Meditation is quite a mystery for many. How do we meditate? How does it help? What are supposed to see or think about when we close our eyes? Do we think at all?
A lot of questions, and only one way to go about it. TRY MEDITATION.
Start by finding a comfortable place to sit in– by comfortable I mean a quiet place, where it isn’t too warm or too cold, and relatively quiet. Sit comfortably, so that your body is relaxed, yet not in a way that induces sleep. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, feel the air gently get into your lungs, filling you with life-giving oxygen, and then exhale slowly. With every inhalation, feel positive energy rushing into you – visualise time spent with your loved ones, your children, your favourite food, whatever makes you happy – visualise it as you breathe in. Relive that moment.
Now exhale. As you exhale, feel the negativity flow away from your body, all the stress of those deadlines, the quarrels you had at work, the pressure of your monthly EMIs, all the things that make you stressed and sad – visualise them flowing away from your body, with your breath.
Repeat for 10-12 deep breaths, or 5-10 minutes. Then bring your hands together – and be thankful for all the good things that you have in your life – and pray for strength to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. Slowly open your eyes.
Yes, meditation helps. Studies have shown that meditation makes you calmer, more positive, and mentally resilient – all qualities that you need in such times….and in general, to live a better life.
from the Sādhana series…
This is a meditative āsanā, and among the easiest sitting āsanās. It can be performed without any strain, and by anybody, regardless of their level of flexibility. We had practiced Tāḍāsana earlier, which is the simplest of the standing āsanās. Coupled with Sukhāsana, you now have a standing and a seated āsanā in this course.
Another point here – I refuse to dilute the names of these methods, by giving them silly monikers such as ‘easy pose’, ‘downward’ facing dog’, ‘upward facing monkey’ and the like. I also refuse to call them ‘poses’. While a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, you wouldn’t like to call it a watermelon instead. Every word, every letter has a meaning associated with it (something that I will explain when speaking of swara yoga and mantra yoga), and if one can take the effort to pronounce names of French perfumes, one can also take the effort of learning how to pronounce ‘Sukhāsana‘.
A few points to note:
- Time to practice – You would couple this āsanā with meditation, mantra japa or mudra practice.
- Place – A calm, quiet and well-ventilated place would do. Since this āsanā is a primary posture, not requiring too much space, it can be done on your balcony as well.
- Yoga mat – is not necessary for this āsanā. A rug would suffice. Not too soft though.
How you do it
Don’t start cold. Perform an initial set of basic warm-up exercises – rotate your feet, your knees, your hips, shoulders, wrists and head, three counts clockwise, three counts anti-clockwise, slowly and in succession.
- Sit with the legs straight in front of the body.
- Bend one leg and place the foot under the opposite thigh. You can start with whichever leg is comfortable. Ideally, the right leg in for males, and left leg in for females.
- Bend the other leg and place the foot under the opposite thigh.
- Don’t pull your feet in too close to your pelvis. Placing them farther away will keep your knees from bending too much. Sitting on the folded blanket can also keep your knees from bending excessively.
- If you feel pressure on your spine, or your hips are tight, then you may use a folded towel or blanket under your buttocks, so that your hips are higher than your knees when you come into the āsanā.
- Place the hands on the knees in Jnana mudra.
- Inhale, roll your shoulders up to your ears and on an exhale, roll your shoulders down your back. This straightens your spine and improves posture.
- Keep the head, neck and back upright and straight, but don’t strain yourself.
- Close your eyes.
- Relax the body. The arms should be relaxed and not held straight.
- If doing this āsanā during meditation, mantra japa, or mudra practice, then sit as long as required. Else, start with a one minute count – progress upto 3-5 minutes.
Gentle breathing, without strain or effort. Take in deep slow inhalations, with an expanded chest, and deep slow exhalations, with your stomach moving towards your spine. Your breathing should not be noisy – rather, should feel like the gentle waves of a calm ocean.
Maintain awareness on the whole body, from top to bottom, on equalising the balance of the body, and on the breath. Try to clear your mind of unwanted thoughts. You do not need to focus or concentrate – just be aware.
This āsanā helps develop physical and mental balance. It helps strengthen the back and increase flexibility in the hips and lower body. It is easy to perform and maintain for a longer period of time without strain, and hence this āsanā serves as an excellent posture for meditation and japa, which require the sādhaka to sit in one pose for an extended period of time.
Things to note
The key to āsanā practice is breathing and awareness. Without these aspects, yog is merely physical exercise.
As you practice this āsanā, begin to move your awareness around your body – a kind of a body scan, to connect with each part of your physicality, and be aware of your physical nature and every aspect of it.