The importance of full lotus posture?

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Peter W 4 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #2631

    Peter W
    Member

    Prior to TMI and Goenka’s Vipassana, I practiced with Chinese Mahayana Chan monks. They highly emphasized the practice of sitting in full lotus for one hour. My understanding from what was taught was that blood/energy circulation is blocked off from the legs/knees due to the legs being in a knot. And as you meditate, your body will attempt to overcompensate by drawing in more chi (prana/energy) through the breath and strengthen your “dan tien” (energy center at your core) to push the energy flow into the blocked areas of your legs and clearing other energy channels. Late Chan masters Hsu Yun and Hsuan Hua often spoke of going pass the “pain barriers” and achieving bliss (mental/physical pliancy).

    They mentioned that due to to intensity of the pain from bearing the aches and numbness in full lotus, you progress faster in your concentration. They mention full lotus is more effective than half, and half more effective than none. I can see that through the pain, you experience dukkha. However, they teach you to observe it and utilize it as a way to increase concentration and samadhi levels (e.g warding off subtle dullness). Also to realize, it is only a sensation. As often stated, “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” I do notice it’s easier to stabilize attention early in the sit and the mind gets unified around the pain, however the dull pain/numbness does present its own challenge as the sit prolongs.

    They mention that through learning to sit with this pain, you develop patience, endurance/tolerance of suffering, equanimity with aversion, mental resolve, and will power to persist in sits.

    My question is, how much truth is there in these teachings or should I take it with a grain of salt. Does the full posture really speed up progress? I noticed most of the Buddha’s images, he’s sitting in full lotus.

    Any thoughts regarding this topic?

    • This topic was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  Peter W.
    • This topic was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  Peter W.
    #2633

    Chris Gagne
    Member

    So far, sitting in chairs and on an ergonomic meditation chair has allowed me plenty of opportunities to explore pain and work through dullness. I am currently making progress through Stage 5 and do not consider the pain to be helpful at this point, merely a distraction.

    In Culadasa’s “Beginning Meditation Handout,” he states: “Note: Sitting like a yogi in full lotus is not at all necessary for meditation!”

    Stehpanie Nash wrote an excellent guide to posture, here: http://www.mindfulnessarts.org/POSTURE_PEDIA.pdf

    If you find that your pain persists for more than a short time after getting up, you may be causing long-term damage and should consider a less aggressive position. There’s no need to potentially cause permanent nerve damage by attempting to assume a position your body isn’t currently adapted for.

    #2634

    Magnolia
    Member

    Hi dear Peter,
    I give my thoughts—on some of the aspects of your question.

    Culadasa encourages to use the pain wisely in your practice as a way to increase mindfulness. He uses the same quote as you above about optionality of suffering. And probably for other reasons.

    And for me is it helpful, so I answer yes to your question 🙂

    I am at stage four-five and have not had any purifications of past traumas nor strokes of genius ( I think).
    But I have worked quite a lot with pain according to TMI, my experiences have been sometimes:
    The pain subsiding after a while.
    Sometimes Effortless increased states of concentration for maybe 10 seconds where the unpleasantness goes away – like a switch is pulled.
    Pain bothers me less and less.

    A trick I have used is:
    If I have a shorter period to meditate like 15min do I sit in full lotus. Then the first maybe 5 minutes is all occupied with sensing the pain and trying to stay equanimous. It feels like a cacaphony. the rest part does the sensations of pain fade some and I have more concentration. I do this when I feel my mind is scattered and I convince myself to feel some pain.

    #2635

    Magnolia
    Member

    Hi Chris,
    I saw your post now. If I may ask as well? 🙂
    My legs need like five minutes to adjust and walk normal when I persist in pain. Do you think that is to long or okay?

    #2638

    Chris Gagne
    Member

    Magnolia, a few minutes is probably okay, particularly if it isn’t too strong. If it persists or refers, change your posture to be more gentle. I have gotten some of my strongest meditations while sitting in a good upright chair.

    I have heard of one person who “stuck it out” at a Goenka retreat and developed permanent nerve damage, so I don’t see the risk/benefit calculus as being worth it.

    #2641

    Maaike
    Member

    I think it is not a good idea to force any posture. More specifically, I think a lot of westerners are not used to sitting on the ground, because we sit in chairs from an early age. Lotus posture is a nice idea, but I suspect most people need to do quite a bit of prep work for this, months or even years of yoga and/or stretching, before doing full lotus is feasible. It might be easier after physical pliancy.

