The Reason of Sitting

Mind Body Connection 300x168According to “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”, “Asana” literally means the method of sitting. And as it is written in Sutra 46 that “Sthirasukhamasanam” which means, by transliteration of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, “Steady and comfortable should be the posture”, specifically asana only means a posture which is meant for meditation; Siddhasana, Sthirasana, swastikasana, Sukhasana and Padmasana for example. Other asanas were included later to the system of yoga, and their goal is to bring about the state of equilibrium in the body, equip the practitioners the ability to practice sitting meditation.

This was so surprising to me at the beginning. What does it mean that I have been practicing yoga asana for many years just in order to sit on the floor properly when doing meditation? As a Buddhist, I have learned meditation since I was young as it was a part of school curriculum in Thailand. Sitting cross-legged on the floor seems a common thing we do regularly in Thai society. Why do we need a lot of devoted practice of yoga asana just in order to do something too simple like sitting?

The Difficulty of Sitting

After I became a yoga teacher, I have had many opportunities to take a look around while I am teaching. That got me thinking of what it said in the text. Proper sitting for meditation is not always easy for everyone. Some students cannot sit with both sit bones touching the floor equally the same weight. Many of them cannot have their back straight, shoulders relaxed. Hunch back, forward head, jutting out ribcage, knees off the floor and many other misalignments are, actually, common things for most students, especially western people. And even Asian people, who we often assume that they are more flexible, still have problem with sitting on the floor.

Daily life activities have destroyed our ability to move legs around, arch and round the back, swing arms and shoulders, shake head and many other movements that requires extreme flexibility. We tend to move less, and stick more with the office desk, sofa, computer and iphone. But the seemingly simple and still activity like sitting meditation requires strong spine, supple hips and flexibility of all limbs to support.

My regular sitting meditation is no longer than fifteen or maybe twenty minutes. Rarely have I made it to almost an hour. And I have to admit that it is challenging to sit like that for a longer period of time. My flexibility had also been spoiled through time as I was growing up. Sitting without sore or pain is not easy as it seems to be, let alone having the mind settling in meditation.

Mind-Body Connection

Mind Body Connection 2 257x300There were some times I attended the mind monitoring course teaching by one of my most respected Buddhism monk. He had the explanation about how body responses to the mind which seems making sense to me. During meditation if the body sways while sitting and then we automatically pull the torso back to upright, that is the moment the mind brings us back to present and our body responses to it naturally. Which one happens first, mind wandering or body losing center? Maybe they are reasonable of each other. When the mind wanders, the body sways. Conversely, the easier the body loses its center, the easier the mind gets lost in the past or the future.

So the connection of mind and body is the essential. Body is the vehicle of mind. Thus weak body cannot take the mind to the higher level. Weak mind cannot approach the peaceful moment during meditation, weak body has responsibility on this failure partially.

So I think Patanjali was right as always. His words in Yoga Sutras make sense of mind-body connection.

After this conclusion, what should I do with my yoga practice? Well, I will still keep working on getting my leg behind my head, lifting up and balancing on my arms, arching back and touching toes on my head, and so on with the true belief that all improvement I get from these practices will simply get me right and proper sitting in Sukhasana or Padmasana and doing meditation for an extended period of time.

Model: Nooj in Ardha Padmasana