Yoga - Holding the poses meditatively
by Shameem Akthar
Meditation is an important part of yoga sadhana for an advanced student as well as for a beginner, says Shameem Akthar
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
Though dhyana or meditation is the seventh step in the eight limbs of yoga, it has to be part of a beginner's practice also. Dhyana is in that sense both a progress and a step that leads you towards it.
For beginners, this aspect of yoga is always both an allure and a mystery.
Available literature on meditation too can work up a lather of expectation that may fall short of the true experience of meditation. The pure meditative zone is a very austere experience; it just involves watching your breath or your mind, the latter always a tricky business because the mind hates to be exposed that it is rather trite!
On an experiential level, holding a pose meditatively is when, for instance, staying up in the headstand or a seated forward bend without strain, watching the body and the breath, suspending thought and time, one can be in a space where there is no movement of the mind. This comes when one just focusses on watching the body-mind engage each other, and then, switch the attention to the breath. Between these three points of a triangle, you create a space where everything is suspended, and the sense of one watching oneself is continuous.
Here, in this space, is also where you see the sense of ‘I’ rise and fall. If you can watch this constant bobbing of the ‘I’ (atma vichara), then in the space between two thoughts, that wonderful place is reached where nothing moves. That would be meditation in a pose. There is a sense of tremendous control when one watches oneself because it is here that one can also learn to step back from oneself (vairagya, dispassion).
This stepping back, as an artist moves back from his easel, creates the depth one needs, to destroy and then recreate oneself. This is where a meditative yoga practice may be at it most empowering.
Ardha padma janusirsana
(Half lotus head to knee pose):
Sit on the ground. Extend your left leg. Fold your right leg, placing your right foot high on your left thigh as shown. Press your right knee down to the ground. Now inhale. Exhaling, bend your torso forward, reaching your hands out to grasp your left foot as shown. Your head should touch your left thigh, but this may be achieved only after a few weeks of regular practice. While holding the final pose, continue breathing normally. Release and repeat for opposite side.
Benefits: The pressure on the stomach massages the pancreas, helps control diabetes, develops flexibility, enhances mental focus, is calming, helps treat skin and hair-fall problems and also prepares you for meditative poses like the lotus (padmasana).
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