Sthira sukham asanam ~ Patanjali
Which ever pose helps you to be still and steady with ease can be called as Asana.
If somebody were to ask you, “Can you sit still for an hour doing nothing?”, what would be your response? Some people may respond with “Oh! that is easy and I would love that” where as some other may respond with “I cannot sit idle for that long. I would rather do something productive”
Here is a small exercise for you in case you are not habituated to meditation. Take out half an hour and absolutely free yourself. Make sure you block out every appointment, switch off the phone and if required lock yourself in a room.
Promise yourself that you would sit still for 15 minutes and try not to move a single muscle. Try to concentrate on the breathing. I am recommending to concentrate on breathing since this will make this task easier; but it really is up to to you. Purpose here is not to practice meditation, but to sit still and see the effects.
Once you start this exercise you would soon see how difficult it is to sit still even for 5 minutes. You start thinking about various events in the past and also what is likely to happen in future. You will suddenly feel like finishing some urgent task.
Then, if you notice carefully, you would be able to observe the uneasiness in the body also. You may feel itching sensation at various places, or little uncomfortable in the back, or stiffness in the legs. You will soon feel like just moving or straightening the back, or adjusting the neck a little.
The urge to move the body parts is very strong and you will feel see how difficult it is to sit idle. Basically the mind does not wants to allow you to sit idle.
When I first learned about yoga, several years ago, I was skeptical — In my mind it was more of an exercise form, and that too not very impressive since everything happened so slowly; don’t we need to be active for the exercise to be good and gain more benefits, and isn’t yoga suitable only for lazy people who pretended to exercise?
Today, I’m happy to say I’m a complete fan of Yoga, practice it and love it and also sit still.
Why Practice Sitting Still
Lot of people associate sitting still with idleness, but it is far from true. Practicing stillness is very important to progress in Yoga. This prepares the body to be stable, mind to calm down and gain strength in the back. This will help in meditation since most of the meditative poses are sitting poses. Sitting or remaining still is a pre-requisite to meditate and sitting poses are the easiest poses to remain still.
Vipassana, which is Buddhist meditation, or any other meditation practice requires you to sit for very long duration of time without moving. When we move, the awareness comes out to outer state from the inner state which disturbs the meditation. Hence it is important to practice keeping the body still.
How to Practice
Start with simple pose which ever is comfortable to you sitting on the floor, like sitting cross legged. Sit for 5 minutes without moving. Then gradually increase the time. When we do this for long time, gradually back will gain good strength and the knees will also have improved tolerance to remain sitted. Constant practice is the only way to do this. keep yourself determined to sit the duration which you have decided. Gradually it will become easy enough for you.
You can sit with a wall as support.
Sit on a Pillow.
Sit in Vajrasana Pose. This is easier to sit on compared to the cross legged poses. Also you can sit in this pose after meals and it will also help in digesting the meal.
Sit in Padmasana Pose. This is the pose which is recommended in many books and by many people as the most suitable for meditation.