Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Starting a meditation practice - are you sitting comfortably?

If you want to start a meditation practice in 2017 but are concerned that you cannot sit comfortably to meditate, these poses may help.  The last thing you want when you are trying to meditate is your physical body to be a distraction.  Many of the postures used to meditate are not best comfortable, even the so-called 'Easy Pose'.  The problem is that in the west we are not used to sitting with open hips.  We sit on our sofas with our knees forward, at our desks and driving our cars.  In order to avoid backache also you need to be strong in your core.  Your shoulders need to back and down to keep your shushumna, central energy channel, open.
Did you know that yoga asana practice was actually born out of a need to sit comfortably to meditate for hours on end?  Now I am not expecting you to meditate so long but if you can meditate a little several times a week, you will experience the benefits. 

The following sequence will help you prepare for meditation.  You will need a block or cushion and a belt.  

Supta padangusthasana - If you have lower back issues bend your left leg, otherwise press the back of your left leg into the mat. Take the strap around the ball of your right foot and holding the strap in both hands start to straighten the back of your leg.  Work with the breath with each inhale press through your right heel, with each exhale you may be able to draw your leg closer in.  Continue until you find your 'edge' - that place where you feel a stretch but not a strain. If your knee starts to bend, release your leg back a little.  Now hold both sides of the strap in your right hand and place your left hand on your left hip.  Breathe in and as you breathe out engage your core and take your leg out to the side and up.  If you cannot get your leg higher than your hip, bend your knee slightly.  To come out of the pose bend your right knee, breathe out, engage your core and draw your leg back to centre then down on the mat.  Repeat second side.  

Keyhole stretch - lie with your knees bent, block under your head and bring your left foot onto your right thigh with your foot flexed.  The nearer your foot is to your groin, the more intense this pose will be.  Reach through the gap made by your left leg and hold the back of your right thigh if you have knee issues or right shin if you can reach comfortably..  You could also use a belt.  To avoid neck strain, place a block or cushion under your head. Hold and breathe then breathe out to release the pose from your body.  Make your way to all fours.

Cat/Cow - breathe in and lift your head and chest, breathe out tuck your chin and arch your back and continue working with your breath.  After several moves make your way to lying on your belly.

Sphinx Plank - from a prone position tuck your right toes and press your right heel back to lengthen your spine. Repeat with the left foot then stretch the arms forward.  Breathe in slide your elbows under your shoulders.  Tuck your toes and as you breathe out, draw your navel back to your spine and lift, pressing your heels back.  Hold for a breath or two then move into Extended Child's Pose.

Extended Child's Pose - sit back on your heels, big toes touching, knees wide. Walk your hands forward bringing your forehead down onto the mat or block.  Press your tail bone back and stretch forward from hips to armpits, from armpits down to your fingertips.  When you are ready breathe in and come to all fours.   

High lunge - from all fours, breathe out lift your hips into Downward Facing Dog.  Breathe in and step your right foot forward between your hands.  Keep your back heel lifted, inhale and lift your arms up.  Work your back leg strongly.  To come out, breathe out take your hands down, step back to Downward Facing Dog.  Repeat second side then walk your feet forward and slowly come up.  

Tree variation - take your weight into your left foot, softly bend both knees and reach down to bring your right foot into your left groin (if you have knee issues, bring your right foot onto your left ankle, left shin or reach down and bring your right foot to your left thigh).  If balance is an issue take your left hand to a wall otherwise find a drishti, gaze spot to help with balance. Breathe in and reach your arms up.  Hold for a few breaths then breathe out to release. Repeat second side.

Boat Pose  - come down onto the mat and sit with your knees bent.  Breathe in and as you breathe out, bring your shins level with the ceiling, while lifting your chest. Either hold onto the back of your thighs or stretch your arms forward.  Hold for a few breaths, drawing your navel back to your spine. Breathe out to lower.

Baddha konasana with forward fold - sit on your block and bring the soles of your feet together and close into your body.  Hold onto your feet, take your elbows into your knee creases and hinge forward.  Release the crown of your head down ad take 5 breaths.  

You are now ready to sit Easy Pose to meditate - sit with your legs crossed so that your feet are below your knees.  If your knees are higher than your hips, sit on a cushion or block.  Make sure you are on your sit bones - remove any excess off to the side.  Sit tall with your shoulders back.

You might also like 'Easy Pose - not so easy' - and
'Meditation - ancient help for  21st century stress'-

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