ii.46-48 Postures favorable for meditation
2.46 Asana, or comfortable postures
Asana means a steady and comfortable posture. By and large these next sutras highlight the importance of Hatha Yoga. Today this “body-positioning yoga” is what one considers “all-things-yoga” to be in today’s body-obsessed culture. Yet, Patañjali had more in mind than glorifying body positions and its accompanying overt-pridefulness. This is good news for those searching for that “balanced” stance needed for meditation. Those brothers and sisters who are overly attached to their zazen posture might find this sutra an affront to their over-zealous position in stressing zazen as the be-all of everything. While zazen can be a chosen means for meditation, one would hope that the adept in this regard is indeed experiencing this “Asana”, or comfortable position—comfortable in the sense that it does not inflict any undue stress on the body and mind. Patañjali accentuates moderation in this regard; one’s posture should be supple rather than rigid. Sri Swami Satchindananda, in his edition of the Yoga Sutras, offers the following little story:
There once was a tiny weed and a big tree that grew along the bank of a swiftly running jungle river. One day, the tree looked down at the tiny weed and said, “Hey, you puny little creature, why do you stand by me? Aren’t you ashamed to be by my side? See how great, how big, how tall I am? How sturdy and strong? Even an elephant cannot move me. But look at you. Hah! You shouldn’t have come here. People will see the difference and laugh at you. Why don’t you move somewhere else?”
The weed bent her head, “Sir,” she said, “what can I do? I didn’t come here purposely. I just happen to be here. I know I’m not as strong and stiff as you. But please pardon my presence.”
“All right,” boomed the big tree, “but just remember your place!” This conversation happened during the rainy season. The very next day a heavy rain came, inundating the jungle and causing a terrible flood. When a river floods, it erodes the banks and pulls down anything in its way. Coming in such force, the water pulled down the great tree instantly. But the weed bent down, flattened herself completely and let the water run over her. When the flood passed, she rose up again. Looking this way and that, she wondered, “What happened to the great tree? I don’t see it.”
From far away she heard the tree’s reply. “I’m being pulled down by the water. I should have been humble and simple and supple like you. Now I’m being destroyed.”
That was quite an appropriate little parable. Think about it. Is it always best to remain straight as a board with your ass in a “rigid-lotus” position? In the long run that’s going to be detrimental to your lower back and legs. This particular sutra emphasizes to find the “Right Posture” that is best and comfortable for you. There’s no sense in afflicting pain and distress upon yourself. If you’re more comfortable sitting with your back erect in a chair rather than in a full-lotus position, then so be it. As long as you can maintain an attentive spirit, then seek out the means that is best for you.
2.47 By settling-down the restless monkey mind through right meditation on the Unborn, then Right Posture is mastered.
Staying still, in a mental-posture of Mahasunya (the Great Deathless Void), empowers one to center a restless mind by entering into the sanctum sanctorum of the Unborn Mind. This posture empowers the yogin to masterfully Recollect the Absolute Deathless Center of the Unborn.
2.48 Right-Centeredness assures the end of all dualities.
Being unhindered and centered in the Unborn assures the cessation of the Bifurcated Mind with its incessant opposing dualities.
*One other anecdote is offered by Barbara Miller concerning Asana:
Posture (āsana) is the relaxed positioning of the body that is necessary for practicing breath control and meditation. Patanjali compares it to resting like the cosmic serpent on the waters of infinity in the calm interval between cycles of universal creation and destruction. Ananta, “the infinite,” is the cosmic serpent on whom the god Vishnu lies sleeping when the world dissolves at the end of each cosmic cycle, before the beginning of the next. Ananta may also refer to “the infinite” in a more abstract sense. This is the interpretation of the Yogabhashya commentary, which states that posture becomes perfect when effort to that end ceases, so that there is no more bodily movement, and when the mind is transformed into the infinite—that is, recognizes infinity as itself.
[Miller, Barbara (2009-10-05). Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: The Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali (pp. 28-29). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]