Posture

For broader discussion of meditation, see the Meditation page

yoga pose

Yoga Pose: Image by Piez via Flickr (Creative Commons). Click image for source

Sri Aurobindo on posture during meditation

Nirodbaran: Is there any truth in the demand for an erect position in meditation? People here assume all sorts of postures.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the erect posture helps in the meditation. Whatever one receives in the subtle body is easy to transmit to the physical through that posture. There are so many Asanas and one can get the right position, then the body doesn’t move.

Nirodbaran: The Mother’s body also stoops down in meditation

Sri Aurobindo: Her body is very plastic. It changes according to the nature of the meditation. You know, formerly her appearance used to change.

Nirodbaran: X, we hear, is obliged to get up when the light comes down into his body.

Sri Aurobindo: That means he can’t hold the power when it comes.

[Nirodbaran, Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Vol 1, p119]

Source: unknown

The Mother (Mira Alfassa) in conversation with Satprem

…It’s the same as if I thought it impossible to meditate unless I sat cross-legged and bolt upright! … Fortunately, I lived with Sri Aurobindo, who never used to sit cross-legged. He told me right away that it was all a question of habits – subconscious habits. It has no importance whatsoever. And how well he explained: if a posture is necessary for you, it will come by itself. And it’s perfectly true, for instance, that when necessary, the body will suddenly sit up straight – it comes spontaneously. As he said, the important thing is not the external frame but the inner experience, and if there is a physical necessity and your inner experience is entirely sincere, that physical necessity will come ALL BY ITSELF.[[Such is the case, for example, of Anandamayi-Ma, who was said to be hysterical because of the strange gestures she made during her meditations, until it turned out that they were ritual asanas and mudras which she performed spontaneously. ]] This is something I am absolutely sure of. And he gave me his own example (I had mine, too) of certain things considered dangerous or bad, which we both did independently and spontaneously, and which were a great help to us! Consequently, all those stories of posture and so on are the petty mechanical bounds of the human mind.

[Agenda, May 11, 1963]

Ramana Maharshi on posture(Asana)

Disciple: Which posture (asana) is the best?

Maharshi: Any asana, possibly sukha asana (easy posture or the half-Buddha position). But that is immaterial for jnana, the Path of Knowledge.

Disciple: Does posture indicate the temperament?

Maharshi: Yes.

Disciple: What are the properties and effects of the tiger’s skin, wool, or deer-skin, etc.?

Maharshi: Some have found them out and related them in Yoga books. They correspond to conductors and non-conductors of magnetism, etc.  But it is all immaterial for the Path of Knowledge (Jnana Marga).  Posture really means location and steadfastness in the Self. It is internal.  The others refer to external positions.

(Talks with Ramana Maharshi, Talk 17, 24th January 1935, p 10)

See also: Stabilizing the body before meditation

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8 thoughts on “Posture

  1. Sandeep Post author

    One of Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s Gurus was Totapuri. Here, Totapuri discusses the seating arrangement rules followed by ascetics in his monastery. It makes sense to begin with softer seats and then try on harder seats.

    There were seven hundred naked spiritual aspirants (in the monastery)… Those who were beginning to learn meditation were asked to do so on cushions, for they might feel an ache in their legs if they were to sit and meditate on hard seats, and their unaccustomed minds might come to think of their bodies instead of God. Then afterwards, the deeper their meditation became, the harder were the seats on which they had to sit. And at last they had to sit on pieces of skin only or on the bare ground to practice meditation. They were also made to observe strict rules regarding everything, viz., eating, drinking, etc. As fetters of shame, hatred, fear, egoism regarding one’s birth, lineage, custom, pretentiousness and so on, they were taught to give them up one by one. Afterwards when they developed deep concentration of mind they had to go and travel from one place of pilgrimage to another, at first with other monks, and later alone, and then return.

    (Swami Tyagananda, Interpreting Ramakrishna, Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass, 2010, p 60)

    Reply
  2. Mohan

    I think the important idea that comes out of this emphasis on solid posture is that one should be able to do with having no possessions on his path to “attaining” the Divine (Not that I’m suggesting that one has to abandon possessions for Sadhana). This way there is no excuse for attachment to anything material (practically). In other words one needs not a chair, which he may at some-point in his life have to forego, to carry on his Sadhana. It’s always an advantage to be self-reliant: if your asana is yourself, then you carry it where-ever you may have to go.

    Of course in relatively recent times there have been those greats whose posture hadn’t be “solid” (in the sense of vertebral-head alignment) but were able to attain to That. But I think the permanent damage to their backs is visible.

    Those who have got a good asana are at an advantage in that sense. I wish I’d learnt Yogasana as a kid…I’m sure there are others who feel the same 🙂

    Reply
  3. Sandeep Post author

    Nagin Doshi: How is it that I can concentrate well only in a sitting posture and not while standing or walking?

    Sri Aurobindo: That is so with most people.

    The sitting motionless posture is the natural posture for concentrated meditation – walking and standing are active conditions suited for the dispense of energy and the activity of the mind. It is only when one has gained the enduring rest and passivity of the consciousness that it is easy to concentrate and receive when walking or doing anything. A fundamental passive condition of the consciousness gathered into itself is the proper poise for concentration and a seated gathered immobility in the body is the best for that. It can be done also lying down, but that position is too passive, tending to be inert rather than gathered. This is the reason why Yogis always sit in an asana. One can accustom oneself to meditate walking, standing, lying, but sitting is the first natural position.

    (Nagin Doshi. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, vol. 3, p 10)

    Reply
  4. Sandeep Post author

    Here, Christopher Isherwood discusses the guidance given by Swami Prabhavananda (Ramakrishna mission) on posture:

    The mention of “posture” in my diary reminds me that even my first, pre-Swami sits had been made crosslegged on the floor. This wasn’t in imitation of Gerald (Heard) who preferred to sit on a chair. I think I preferred the floor because I wanted to set my meditation in some way apart from my normal experience of life. Seen from floor level, even a familiar room looks different; it was as if I had put myself into another dimension.

    All that the Swami required was that one should take a position in which the spine was held straight. I could meditate on a chair, provided I sat upright. It wasn’t important to cross your legs, he said. Hindus only did It because they were accustomed from childhood to sit that way.

    I never achieved the classic lotus posture, in which both legs are crossed over the thighs; my legs were too stiff. But I did find that I could make myself quite comfortable cross-legged if I eased the tension by putting a pillow under my coccyx. Before long I could hold this position for at least an hour, keeping a straight back. I even began sitting on the floor like this at parties thereby getting a reputation, no doubt, as a show-off.

    (Christopher Isherwood, My Guru and His Disciple, New York : Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1980, p 29)

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Ways of navigating this blog | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

    1. Sandeep Post author

      That won’t work. You will fall asleep.
      Meditation lying down is possible only after the inner consciousness develops a little.

      Reply
  6. Rose

    I started with sitting upright for a no. of years and then (had) to change to lying on my back due to external circumstances and also because the internal pressure was too heavy at the time. It is true that the meditation experience seemed diffused lying down or sometimes sleep wanted to take over but mostly concentration could prevail. Now after some years I am moved towards the upright position again.
    These things seem to confirm Sri Aurobindo’s statement.. that one is moved to the position required?

    Reply

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