Sitting “Properly” For Meditation

Sage Svatmarama gave us the Hatha Yoga Pradipika with upwards of 50 asana, or postures, to help us achieve the goal of Raja Yoga, or Union with the Inifinte. On the other hand, Sage Patanjali, in his treatise The Yoga Sutras gave us only a handful, and which would teach us to sit comfortably. Patanjali’s aim was to bring us to meditation.

It’s the rare yogi who meditates sky clad on a sheet of ice. More often than not you’ll find the really experienced masters of meditation in a pose like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi here.

Sure, ascetics can be seen with hardly any implements at all to support their practice – no cushion or blanket, not even music or nature sounds. But check out the yogi’s posture. Not everybody can sit like that. And even his isn’t perfect, though damn near close. See how the right knee is floating a few centimeters off the floor and what that posture is doing to his right hip? Barely noticeable, but there – well, maybe it’s the result of the kapalbhati pranayama – the undulations may be shaking him ever so slightly off balance. But see the next.

This baba has the posture down pat, but even he uses a mat, as most yogin do. The ground gets cold. And yes, a real yogi might not feel it when he goes deep, but that doesn’t mean the cold or the hard or the damp won’t make other problems down the line. Maybe these guys are special or come from the South where it’s always warm, because the yogin I’ve traveled with tend to look more like this next guy.

A good shawl wrapped around to protect from the elements as we might just be here for a while, and a sturdy tree to prop up our back so we don’t have to put even a little energy into posture maintenance.

The difference between these two meditators is in the pelvic/ hip joint flexibility that allows for getting the knees flat like that. It’s an important achievement because being able to flatten the legs like that allows you to sit up straight, easily. It takes a bit of work to get flexible like that. Most people can’t do that. The guy on the right actually needs to put quite a bit of attention into keeping himself upright, because without the flexibility, the natural tendency of the upper body is going to be to curve forward, making breathing more shallow and other pains and strains, whereas if he had a decent hard cushion supporting the base of his spine, under the coccyx, he’d be propped up naturally and wouldn’t have to think about it too much.

A lot of people want to get into meditation and just don’t know how. So thanks God for all Guided Meditation videos on YouTube and all the merchandise out there to support people on their spiritual journeys. Business certainly doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Ideally, businesses should exist to add value to people’s lives and support them in their endeavors. God bless the meditation marketers. May their intentions be pure, teachings impeccable and merchandise affordable!