Best postures for Pranayama

When you are practising seated meditation and/or breath-control exercises (pranayama) the most important thing is to be sitting in a comfortable pain-free position with a lengthened and relaxed spine and trunk.

For most normal people the best way to do this is to sit up straight on a chair without leaning against the back of the chair. However, For those of you with healthy and flexible hips and knees you can sit on the floor, and there are a number of simple-to-complex kneeling or cross-legged positions that can help you awaken the spine and heighten your experience.

The safest and most accessible way for most people to sit on the floor is in the simple cross-legged position with the buttocks raised sufficiently on a bolster or cushion in order to have the groins (the front of the hips) raised slightly higher than the knees.

In the following short video  Simon Borg-Olivier explains some of the finer details of some of the more commonly used but more elaborate seated postures such as the ‘Lotus posture’ (Padmasana) and the ‘Accomplished posture’ (Siddhasana). The most important thing to remember to have a healthy, energising and sustainable experience is that what ever position you choose for your meditation and or breath-control (pranayama) exercises is that you need to feel really comfortable with no pain or tension in your trunk, hips or knees.

What are the benefits of doing meditation breath-control (pranayama) in the ’Accomplished posture’ (Siddhasana) rather than ’Lotus posture’ (Paddmasana)?

The benefits of doing meditation and controlled breathing in the ‘Accomplished posture’ (Siddhasana) rather than in the ‘Lotus posture’ (Padmasana) are that  the ‘Accomplished posture’encourages spinal mobility (which is important for complete breathing and good blood flow) because it discourages hip mobility, while the ‘Lotus posture’ allows the hips to move easily forwards (hip flexion) and backwards (hip extension). This often means that in order to try to ‘sit up straight’ people practicing the ‘Lotus posture’ tend to over-flex their hips, which can compress (hyper-extend) the lower back around L5-S1, and increase lower back pain, while not moving the rest of the spine at all.

In the yoga texts, the ‘Lotus posture’ (Padmasana) is described as follows: start in a cross-legged position and then put the right leg on the left thigh, and left leg on the right thigh. The purpose of this is to lock the hips and thus achieve some of stability that makes it difficult to fall down to the floor during deep states of meditation or breath-control.

The ‘Accomplished posture’ (Siddhasana), however, is suggested to be a much more stable posture and is described as follows: start in a cross-legged position and then put your end of your right foot over your left shin then between the left calf and left thigh, and then place the top of your left foot under the right shin and then between the right calf and the right thigh. Ideally, the heel of the left foot is under the perineum, and the heel of the right is foot above the genitals. If it is done correctly, then the hips are much more stable than in the ‘Lotus posture’ – they are almost locked and can neither flex or extend further – and the spine can move more freely with every breath.Here I explain the benefits of Siddhasana (the accomplished posture) over Padmasana (the lotus posture). Sidhasana is more difficult than most people think when it is done properly. In Siddhasana the hips are more locked and your are more stabile that you are in Padmasana. In Siddhasana you actually sit on the perineum, which stimulates your Mula Bandha and it is thus said to be a really great posture for pranayama and meditation.

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