5 Unique Yoga Poses for Meditation – Easy and working
Meditation is the heart of yoga; it is the quintessential practice. So how does asana serve meditation? How can we use our practice of postures to enhance our meditation practice?
The meditative mind is one-pointed, well-controlled, balanced, and ultimately, perfectly controlled. Most of us are struggling with minds that more closely resemble the other three states described in yoga scriptures—stupefied, disturbed, or distracted. These unbalanced states arise from an imbalance among the three gunas—the three intrinsic qualities of the manifest creation.
The one-pointed and perfectly controlled states of the meditative mind are dominated by the sattva guna characterized by clarity, inspiration, and illumination. The other states of mind have less sattvic qualities and are dominated either by tamas, which yields dullness and sloth, or by rajas, which is the force behind instability, restlessness, and change. Obviously, we meditators would like to maximize the sattvic qualities of mind, and minimize the tamasic and rajasic qualities.
Parshvakonasana (Side Angle Pose)
You’ll notice that the sun salutation doesn’t include a side stretch. Parshvakonasana gives a good stretch along the side of the body, releasing tension that constricts breathing, and stretching the legs and opening the hip joints to facilitate sitting postures.
Step the feet apart about a leg’s length. Turn the right foot out 90 degrees, and the left slightly in. Keep the hips and chest facing forward- Stretch the arms straight out from the shoulders, keeping the shoulders broad and down away from the ears. Bend the right knee to 90 degrees, keeping it directly over the ankle. With the torso still facing front, extend the spine to the right.
Now Rest the right forearm on the thigh and roll the chest and belly up by tucking the tailbone slightly and drawing the shoulder blades in and down. Reach the left arm straight up. Lengthen from the outer left ankle, as you press the foot firmly into the floor, through the top of the head. Deepen the bend in the hip to make the thigh parallel to the floor, keeping the knee directly over the ankle.
If flexibility allows, reach the right hand to the floor alongside the outer right foot. Press the right arm and thigh against each other, and lift the chest away from the pelvis, as you rotate the chest and abdomen open. Roll the left shoulder open and stretch the left arm alongside the ear, palm down. Keeping the neck long, turn the head and look up – Hold for five breaths or until you feel ready to come out, and then straighten the torso up on an inhalation. Straighten the leg, switch the position of the feet, and repeat on the other side.
Modified Agni Sara
As its name implies, the practice of agni sara yields the essence of fire. For us that translates into a quick way to burn off the fog of sloth, and transform rajasic rubbish to an ash which enriches the soil in which meditation grows.
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend the knees slightly and lean forward, resting the hands on the thighs. Focus the eyes on the navel center. As you begin to exhale, pull the buttocks and upper thighs together, tuck the tailbone under, and contract the anal and uro-genital sphincters.
As the exhalation continues, contract the lower abdomen, and finally, as you completely exhale, contract the upper abdomen and pull the entire abdominal region in and up. Release the upper abdomen and begin the inhalation. Continue to inhale as you relax the lower abdomen and finally the pelvic floor and legs. Repeat 10–20 times.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist)
The half spinal twist is one of the classic asanas that stimulates, tones, and cleanses the abdominal organs and gives a strong lateral stretch to the spine and the hips, releasing tension in the back, shoulders, and pelvis.
Begin by sitting on the heels. Slide the hips to the floor on the right and bring the left foot over the right thigh to the floor outside the right knee. Sit up straight and draw the abdomen toward the left thigh. Grasp the left knee with the right hand as you straighten the spine and begin twisting left.
Place the left hand on the floor close to the center of the back of the pelvis, and use the arm to straighten the spine as you deepen the twist. Bring the outer right arm to the outside of the left knee if possible. Inhale and straighten the spine, exhale and deepen the twist. Hold for 7–10 breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.
The arch posture is a simple inverted pose which gives a strong stretch to the neck and shoulders, opens the chest and pelvis, and stimulates the flow of energy through the legs and pelvis.
Lie on your back. Bring the knees to the chest to release any tension in the lower back, spine, and hip joints. Then drop the feet to the floor beside the hips, hip-width apart, toes and knees straight forward. The arms are alongside the body. Inhale and lift the pelvis, pressing down through the insides of the legs and the balls of the feet. Lift the chest away from the pelvis and toward the chin.
Roll to the outer edges of the shoulders and bring the elbows toward each other under the body. Clasp the hands together if possible and straighten the arms, pressing the hands into the floor to lift the chest. Hold for 10 breaths, then release gently down, and once again bring the knees to the chest and the head to the knees to release any tension in the back or neck.
Shavasana and Systematic Relaxation
Whatever your practice, be sure to finish with the corpse pose. For meditators (and everyone else!), relaxation in the corpse pose is of paramount importance. This is the one posture not to skip, even if you don’t do any others.
Meditation starts with deep relaxation and stilling the body, followed by relaxation and stilling the mind until only pure awareness is left. The corpse and relaxation exercises, which range from systematic awareness of parts of the body to shavayatra and to simple body and breath awareness, are important training for meditation.
Lie on your back with the head and neck in line with your straight spine. Support the back of the neck with a thin cushion if your head tilts back. A blanket will keep you warm and help you relax.
Let the legs fall apart so that the feet are relaxed and about two feet apart. Roll the shoulders under and the shoulder blades down so that the palms of the hands come facing up a foot and a half from the sides of the body. Close the eyes and become completely still, letting the body settle into the floor, and deeply relax.
Add Your Favorite Postures
This is a basic sequence that works the spine in all directions and incorporates the major categories of postures. It addresses most of the problem areas for meditators: stiff spine and hips, sluggish abdomen, tension in the shoulders, and abdominal-chest tension that precludes proper breathing. If you have time, add those postures that further address your particular problems.
For example, for stiff hips, try leg cradles or the pigeon preparation; if your inner thighs are tight, try upavishtha konasana or the butterfly pose.
Virasana is useful as a counter pose and as preparation for cross-legged sitting postures. Gomukhasana helps the shoulders and upper back, as well as stiff hips. The crow and related arm-balancing postures, or the headstand and shoulderstand, can help wake you up, energize and balance the shoulders, upper back, and chest, clear a stuffy nose, and deepen the breath.
Then after relaxation, practice nadi shodhanam to further balance the nervous system and quiet the mind, and allow the meditative mind to unfold.
Praying for your peace!
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