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How to Sit in Ardha Padmasana


Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus)
Goal
: Your sitting must be as comfortable as possible involving no muscle tension whatsoever. The body must be biomechanically balanced in such a way that it stays erect without applying any (or absolutely minimal for that matter) muscle tension. Be fully relaxed head to toe while sitting.

Test: If your mind-body balance is proper you should be able to sit without moving a single muscle for hours. At present I often sit still in Ardha Padmasana for good 2:30 hours and only the pain in the skin on my sit bones would make me move by the end of that period. Eventually you should be able to sleep or even die sitting without change in the posture. The moment you'll be getting up you should be able to raise from your seat without pain, without adjusting nor releasing asleep legs etc.

Mistakes: Although Ardha Padmasana is easier on the knees and ankles for beginners please keep in mind that Ardha Padmasana is technically more difficult to perform correctly and more error-prone than Padmasana (full-lotus). Do not try to sit too low as you have seen on the movies or posters. If fact, many people who sit too low do not sit properly, even in India and throughout Asia. To get it right for yourself, use the test above. In the beginning do not play ego games and do not be ashamed to sit high. Men, do not sit on your testicles! There is such a risk when sitting high. They will hurt if you do so. Adjust them at sitting time if needed.

Physical conditioning: Sitting requires flexibility in the lower back, hips, thighs and ankles. Muscle tension, especially in the back, shoulders and legs, is extremely unfavourable for proper sitting. If you find out that you cannot sit properly it's quite feasible that it's not only your lack of flexibility but the tension in your muscles caused by thoughts and emotions too. To gain flexibility practice Yin Yoga. If you don't have good flexibility in the hips you'll hurt yourself sooner or later so you'd want to invest time and effort in preparation through the Yin Yoga. To gain relaxation in mind and body practice mindfulness meditation -- which is best developed through sitting anyway.

Cushion: For Ardha Padmasana (half-lotus) posture it's better to use a half-moon cushion which allows room for the lower foot and support for the thighs. A round, thin cushion (classic zafu) is better used for Padmasana (full-lotus). You sit on the edge of the cushion so that it pushes your back at 45 degree angle up and forward but not flat on the top of the cusion. There are a few appropriate fillings for a sitting cushion: kapok, spelta hulls, buckwheat hulls, quallofil; read Kapok vs Buckwheat article. You may put a hard piece of material under the back of the cushion to "harden" it a bit and give additional tilt. Keep in mind that cushions compress with time so check it every couple of weeks or whenever you feel mysterious changes in your otherwise perfected sitting.

Mat: Use a sitting mat about 1 x 1 meter in size and 5-7 cm thick. The mat should be filled with soft but thick matter like wool. You may use a folded blanket as well.

Props: If you feel pain in the lower ankle you may like to use a little soft padding 30 x 15 cm and 1-2 cm high to ease the tension by putting it in front of the cushion (forming a T-shape). You may put the same piece under the knee of the upper leg if required.

Dress: Wear loose pants that allow for making a good base for the hands. Feet should be bare. You may cover with a blanket.

Other: Use a mosquito net if needed. If you want to make one, use a ring 1m in diameter to put the net around and hang if from the ceiling like they do in Southeast Asia.

Posture:


Sitting movement: Pat the cushion first so that if becomes fluffy. Sitting movement unfolds through squat posture towards the back edge of the cushion. The moment your buttock touches the cushion the horns of the half-moon come up from the ground to a horizontal position. Bend the left leg so that it almost touches the cushion. It's better not to touch the cushion with the heel because the skin may hurt after a while. Put the right foot on the lower left leg so that the big and second toe will stick out in the air. It is not recommended that you put the foot on the thigh because this way the position becomes even more disbalanced on the left/right and the knee tends to lift from the ground; the  lower leg is just fine. Place carefully the ankle of the upper leg outside the bone so that it doesn't cause pain on the bone/skin of the lower leg. While bending the legs hold the pants loose at the knees so that when bent the pressure of the cloth won't produce pain in the course of a log sit. Bend forward to bring more buttock flesh backwards. You may go down to the ground in a bow. Now grab the knees with hands or just raise them slightly to make sure they bear only their own weight but not the weight of the hips nor the body. Both knees should be on the ground but use them only for balance! Contract the anus slightly (Ashvini mudra) to restore the forward/backward balance. Once sitting push down to the floor to facilitate muscle release.


Scope: Most of the principles above can be applied to other meditation postures like Padmasana, Siddhasana, Vajrasana, Swastikasana, Bhadrasana, Gomukhasana.

Extras: Sitting on sand is absolutely great because sand both takes the exact shape of your body and sustains it firmly during sitting. Go to the beach and enjoy natural sitting!
Integrate crossleged sitting into your daily life. Make your daily sitting place suitable for proper sitting. For example, if you work on a computer put it on a low table and sit on the ground to use it. It's best to keep the monitor on a level to match your slightly downward pointing sight while the keyboard is placed in such a way that your elbows are at 90 degree angle. Unfortunately to achieve this setup you'll need to use an external monitor and keyboard for your laptop. This is an invaluable sitting exercise.
The same goes for the eating place -- sit properly on the ground, keep the back erect throughout the process while putting the plate on a low bench or table.

Final remarks: Play with it. Sit a lot -- without moving. The instructions above are just one of the many available around. You will develop your own posture. However, whatever your personal posture is, use the long sitting test because it is the only criteria that matters in regard to formal sitting meditation posture.

Taking it further: The purpose of a proper sitting posture is to fascilitate (formal) meditation practice. Yet this is a whole new topic to even breefly touch on herein. Other factors that greatly affect spiritual development are, in no particular order:


Good luck!


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