December Challenge: Take a Seat

When I first started practicing yoga I was drawn to the physicality of yoga asana, or postures. I'd roll up my yoga mat at the end of practice and wanted to leave feeling like I had worked hard physically. With time I learned that yoga asana was really only a small fraction of the yoga practiced in the world. The word "yoga" is way more than moving your body in a yoga studio.

As I developed a stronger interest in my yoga practice I wanted to tip my toes into other aspects of yoga like meditation. For the longest time I'd set the intention to sit down and do my meditation practice, but every single time I'd get uncomfortable and distracted and move onto something less productive like scroll through my social media feed. Perhaps I wasn't ready for that aspect of my practice, but I have a hunch it was something different. It took some time, like ten years, for me to figure out the problem: I had yet to find my proper seated position. 

You might come across various resources that specifically spell out how you should place your body for meditation. Take the Bhagavad Gita for example. In chapter six Shiva tells Arjuna:

The yogi should sit on a firm seat
That is neither too high nor too low, 
Covered with sacred Kusha grass, 
A deerskin, and a cloth, 
One over the other, in a clean spot.

Now I'm fresh out of Kusha grass and my cats would probably lose it over the deerskin, but that doesn't mean I can't meditate. I sincerely think you should place your body in a way that feels right for you. If you can't get comfortable you'll never get past your discomfort. Would you rather lay down? Then lay down! Do you want to sit on your heels? Sit on your heels! At least for me, I had to establish a proper position in order to make progress in my meditation practice. 

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Initially it was always my back that would irritate me a just a couple minutes into my meditation. It's taken some experimentation and guidance from my teacher for me to find a seat that feels right in my spine. Lately I've settled on propping myself up on a block, bolster, or meditation cushion. I choose to sit in Sukhasana, a variation on Easy Pose, and I sit pretty far forward on my prop so that my lumbar spine maintains its natural curve. From there the rest of my spine seems to fall into place. Occasionally I have to check in with my neck and draw the back of my skull up and slightly back to prevent my chin from lifting up. 

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If you too are struggling with your meditation practice my advice for you is to take some time to establish a position for your body that you can stay in for a few minutes. This might take some time. Add props. Subtract props. Sit up. Lay down. Use a wall. Find something that is comfortable and sustainable. From there your meditation practice might come with more ease. And don't feel like you have to choose the same position every time. Let your position be based on how you feel in the moment. Just like you might modify in your asana practice, it's okay to change things up. 

One last note, and I can't fail to mention this, it's been extremely helpful for me to actually eliminate the word "mediation" from my vernacular. I'm using the word in this post as it's a commonly used word. However, my teacher often refers to this practice as "seated practice". For whatever reason I have this idea of what a meditation is supposed to be. Reminding myself I don't have to do or be anything specific has helped me make huge strides in my practice. 

Just sit. Just be. And drop into your practice.