Physiology of Meditation Asanas
By Gandhar Mandlik (Rishi Dharmachandra)
Physiology of Meditative positions
Meditation is a state of concentration of mind leading to higher states of awareness resulting in to heightened perceptions. To achieve this state one needs to still the mind, control the thoughts, balance the emotions. The process of meditation takes long preparations, one needs to be comfortable for longer time duration. So the meditative postures should help the practitioner steady the body and mind.
All the Hatha Yoga reference books recommend padmasana (Lotus pose), Siddhasana (Perfect pose), Swastikasana (Auspicious pose), Bhadrasana (Gracious pose) and Simhasana (Lions pose) as meditative positions. They are considered the best Asanas, and all other asanas are to prepare the body and mind to sit in these positions for longer duration, typically half hour to 3 hours. The mastery of asana in Hatha Yoga is ability to maintain the asana for more than 3 hours, without any trouble. The above mentioned meditative positions are sitting postures with legs crossed in different ways, offering a firm triangular base to the spine. The spine is erect and all the body parts are relaxed. Hands in Dhyan Mudra or Chin mudra resting on knees comfortably. (Dhyan or Chin mudra helps the mind become relaxed and concentration is easily achieved.)
These postures offer following important advantages required for meditation.
- In these positions spine is erect which allows all the physiological activities go on normally. Physiology says that erect postures create proper balance posture for digestive organs, heart and lungs. These vital organs function at optimum level resulting in increased efficiency and reduced stress.
- To maintain the balance in these positions, brain and other parts (hypothalamus, pyramidal tract, extra pyramidal tracts, cochlea, neuro-muscular junctions) have to work less. Gravity & Anti gravity muscles need not work hard to maintain the pose as the firm triangular base provided by crossed legs reduces the work. Closing the eyes is also possible without loosing the balance.
- Abdominal muscles, diaphragm and muscles in the chest are stressed to the minimum extent. Production of carbon dioxide is minimized so that process of breathing is minimized and continuous movement of diaphragm and ribs do not disturb the state.
- These positions are such that the brain and nervous system has minimal stress, so that mind can be peaceful and relaxed.
- The mind remains alert but relaxed.
- Only the supine position or lying down position is more relaxed than the meditative positions, but there is danger of falling asleep in horizontal positions.
- The pelvic region gets the rich supply of blood; it may result in toning up of sacral and coccygeal nerves. (May be awakening of kundalini which is located in pelvic region, is affected because of these physiological conditions offered by meditative positions but is a subject of research and nothing concrete is known as yet.)
- The blood from the legs can easily reach heart reducing the efforts of heart and lungs.
- Yoga psycho-physiology says that erect spine position offers least resistance to the Pranic energy traveling up to the brain which is awakened through the meditation.
One should start practicing with basic crossed legs position for few minutes and then carefully learn the advance positions like padmasana, siddahasana, swastikasana etc.
There is always a danger of damaging your knees if you stress your self too much.
Best wishes and regards
Rishi Dharmachandra (Gandhar Mandlik)
- Asanas - Swami Kuvalayananda (Kaivalyadham, Mumbai)
- Meditation - Yogacharya Vishwas Mandlik (Rishi Dharmajyoti), Yoga Vidya Gurukul, Nasik.