Why are the asanas a part of yoga? For those that don’t know, asanas are the positions that are held in what is typically referred to as yoga in the west, though it is originally just one part of a yoga practice.
Anyway, what purpose do they serve? Beyond the basic helpfulness of exercise for general well being, their primary value is in strengthening the core muscles of the abdomen and lower back and in improving flexibility.
Why is this important? So you can sit comfortably for extended periods.
Yeah, that’s pretty much it.
The traditional meditation pose people associate with yogis, sitting with their feet crossed up over their knees, isn’t necessary for meditation. It does happen to be a very good pose for meditation because it gives you a solid base on your buttocks from which you won’t need to move, but it’s not necessary.
What is necessary is finding a pose that allows you to not move for the duration of your meditation. It’s also best to be upright, though sometimes a bit of meditation before going to sleep can be done on your back (and can be very helpful in allowing you to fall asleep very quickly).
Why is it necessary to find a pose that has you not moving? Because if you’re compelled to move, then you’re distracted. Being distracted is unproductive for meditation. Also, having a solid base allows you to “center” more easily, which is very important for many meditations (and eventually becomes crucial for all meditations).
Ideally, you’re also going to want to sit as if a force was pulling your head straight up. This forces you to straighten up the spine, which is healthy in the long-term for people without a medical condition that prevents it.
Popular postures including sitting on your knees with a pillow underneath you for support, sitting indian style, or simply sitting in a chair with your hands clasped in your lap.
In conclusion, find a way to sit upright if possible. It doesn’t have to be like a yogi (though if you can do that, try it, it’s a great posture), but you do have to be comfortable and preferably upright so you can center.
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