Tuesday, January 17, 2012

PATANJALI YOGA SUTRAS = Verse.2.46 = Sitting Posture for Meditation = Aasana Siddhi



sthira sukham aasanam

  • sthira = stable
  • sukham = comfortable
  • aasanam = Posture

Aasanam can mean both – (i) the Body Posture of sitting and the (ii) seat / place on/at which the Sadhaka sits. 

Patanjali does not prescribe difficult, unstable methods of sitting. The need and use of aasanam is - to ensure that the Sadhaka is able to sit comfortably and in a stable manner – for the length of his meditation.

Such an aasanam can differ from person to person – depending on his age, flexibility of the body, health conditions and so on.

There is no rigid rule on how to sit for meditation. Ensure that you are able to sit in comfort and with stability. Comfortable posture of sitting implies that – body must not pose any pains and obstructions for meditation. You must be able to forget the body – once you sit for meditation.

The ability to sit comfortably and in stability for the period of meditation – is usually called aasana siddhi. It just means – the ability or skill to sit in comfort and stability for the period of meditation – without any restlessness and fidgeting.

If you have started your Yoga practices at a reasonably early age, you can sit in padmasana, vajrasana and so on. But, if you have started at a later age when your bones and muscles are rigid, you can improvise in any posture of sitting – but sit in stability and comfort for a reasonable period of meditation. 

If you practice Soorya Namaskaar in early morning hours for a few days – and continue it thereafter – slowly, your bones and muscles will allow you to sit stably and comfortably for sufficient time. Never force your body into painful exercises. It is not advocated by Patanjali. Body is an implement. It is unique for each Individual. Each Individual can therefore choose that aasanam which is suitable and satisfies the twin conditions of stability and comfort.

The place of sitting is also called aasanam. Lord Krishna has given some guidelines in the Dhyana Yoga Chapter of Bhagavad Gita for the Purpose. Choose a slightly raised pedestal, but not too high, so that you are not disturbed by insects etc. Choose a reasonably calm, cool, silent and pleasant environment  for your yoga Practices. On the Pedestal, place a blanket or some thick, soft cloth, so that the sitting place is not rough. Lord Krishna prescribes Kusa Grass, deer skin and cloth one on top of the other. In modern days, we can improvise with a thick, soft blanket – or some specially made Yoga Mats.

"Stable" also means – that the upper body must be reasonably erect (while being comfortable) with the backbone reasonably straight. Aasanam – also implies that one must be seated. Standing or walking or Seershasanam (head resting on earth and feet pointing up) type of aasanas are not suitable for Yoga. Also, no Yoga practices can be done in a lying down posture.Aasana implies a sitting posture only.

Is it permissible to sit in a chair for meditation? In modern days, this question too arises. 

All that can be said is – wherever possible, sit on the floor – on which you can erect a slightly raised, firm platform / pedestal, for sitting. If sitting on floor or pedestal is not at all possible for you – choose a comfortable chair. The back of the chair must however be erect. The back bone needs to be erect, stable and comfortable for meditation. But, do not keep backbone also stiff and rigid.

Some people place too much emphasis on aasana siddhi – in sitting in particular Postures for very long durations. Patanjali never meant any such rigidities in aasanam. Neither did Lord Krishna.  It is possible to achieve deep meditation in  short durations also – if your aasanam is stable and comfortable. If not – the ability to sit for long durations – with some part of you seeking your attention and you ignoring it – is of no use. That will never result in meditation.

There are also some highly supportive environmental supports for aasanam and meditation practices. If the Sadhaka can arrange such environmental support, he can perform the aasanam and meditation near a river bank, or in a beautiful garden under a tree,  or in one's own house in an exclusive room reserved for such meditation pactices. 

The room should be clean, bland, but may have pictures of one's ishtadevata, which can be decorated in a simple manner with flowers, and can have mild fragrance.  Those who are accustomed to performance of Pooja or Prayer - can also complete the same, and start asanam - after that for meditation. 

If a slightly raised platform / pedestal is used, the platform / pedestal must be sufficiently wide to cover your sitting are, must be of small height (of just a few inches) to prevent any insects from  reaching your body, and must not make you dizzy because of the excessive heights.

One must not be taken in by some movies showing meditations being performed at the end of a cliff of a mountain and in other risky places. These are not at all desirable for Sadhakas of Ashtanga Yoga. Aasanam must be STABLE and COMFORTABLE. It is the simplest prescription from Patanjali.

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