Flexibility is essential to meditation practice
One of the most important aspects of yoga asana (postures) is releasing tension in the body so that you can meditate with more ease. Asana is one of the early limbs of what is known as Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga. You can think of these limbs in succession, one at a time, like climbing a ladder. Meditative practices (in the form of dharana and dyana) are a higher level of practice according to this system.
According to some of his disciples (students), yoga guru Swami Satchidananda no longer needed to practice asana as he had mastered them. That was quite a revelation!
For most of us in modern society, life tends to be stressful on the body-mind, and it’s a big challenge to maintain flexibility throughout our lifespan.
Note: when we refer to the spine, we refer to the low back, mid/upper back and the cervical spine
“I’m sore when I meditate”
This is a common complaint! Many people report discomfort when they first start sitting. Some of this is normal, but some of it is self-inflicted over time.
Have you ever heard of the term “game boy back”? It refers to a rounded back posture that was common among children (and adults) who sat for hours playing handheld electronic games.
These days it’s called “text neck”. It refers to the rounded upper back and neck posture that most people adopt when looking at their smartphone or tablet. It’s rare to see anyone hold a screen up to eye level. Text neck is also common in beginning meditators. It’s not conducive to longer meditation sessions.
60 pounds at 60 degrees
That’s the gravitational pull of the head when you look down at your tablet or smartphone, according to Kenneth Hansraj, a New York back surgeon. While the human head only weighs an average of 10-12 pounds, every inch forward increases its weight. Keeping your head upright is just as important for meditation practice.
The correct posture for your spine is like a letter S – slightly curved inwards at the base, slightly rounded in the midback, and slightly curved inwards at the neck.
Simple exercises to help you become more flexible in the spine
Here are a few YouTube videos that we’ve found useful for self-treating rib pain and increasing flexibility in the back.
NOTE: Please be careful to check with your healthcare provider before attempting any of these exercises!
Sukie Baxter shows how to do self-care for rib pain How to Fix Rib Pain with Self Myofascial Release – if you have sore ribs, you might have a stuck rib!
Manu Kalia shows how to use a soft foam roller (aka a “noodle”) Foam roller for spine, ribcage and shoulder flexibility – this is one of the best we’ve seen.
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