By Shameem Akthar
Shameem Akhtar draws a correlation between the modern discovery that the ankle has nerve endings connecting it to the uro-genital system, and the yogic emphasis on ankle stress
|Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with |
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
It is interesting to note that several poses that are meditative and are regarded as absolutely essential for higher spiritual growth in yoga require you to stress the ankle. The padmasana (lotus), the siddhasana (pose of the adept), vajrasana (the thunderbolt pose) are all ankle stressors! There are several others, like the seated brahmacharyasana (celibate’s pose), mandukasana (frog pose) , padmaguptasana (hidden lotus pose), to name a few.
It is thrilling to make the connection between yoga’s reason for this ankle stress as part of your growth on the mat, and the biology of the ankle and its nerve-endings. The brain has a map of the entire body. In this map, the ankle is close to the uro-genital system which is where several emotions that define us, are released. Not just as sexual creatures, but also sensitive and reactive ones. This closeness was discovered by neuroscientists who found an accident victim who had suffered damage to nerves below the abdomen, actually feeling an orgasm at the ankles! The plastic brain map had realigned its lost sensation to its closest neighbour, the ankle. Perhaps, that is why in yoga too, the ankle-stressing poses are regarded as spiritual. Since the place where the uro-genital hormones are secreted in abundance is also where the sublime ability to control impulses take place.
As a practitioner who had to relearn the art of sitting in the lotus, I can agree with that connection. Many people who try the lotus will shy off, simply because of the excruciating pain the pose generates at the ankle joints. Even those who can do it, may find it very challenging to be able to meditate in it for long. So, the lotus, and similar poses, also are barometers of how much pain you can tolerate. An interesting thing about such pain on the mat is not that it actually goes off, but somehow, through discipline, you find that it is possible to shunt it from the foreground of your mind, to its background, where its nagging is not intrusive. That is a powerful experience and can become a habit in how you deal with emotional turmoil too.
The seated half-lotus pose is a good preparatory pose for the full one. You may do it first with the right foot on top, and then after a while switch the leg, to do it with the left on top. This way, both legs will feel the intensity of pose equally. It is a good idea to use this pose for meditation or pranayama, to build your stamina for the full lotus.
Sit with the legs out. Fold the left leg at knee, to place left foot on top of right thigh. Then fold the right leg at knee, to place right foot under left thigh (in a full lotus pose the foot would be over the thigh, not under it). Keep your hands in the appropriate mudra (hand gesture). In pranayama, between different practices, you may switch the legs.
Benefits: Prepares you for the full lotus. Used in calming the mind. Opens the hip joint. Helps prevent back from slumping while seated.
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