Getting to Lotus Pose

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Luke » Thu Jun 18, 2009 4:23 pm

sraddha wrote:I know Zen Buddhists use the vajra position -- which is also quite difficult! They tuck both legs in with the heals on the behind and can meditate for hours.

http://www.santosha.com/asanas/vajra.html


That's interesting that that pose is called the "vajra pose" in yoga. In Vajrayana, they call the full lotus pose the "vajra posture." I think Zen Buddhists usually call their kneeling pose "seiza."

Can you sit like that, Sraddha?
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby sraddha » Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:30 am

Luke wrote:
sraddha wrote:I know Zen Buddhists use the vajra position -- which is also quite difficult! They tuck both legs in with the heals on the behind and can meditate for hours.

http://www.santosha.com/asanas/vajra.html


That's interesting that that pose is called the "vajra pose" in yoga. In Vajrayana, they call the full lotus pose the "vajra posture." I think Zen Buddhists usually call their kneeling pose "seiza."

Can you sit like that, Sraddha?


Hey! One pose at a time please! :tongue:

But honestly, I used to practice that pose in my yoga hey days, I used to be able to sit for over 20 minutes during my warm downs-- but for now I'm just happy with the lotus for meditation. In those days, I used to find the full lotus tougher to stay in for long periods than the yoga vajra position.

I didn't know that the lotus pose was called "vajra" in Buddhism -- cool! :smile:
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Luke » Sat Jun 20, 2009 8:21 pm

sraddha wrote:But honestly, I used to practice that pose in my yoga hey days, I used to be able to sit for over 20 minutes during my warm downs


Aha! So, you practiced yoga! Your previous posts made it sound like you were just an average couch potato who was able to easily get into the lotus pose the first time he tried without ever having done a single stretch. Now, I am less jealous of you...
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby sraddha » Sun Jun 21, 2009 3:32 pm

Luke wrote:
sraddha wrote:But honestly, I used to practice that pose in my yoga hey days, I used to be able to sit for over 20 minutes during my warm downs


Aha! So, you practiced yoga! Your previous posts made it sound like you were just an average couch potato who was able to easily get into the lotus pose the first time he tried without ever having done a single stretch. Now, I am less jealous of you...

:tantrum: not fair! not fair! I used to be a couch potato, who got a book on yoga and I started sitting for 1 minute in the lotus, then 5, then after practicing Buddha Dharma -- for 2 hours. :tongue:
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Luke » Tue Jun 23, 2009 4:46 pm

sraddha wrote: :tantrum: not fair! not fair! I used to be a couch potato, who got a book on yoga and I started sitting for 1 minute in the lotus, then 5, then after practicing Buddha Dharma -- for 2 hours. :tongue:


*puts on detective hat* :spy:

Now, Mr. Sraddha, did you ever attend any yoga classes at any time in your life prior to attaining the lotus pose? If you only practiced yoga from a book, did you practice any other asanas besides the lotus pose? And did these other asanas help you attain the lotus posture?

*turns to other detective* :spy: Pour the witness another glass of water. :cheers:
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby sraddha » Wed Jun 24, 2009 1:13 am

Luke wrote:
sraddha wrote: :tantrum: not fair! not fair! I used to be a couch potato, who got a book on yoga and I started sitting for 1 minute in the lotus, then 5, then after practicing Buddha Dharma -- for 2 hours. :tongue:


*puts on detective hat* :spy:

Now, Mr. Sraddha, did you ever attend any yoga classes at any time in your life prior to attaining the lotus pose? If you only practiced yoga from a book, did you practice any other asanas besides the lotus pose? And did these other asanas help you attain the lotus posture?

*turns to other detective* :spy: Pour the witness another glass of water. :cheers:


er... :thinking:
I plead the fifth :jumping:
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Luke » Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:42 am

I got into half lotus or very close for the first time today.

