Siddhasana

by Ian Bysh

Well, it seems Sammi could usefully use a blog a week. OK. I rise to the challenge. It means, thinks I, that when stumped for bloggable material I shall be forced to do some yoga. Then whatever happens is what I write about. OK. Let’s see where this goes. Today, I’m doing my practise. What’s happening?

I started about five minutes ago, when my daughter started doing her GCSE physics homework. I got a bit bored, so without anything constructive to turn to, I turned to my yoga mat. Nothing too strenuous, I went to a yogalates class a couple of days ago, and my ribs still feel like someone’s been bouncing on them. In a good way. So I guess I’ll start with some breathing. Yoga offers much in the way of breathing. So, how to sit. Ah: there lies something worth talking about. I reach for my laptop. How to sit. I like to sit in siddhasana, which I suppose leads to two obvious questions:

  • What is siddhasana?
  • Why do you like to sit in it?

Siddhasana is where you sit on a block or cushion with your knees out to the side so that the tops of your shins splay happily along the floor. You virtually sit on top of one heel and you tuck the outside edge of each foot into the crease made with your calves and your thighs. I’m sure I read somewhere that one should perch atop a deer skin, so, not possessing a deer skin, I like to spread the sheepskin I bought in Totnes market over the block/cushion/pile of books/pair of shoes/whatever it is I’m sitting on. I can’t remember where I read it now, but it was definitely the translation of some Sanskrit, because after reading it, I felt better about buying the skin of a dead creature.

Siddhasana is the pose of a siddha – somone who has siddhis – spiritual gifts, not nits. The hatha yoga pradipika rates it as chief among all the asanas, and goes on to laud its virtues – it cleanses the nadis, removes the effects of ageing, satisfies cravings, brings enlightenment, makes the tea – everything. This is intriguing is it not? After all, it’s just a fancy way of sitting cross-legged. But the thing is, I can sit in siddhasana for ages. If I am indulging in a bit of guerilla meditation in a park or something, I don’t always have the luxury of something to perch upon, so I am obliged to sit in padmasana. Lotus is just as stable as siddhasana, and at first all is well, but after a quarter of an hour or so my legs start to atrophy, and I have to stand up, and that’s the end of that.

In siddhasana, on the other hand, I am comfortably arranged upon my dead animal, wedged upright, my heel sticking in my perineum reminds me about moolah bhanda, and I feel my spine spring into life from the bottom up, each vertebrae in a state of equilibrium with its neighbours, my skull balanced atop my spinal column, my hands sometimes clasped in my lap or gently resting on my knees. A vertical spine keeps me focused. Because my legs are folded, blood flow in them is constricted, and more blood volume is pressed into my core, available to transport oxygen, hormones and food and flush away waste products from my internal organs. With a bit of practise, I found I could complete kapilabhati, nadi sodana, another pranayama of some sort, and then descent into a bit of meditation as well before my feet started buzzing.

So, all is explained. The reason HYP says in effect that siddhasana is the only pose you need to know is because in it you can do all the pranayamas and meditations for a very long time, and they are the things that make the difference. All the other asanas are only there for a bit of fun and to keep the body toned and healthy so that the siddha is not distracted from bliss. I note, however, that I have not yet actually begun my practise, merely opined about the best way to sit [pushes away laptop].

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