    Risks of forcing lotus posture would be:
    (1) Permanent damage to the knees.
    (2) Aversion to meditation.

    Working with pain is worthwhile, but personally, pain from Burmese position, or pain from sitting seiza, was quite enough to work with. So personally I really don’t see the point in creating extra obstacles for practice by forcing myself to endure too much pain.

    #2644

    GAudeamus
    Member

    I agree with Maaike. But if you are ready to do the prep work – preferably at a young age, because we become less flexible with age -, and learn to sit it the full lotus position without pain, then I think it is definitely worth the effort. As everything, patience is the key – you cannot force it, but you have to give it time and develop the ability, like every other activity.

    I am meditating in the full lotus position for 40 minutes every morning, and it works great for me. No pain at all, just some numbness during the last 10 minutes, which is no big deal. And by the way – the numbness decreases with practice. Also, it disappears after the session in a minute or so, and my legs feel great afterwards, a little bit like after a workout. I am 57, so this shows it is definitely possible, but I have to add that I practiced for the full lotus several months when I was 20, and have practiced the position since then.

    Also, it helps that I have been living in Japan for over ten years, and am sitting on the floor a lot in my daily life when I am at home, so not only for the meditation. That is definitely helpful for the flexibility. It is astonishing how flexible most older Japanese people are compared to their Western counterparts, just due to the fact that they use to sit on the floor.

    Again – if you feel it is important, put in the prep work over a couple of months without forcing it, with a lot of patience, and you will be rewarded – even very stiff and inflexible people can learn to sit in the full lotus over time. But it cannot be done in a day or a week or even a month in most cases. And on the other hand – I am sure you can attain even the highest stages of meditation sitting in a chair, just as Culadasa teaches. The important thing is not the position, but the meditation itself.

    Just my 2 cents. 🙂

    #2645

    Darlene T
    Member

    Hello,

    The teaching you were given regarding the qi may very well be true, though perhaps not necessary for the meditation practice you have embarked upon. Prior to injury from standing up on a leg that was numb and asleep after a meditation , I was able to sit in a Burmese posture for extended periods of time without or able to be with the impermanence of pain. Unable to return to my prior “very good seat”, it took a year before I felt the same kind of grounded stability while in a a chair (or ergonomic chair which is an excellent seat). I found myself clinging to the seat I had to give up, clinging to the pride of being able to sit as I had and could no longer. In short it provided incredible benefits to root out attitudes lurking in my makeup. Most significantly, what I have learned, it is the ability to come to pacification of body and mind…and to come to this involves every part of us from the pelvis and hip joint and up the spine, with head in right relationship, thus balance to it all. It is in releasing the contractions in our body that contribute to resistance to qi flow and that is where the work is. Open, accept,soften, release which includes acknowledging the possible discomfort of emotional experience as well. Trust in the energy to make its way through these newly opened paths… Unless using pain for specific practice and purpose, to do so may help gather the energy in the centre below the navel, but it will most likely add to the contractions in the musculature…that the collection of energy will have to blast through. Very aggressive. Just sit and soften and float the spine from the lotus of the pelvis and let the head balance and move subtly with the wave of the breath as it moves through the whole body. Thanks for taking this in…I hope you find it of some benefit…Best Wishes!

    Darlene Tataryn
    (Teacher in training)

    #2648

    Eric
    Member

    Re: sitting with pain

    I tell folks that if you wake up the next day and your body hurts i.e. your knee, back, etc. from sitting with the pain too long then you overdid it the day before. Most won’t feel anything the next day from a one hour sit unless they began with an uncomfortable position. I don’t recommend starting in full lotus etc. unless you can start in that position comfortably without stress on your joints. Common sense goes a long way! 🙂

    mucho metta,

    eric

    #2651

    Peter W
    Member

    Thanks for all the feedback. As of late, I haven’t been sitting in full lotus as much as I used to. I will sit in full once a week or so when I feel subtle dullness surfacing more frequently in my sits. I can sit in full comfortably for about 40-45 minutes. Pain levels do pick up though towards the tail end of the sit (45-60 min). Energy sensations, pulses, and vibrations also increase as well as concentration. I’m assuming, due to equanimity of not expressing the pain, the symptoms manifests as superfluous energy that needs to be expressed via the body.

    But yeah, you guys are right. If I use full lotus too often, there are occasional aches in the knee off the cushion, which do subside when I take a break from that posture.

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