I went running and then did all kinds of leg stretches afterwards. Then I got into quarter lotus and leaned my torso to the sides and to the front and to the back to warm up. Then I placed my top foot on the midpoint of my thigh (in between quarter and half lotus) and waited for my muscles to stretch. Then I placed the foot near my hip in half lotus.

I can already feel my leg muscles getting sore now. Hopefully I'll be able to walk tomorrow...
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby malalu » Sat Oct 24, 2009 2:53 am

Luke wrote:
sraddha wrote:
That's interesting that that pose is called the "vajra pose" in yoga. In Vajrayana, they call the full lotus pose the "vajra posture."



Yes, I've also heard it referred to as the vajra position. In Vajrayana, another common name is the 7 (or 8) point posture of Vairochana (the 8th being the steadiness of breath).

"Gyaelwa Ensapa said:

The legs, the hands and spine make three,
brought to four by teeth, lips, and tongue.
The head, eyes, shoulders, and breath are four.
These are the eight practices of Vairochana."

(From "Liberation In The Palm Of Your Hand")

This basically refers to the crossed legs, straight back, level shoulders, etc. I think this position is only more of a necessity in certain tantric practices. Otherwise, being comfortable and relaxed is more important I think!
The past is but a present memory or condition, the future but a present projection, and the present itself vanishes before it can be grasped.- Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Chaz » Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:30 pm

Luke wrote:Here's a really great video that explains the anatomy involved in the pose and what stretches to do to prepare for it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USAeDzIb ... re=related



I like it!

I've always had trouble getting to a full lotus. After watching this video I can see I've been going at it all wrong. That's not to say I can go home tonight and snap into a full lotus now, but the stretching excercises and accompanying explainations look like they'll help.

I find that the posture I currently use (Burmese?) ends up placing a lot of weight on my ankles and seems to cause my lower legs o start going numb after about 20 minutes. I'm gonna start working with some of those stretching excercises and see if I can't get limber enough to do a full lotus.

Thanks for posting the video, Luke.


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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby hungryghost » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:51 am

I've being sitting zazen for about 4 years now, mostly in the half lotus.
I started out just getting into the half lotus and dealing with the discomfort, sitting for 25 minutes, 30 minutes. then with a sangha, 25 minutes twice, or 35 minutes 3 times with walking meditation in between.
The pain was in my instep and my thigh muscles got sore. Very rarely did my knees hurt. Now its almost effortless. I think if you just start doing it, your body will adjust. This of course is for the half lotus I cant really get into the full lotus very well..i'm working on it. Ive heard it said that aching pain in the knees is OK, and you can just deal with it. Sharp or stabbing pains are NO GOOD and you should change posture immediately.
Also, I've found during retreats that bodily pain subsides some after 4 days or so, as the body-mind is more relaxed.
I think that learning to sit with some pain now and then is a positive thing. you can change your relationship to physical thing, and learn the difference between the physical sensation and the added thought patterns in a very real way.
:namaste:
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:50 pm

We must remember that westerners are not used to these positions.

These postures were comfortable for those used to the seating customs of their own culture from childhood.

I spent years practising Japanese martial arts and we had to sit for long periods in seiza, then jump up and launch into vigorous activity. Pain, then more pain. Great fun, too! ;)

Another benefit to sitting on the floor is that in old age we are less likely to suffer as a result of falls etc.
Many westerners have not had to get up from the floor for decades. There is research showing this, but I can't recall it well enough to provide a link. Makes sense, though.


For a practical introduction to 'Zazen' I recommend:
''Shikantaza - an introduction to Zazen'
Edited and translated by: Shohaku Okumura
Published by: Kyoto Zen Centre

It may be out of print as I think I bought it in the mid 1980's .
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Chaz » Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:22 pm

Well, now for My Tale of Woe.

I started doing that stretching excercise last night.

Compared to the people demonstrating in the video, I have a very long way to go. A VERY long way. :tantrum:
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Chaz » Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:28 pm

upasaka wrote:We must remember that westerners are not used to these positions.

