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TOPIC: Posture!

Posture! 25 Mar 2019 03:31 #110969

Hello everyone. :) Well, here is another starter question ... (or starter for 10, for any Brits out there).

When we sit up to dinner we sometimes say to our adolescent daughters "Posture!" Which is a kind of family in-joke. But it is also a call to stop slouching like sloth, and sit up like an English lady. On your seat bones, small of the back arched, head held up, and hands folded in your lap when you are not using them. Naturally, we have extremely limited success in this endeavour. But when I was training in wim hof breathing, I started to get immediate feedback on my own "Posture!" in two ways. First I found my breath retention was better if I would open up my diaphragm by having my knees wide and belly dropping down a bit. Second I found my breath retention was better if I could minimise muscular effort in my upper body. When lying down, it took a slight effort to raise my chest on each breath, and my breath retention dropped as a result.

So it occurred to me that the full lotus position is probably designed to do these two things - open up the diaphragm and minimise the muscular effort needed to hold the body upright. My knees are a bit creaky for full lotus, but I found a posture that seemed almost as good - cross legged on my seat bones on a wide cushioned armchair, or a cushioned sun lounger, or a bed, support pushing in to the small of my back from other cushions, and when in bed leaning back very slightly so that the bedhead supported my shoulders. This seemed to make everything quite a lot easier - both for wim hof breath retention, and for meditation.

Has anybody else explicitly noticed how different postures assist or resist meditation? Or does anybody have a favourite posture they would like to share? Or does anybody over 40 manage the full lotus! I would be really interested to hear about others' experiences.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Anne Delnevo, Junglist

Posture! 25 Mar 2019 05:24 #110971

Thanks, Mr. Paxman/Gascoigne, the answer is going to finishing school and balancing a book on your head. ;)

I can manage half an hour or so of the full lotus, but I get a dead leg, usually my right after pretty much exactly 20 minutes, then both sometime after :S. I also get pain in my left foot from the pressure of the right thigh. I like to be able to stand afterwards, so I tend not to use it so often, but vipassana on the excruciating pins and needles can be interesting. I like it for the definite stability it provides though, so I like to use it for sits of up to 20 mins. The knees on stably on the ground seems to be good, and I think it puts the back into the right place a bit, although I find it better not to arch it too much forwards like these English ladies because it creates tension and I find it good to have it more "open", bringing the belly back a bit. I find the shoulder-openness is mostly to do with the position of the elbows and therefore the hands, further forward, back, etc. Half lotus, which I used to do, eventually gives me pins and needles in my leg after about 30 minutes, and I don't use it anymore.

My regular posture is with my left heel against the perineum and the right somewhere in front, and I find I can sit reasonably comfortably like this for good while, although I start to get pain in my right hip joint after pretty much exactly an hour and a half. My first 45 min sit of the day I do with the other way round to make sure I don't strain the hip joints. I also use the Zen hand position in my lap with the thumbs touching. Ooh, and not forgetting the essential imaginary string at the top of the head that opens the back of the neck, straightens the spine out and all that good stuff. I just use some cushions for my arse on what is quite flat sofa. I'm lucky enough not to need much else. It works for me, but the only problem I find is that my legs muscles can become slightly and unnoticeably active for balance, which can create some instability. Doesn't cause too many problems though.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Curious Malcolm

Posture! 25 Mar 2019 08:49 #110977

Balanced postures allow the posture to be sustained for a long time. I think that's their main benefit. They tend to have a solid base and the upper body in a non-stressed position that allows relaxation, so that one can concentrate on practice. I had learned to kneel (Catholic style) for long periods. If one places ones knees just so and keeps the upper body in alignment, so that the core muscles support (in a very easy relaxed way) the upper body, one can kneel for very long periods on hard surfaces. The knees develop 'calluses' and don't hurt after a while. At first they hurt a lot, but one can alternate with sitting and standing. The legs don't cramp because they are not folded up tightly, and one can bow ones head to the floor or put ones arms in different positions to change things up if relevant (such as extended to the sides in a cross shape, or held palms together over the heart, or with hands lifted towards the sky, etc.) With my current knee and ankle injuries I generally sit at the edge of a chair, which also allows the upper body to be upright in a relaxed, sustainable way.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Curious Malcolm

Posture! 25 Mar 2019 10:02 #110978

To add to Ona's comment about posture being designed to allow you to maintain it for a long time, I would say that it is also designed to breathe freely, as Malcolm surmised. It makes a big difference to the effort required, and the stillness one can generate.

I am also reminded of something in Reggie Ray's shikantaza sessions, where he talks about the straight spine. It is not intended to be ruler-straight, because that would be hard to maintain naturally, but having a sense of "internal straightness", which is more than good enough.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Ona Kiser, Curious Malcolm

Posture! 25 Mar 2019 12:23 #110982

Right now I’m in a stage where I can meditate in a reclined position without getting dull or sleepy, so I mostly do that because it makes it easier for me to let go. I have a very soft bed so I often put a pillow under my upper back, because when I don’t, I tend to develop some kind of blockage around the heart. I’m careful to support my neck properly. I vary between a slight backward tilt and a slight forward tilt. Sometimes I lie down in shavasana, sometimes a heart-opening, throat-opening and hip-opening position. After a while I may need to move my arms to open up for the stream of tiny bubbles that otherways tends to stagnate. When the position is right, clarity increases and the bubbles move around more freely.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Curious Malcolm

Posture! 26 Mar 2019 00:55 #110991

Junglist wrote:
.... vipassana on the excruciating pins and needles can be interesting. .

Yes! Before I gave up sitting on the floor, I found the returning sensations of the leg nerves to be extremely interesting. They seemed to be related to broader energetic sensations in the limbs. Also, towards the end of that phase of practice, I could feel subcutaneous sensations in my legs, even though they were 'dead' from nerve blockage. These were similar to fluxing sensations I could get from mindfulness of the body. Great fun, in an agonising kind of way. :pinch:
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Junglist

Posture! 27 Mar 2019 07:28 #110993

I thought this guy's explanation of posture was very clear:
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Curious Malcolm, Linda ”Polly Ester”
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