The Essence of Yoga Practice
When you started getting into yoga, seated postures didn’t seem that attractive, did they? You wanted to bend and twist your body in all directions, but sitting still in a comfortable position was not your favorite part of the session. Many beginners in yoga struggle with Sukhasana, no matter how easy that position seems at first. The body objects, the spine wants to curve down, you have difficulties keeping your eyes closed, and your mind can’t stop wandering around.
One of the many other reasons for practicing different asanas is to improve the strength and flexibility of your spine and legs, and prepare your body for the sitting positions. Being able to sit comfortably is the main precondition for a successful meditation.
What Will You Gain By Sitting Still?
In Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the classical texts on hatha yoga, four asanas are distinguished as essential postures: Siddhasana, Padmasana, Simhasana, and Bhadrasana. All these are seated asanas. Siddhasana, the most comfortable position to maintain, “opens the door to liberation”. The biggest reason why we practice seated postures is clear: they enable us to meditate. However, we shouldn’t neglect the other benefits we gain from staying calm in a seated asana:
- These postures strengthen the back. Before someone starts practicing yoga, they are unaware of their inability to sit properly. We usually sit in comfortable chairs, so our backs suffer the consequences. That’s why it is difficult to maintain Sukhasana in the beginning of the practice. However, the back becomes stronger after time, and you will be able to sit for at least half an hour without feeling any discomfort.
- Most seated asanas stretch the hips and groins, as well as the knees and ankles (especially Padmasana, Siddhasana and Bhadrasana).
- Padmasana is one of the best poses for practitioners with sciatica.
- Keeping your spine straight is very important for proper practice of pranayama. Achieving a comfortable seated position boosts all benefits you get from breathing techniques.
- Seated postures are beneficial for practitioners with high blood pressure. When the breath calms down and the tension in the muscles is decreased, the blood pressure is brought to normal levels.
- Once you get through the initial discomfort, you will be able to focus on your mind, identify its patterns and learn how to calm the thoughts.
Are There Any Precautions?
Different seated positions are easy and simple for some practitioners. Lotus, for example, is rated only 4* on Iyengar’s scale of difficulty, but some people’s anatomical structure doesn’t allow them to enter it safely. If your hips are not ready for the external rotation, the knees can suffer the consequences. Do not try to force yourself into any seated asana. If you feel only mild discomfort in keeping your back straight, you should practice regularly and slowly move the boundaries. However, if you notice serious strain in the legs or pain in the knees, then you need to work on preparatory poses before attempting to maintain Padmasana, Agnistambhasana, or another pose that doesn’t feel comfortable.
Sukhasana, for example, is possible for most practitioners, but you shouldn’t underestimate it just because it doesn’t look as pretty as the Lotus. It enables you to meditate, so stick to it while you slowly work your way towards more stable, but more challenging postures.
5 Essential Seated Asanas
1. Sukhasana(Easy Cross Legged Pose)
This is one of the most accessible seated postures for beginners. If you cannot sit still because of discomfort in your back, feel free to use a cushion to lift the pelvis. This asana will gently open your hips and lengthen the spine over time.
2. Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose)
When compared to Sukhasana, this position of the legs enables better support for the spine, but requires more flexibility in the hips, knees and ankles. Do not practice it if you have serious injury in the knees or ankles. If you are flexible enough, you can start maintaining it for few minutes and then progress with that time until you can meditate comfortably in Ardha Padmasana. Make sure to change the position of the legs, so you will prepare them both for
3. Padmasana(Full Lotus Pose)
This is one of the most stable meditation postures, so the time spent in working towards it is well worth it. This asana amplifies the flow of Prana through the spinal column. Do not force your legs into Padmasana, since it takes prior experience and significant flexibility to be able to enter it safely.
4. Agnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose)
Depending on your anatomical structure, this can be either a simple or quite uncomfortable pose. The asana stretches the thighs and stimulates the abdominal organs, but won’t be comfortable if your hips are not flexible enough. Avoid sitting in Agnistambhasana if you have ankle, knee or groin injury.
5. Siddhasana (Sage Pose)
This is a very comfortable position for meditating. If your hips are open enough and you can keep your spine lengthened, this position will help you achieve inner peace. Although it is not a difficult posture, the meaning of Siddhasana goes beyond physical complexity.
Sit Comfortably, Close Your Eyes and Break Free!
Maintaining a stable and comfortable sitting position is more difficult than it initially seems. You are not used to sitting still for long periods of time, so your body and mind will try to object. Whenever you catch your mind going away, bring it back to the focus of the technique you are practicing. Seated asanas are the entrance towards the experiences the yoga practice is ready to give you.