These postures were comfortable for those used to the seating customs of their own culture from childhood.


I read somewhere that a westerner's inability to use a Lotus posture has something to do with the kind of shoes we wear. Our shoes place the heels higher than they "should" be and this has an effect on the alignment and flexibility of the hips.

I don't know if that's the way it is or not. I'm a programmer and not a physiologist. I just thought I'd throw it out there.
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Oct 28, 2009 10:30 pm

Chaz wrote:
upasaka wrote:We must remember that westerners are not used to these positions.

These postures were comfortable for those used to the seating customs of their own culture from childhood.


I read somewhere that a westerner's inability to use a Lotus posture has something to do with the kind of shoes we wear. Our shoes place the heels higher than they "should" be and this has an effect on the alignment and flexibility of the hips.

I don't know if that's the way it is or not. I'm a programmer and not a physiologist. I just thought I'd throw it out there.


Such things can reduce our range of motion. We need to stretch more, and do so more often.

As someone who is also not a physiologist, I think women find lotus posture to be more easy, perhaps because their pelvis gives them an advantage.

In India, I was often a source of amusement as my hips refused to rotate very far 'outwards'. I can rotate them inwards, however, and lean right back with my ass between my heels and touch the ground with the back of my head. I see no particualr advantage in this for meditation! LOL :)
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Luke » Sat Nov 07, 2009 10:51 pm

I. Baddha Kondasana
One of the key stretches to get to lotus seems to be Baddha Kondasana (or what I used to call "the Butterfly Stretch" in soccer practice and martial arts). This page has some great tips about this pose--especially at the bottom of the page
http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/486

It can be difficult to lower the knees toward the floor. If your knees are very high and your back rounded, be sure to sit on a high support, even as high as a foot off the floor.

I found this very useful because I have exactly this problem. Today I tried the pose while sitting on several cushions and I finally felt that I was in the "right" position to start making headway with this pose.

Something I'd never read before:
To understand the release of the heads of the thigh bones, fold two blankets and put one under each outer thigh, supporting the thighs an inch or so above their maximum stretch. Then lay a 10-pound sand bag on each inner groin, parallel to the crease between the thigh and pelvis. Release the thigh heads away from the weight, and let them sink into the blankets. Do not use the bags unless the thighs are supported.

II. Fire Log Pose
Here's another hip-opening pose which seems like it would be helpful for the lotus pose:
http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/2477

Here's a video of it:
http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to/video ... se-254595/

III. Something I remember reading on another forum
Once when I was browsing another forum, I read that one man said that he was able to do the lotus pose only after he bought a low table to eat at, so he had to sit cross-legged frequently every day.

The other logical approach besides lowering your table would be to sit on something that was both high enough for the table and which gives you enough room to sit cross-legged. A large, apolstered footstool, like the kind that comes with big armchairs, might work.
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby dharmagoat » Sun Nov 08, 2009 1:54 am

Chaz wrote:I find that the posture I currently use (Burmese?) ends up placing a lot of weight on my ankles and seems to cause my lower legs to start going numb after about 20 minutes.

I too sit in the Burmese posture, and this is exactly what I experience. These days I remedy this by assuming the half-lotus for the remaining 10 minutes of my 30 minute sittings. Swapping legs can help too.

hungryghost wrote:Ive heard it said that aching pain in the knees is OK, and you can just deal with it. Sharp or stabbing pains are NO GOOD and you should change posture immediately.

I have read this too... after learning this lesson the hard way. About ten years ago I continued to force my legs into the half-lotus while experiencing sharp knee pain. Something in my knee got damaged because the pain persisted even when I was not sitting in the half-lotus, even affecting my ability to walk. I was unable to sit cross-legged in any form for several months, and now believe I was lucky that I did not cause any permanent injury.

hungryghost wrote:I think that learning to sit with some pain now and then is a positive thing. you can change your relationship to physical thing, and learn the difference between the physical sensation and the added thought patterns in a very real way.

