
pillow when meditating. I have been trying this and getting pretty sore in
the process. Is this necessary for successful meditation?
A: In a word, no.
Meditation works just fine while sitting on a soft surface with back
support. An easy chair is good. Being on a bed with a couple of pillows
behind us is better, for reasons that will become clear shortly. Don't
meditate in a reclined position, as this can result in sleep rather than
meditation. The idea is to be sitting upright comfortably. We don't want
unnecessary discomfort in the body competing with the simple procedure of
meditation. If it is natural for you to sit on a hard surface without back
support for twenty minutes or more, this is okay for meditation. But few
will be able to do this, and it is not necessary. Less comfort is synonymous
with unnecessary distraction in meditation. So keep it comfortable.
Having said all that, here comes a curve ball.
Once you are steady in your daily meditation
routine and feel you are ready for the next step in your yoga practice, it
is a good idea to put your legs in a crossed position while you are
meditating. This is where the bed comes in handy. If you can get one leg in
so the sole of your foot is against the inside of your thigh with your heel
near your crotch, this is good. The other leg can come in with its sole
resting on the shin of the first leg. It doesn't matter which leg goes
inside first to the thigh. It is your choice. Over time, you can develop the
ability to switch legs, so that either one can be the inside leg during
meditation. Comfort will be the determining factor on which leg to use on
If you are new at this, it may seem difficult.
For most it will take some doing, but we will not be approaching it in an
extreme way. We will take a very gentle, gradual approach. There are
important long-term reasons why we are tackling this now, so give it the
necessary consideration, as long as it does not jeopardize your regular
Making first attempts,
you may find that you are not able to get your inside foot to your thigh.
You may find your knees sticking up in the air, not wanting to lie flat on
the bed. Go as far as you comfortably can, and use pillows to prop up your
knees if necessary, so you can be as comfortable as possible while
meditating. Don't torture yourself, or your meditation, by forcing yourself
into an uncomfortable position. What we want is to gently coax our legs into
a cross-legged position over a period of time. It might happen immediately
for some. For others it might take weeks or months of gentle coaxing. It is
the direction we gradually want to go in. Rome was not built in a day.
As you become familiar with the physics of your
legs, you will find that your knees will more easily come down and lie
comfortably on the bed when the soles of your feet are turned up a bit. The
toes of the inside foot can then tuck under the thigh with the heel
remaining near the crotch, and the toes of the outside foot can then tuck
under the shin. A bed is very good for this, as the soles of the feet can
easily turn up while the tops of the feet sink into the mattress a bit.
Having turned the soles of the feet up, if the knees still have not come
down, feel free to use pillows to fill in the void under them. But if you
are turning the soles up, the knees should come down, just as though you are
heading toward kneeling on the bed with your knees spread wide apart. Use
back support while meditating and developing this new way of sitting in
meditation. You will find that you can get comfortable in this position
after a gentle coaxing period of several weeks or months. If your legs get
uncomfortable during meditation it is okay to extend one or both of them out
on the bed as needed and continue meditating. Or you can switch the inside
leg from one to the other from time to time, and continue that way. Do
whatever it takes to keep comfortable during meditation, while gently
favoring the cross-legged way of sitting at the same time. In time, sitting
this way will become second nature, and you will be able to meditate easily
and not even notice how you are sitting.
If there is a disability
or other limiting factor you can't overcome, and sitting cross-legged is not
going to be possible for you, it is okay. You can still meditate and derive
all the benefits. Nothing is lost. As we take on new advanced yoga practices
down the road, there are ways we can get around the lack of crossed legs.
Crossed legs are preferable, but not mandatory.
Obviously, when we find
ourselves in situations where we will be meditating in planes, offices,
waiting rooms, etc., we just sit normally on our chair without any special
position for the legs. But when we are meditating at home, we always favor
(with comfort) the cross-legged way of sitting just described. It is an
important preparation that will form the foundation for a dramatic stage of
our spiritual transformation as we add additional advanced yoga practices.
The guru is in you.
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For detailed instructions on deep meditation, see the AYP Deep Meditation book. For detailed instructions on siddhasana, see the AYP Asanas, Mudras and bandhas book.
Also see AYP Plus.
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