I second that. Many of my most productive meditations have been accompanied by severe aching in my legs while sitting for extended periods.

I am not quite able to assume the full-lotus yet, but I undestand that this will be only a matter of time.

It seems the best way to train your hips to assume the full-lotus is to spend time sitting in the half-lotus, which in turn can be achieved by spending time in sitting the Burmese posture. In my opinion it is not necessary to do anything else to train to sit in a particular posture. Time is short, and the time spent doing additional exercises could be time spent sitting in meditation.
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Luke » Sun Nov 08, 2009 5:48 pm

dharmagoat wrote:It seems the best way to train your hips to assume the full-lotus is to spend time sitting in the half-lotus, which in turn can be achieved by spending time in sitting the Burmese posture. In my opinion it is not necessary to do anything else to train to sit in a particular posture. Time is short, and the time spent doing additional exercises could be time spent sitting in meditation.


I understand your point Dharmagoat, but some people like me get stuck in a certain pose and can't seem to get to the next one, no matter how much time we sit in that pose.

When I was 16, I tried exactly the approach you mentioned. I just meditated twice a day everyday without doing additional stretches. I started with the Burmese posture, and after a few months, my muscles became used to that pose and I was able to do the quarter lotus pose. However, I was never able to get beyond quarter lotus by just sitting in quarter lotus. And if I couldn't do it when I was 16 using that method, I certainly couldn't do it now that I'm much older.

It's only been recently through doing many stretches that target the right muscles that I've been able to even get close to half-lotus.

I agree that it's not good to waste time. That's why I'm trying to discover exactly which stretches target the right muscles so I don't waste time doing a sequence of 16 stretches if only 3 of them will actually help me get closer to the lotus pose.

If you attain the lotus pose simply by sitting in the half-lotus pose a lot, then you are very lucky (or have good karma, I guess I should say as a Buddhist).
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby tatpurusa » Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:56 pm

dharmagoat wrote: In my opinion it is not necessary to do anything else to train to sit in a particular posture. Time is short, and the time spent doing additional exercises could be time spent sitting in meditation.


This all depends on your practice.
Additional exercises might be a waste of time if you do sutra style meditation.

But if you do tantric or even dzogchen style meditation, these exercises can be very helpful, even essential sometimes.
Tummo practice for example (but not only) can benefit a lot from them.

Those asanas or trul khor exercises are very beneficial if done with the right awareness.
Otherwise they are not what they appear to be.
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby Luke » Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:23 pm

tatpurusa wrote:Those asanas or trul khor exercises are very beneficial if done with the right awareness.
Otherwise they are not what they appear to be.


That's very interesting, Tatpurusa. Could you please elaborate a little bit on what you mean by "right awareness"? Do you just mean focusing on your breath and the energy in your body?
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Re: Getting to Lotus Pose

Postby tatpurusa » Tue Nov 10, 2009 12:29 am

Luke wrote:Could you please elaborate a little bit on what you mean by "right awareness"? Do you just mean focusing on your breath and the energy in your body?

It is basically the same awareness as in the case of sitting practice.
There should be no interruption of this meditative state because of the movements and experiences of the body.
On the contrary, these exercises are designed to help entering and staying in this state and overcoming certain obstacles.

The concrete form of the internal practice depends on the main sadhana one follows, and the lungs and initiations one has recieved.

A tantric practitioner works with the visualization of chakras, channels, winds and seed syllables, gradually transforming his body and mind.
A dzogchenpa uses all these techniques, without transforming or developing anything, as a help to enter and stay in the natural state, spontaneous presence, or rigpa.

Without specific introduction and lung to these practices one should just focus on the breath, the sensations of the flow of energy within the body without analyzing or judging them, just being aware of them as appearances within the mind.

Without this internal practice these exercises are not what they are meant to be.
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