Yogi Dr. Malik explains why this pose is an integral part of any yoga practice
Lotus is a beautiful flower and has been used for centuries by several ancient civilizations for its aphrodisiac and healing properties.The yogis of the Indian subcontinent mimicked the lotus flower and developed the asana known as lotus. It has been used to achieve high spiritual states of awareness for changing consciousness. It has been used by lamas, sages, yogis, sadhus and many other individuals throughout the world. It is a revered pose and the ancient classical texts make reference to its ability to help with many ailments. Many years ago as a keen student of history and yoga, I wandered around the Indian subcontinent in search of the history of yoga. Soon after completing my Masters degree in history in 1978,1 visited Mohenjo-Daro (meaning the ‘mound of the dead’) in Pakistan. It was here that I discovered the earliest recorded evidence of the practice of yoga. Mo-henjo Daro was a city that formed part of the Indus Valley civilization that existed around 3000 BC. in the western part of South Asia.
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The city was built around 4-5,000 years ago and remained intact until around 3,700BC. Large scale excavation works carried out by RD Banjaree and then continued by MS Vats and N. Dikshit under the guidance of Sir John Marshall uncovered fascinating artifacts and helped historians understand the people of the ancient Indus civilization region. The work did not stop there, from 1927 to 1931 EJH MacKay continued excavations and in 1950 Sir Mortimer Wheeler made small excavation works. During my visit to Mohenjo Daro, I was amazed to see the seals and other unearthed artifacts that showed deities sitting in yogic postures. This was back in 1976 and it was an amazing experience for me to learn that yoga had been practiced so long ago and still it remains easily accessible. I personally believe that lotus is the first posture which should be learned by yoga students. I always advise my students to learn this posture as it has countless benefits. It is unfortunate that many modern schools of yoga do not teach students the lotus or headstand (two of the best yoga posture that have unlimited benefits).
I recently recommended lotus in my Ask Yogi Malik’s column but I received two letters from yoga teachers in which they mentioned that, in their view, advising lotus posture for flexing and/or strengthening the knees was inappropriate and it could not be used in conditions of arthritis and rheumatism. As a yoga practitioner, fully qualified instructor who has studied and practised the subject for over 30 years and someone who has taught hundreds of students practically, I know lotus pose has many advantages and always recommend where I think it is appropriate. Leading authorities on the subject including BKS Iyengar have advised that lotus can be used for a variety of ailments. I would also like to personally stress it is a shame that there are also many yoga teachers who teach yoga but have not appreciated the complexity and beauty of this discipline and the specific benefits that yoga asanas can bring to an individual’s mind, body and spirit.
I would like to mention a few quotations from a variety of experts in the field of yoga who are properly qualified instructors and practitioners. You will note that the lotus is encouraged in ailments relating to the knees. The following are only a tip of the iceberg of authorities that support my view that lotus is indeed a pose that can be used to treat a variety of conditions including problems relating to the knees. There are some excellent and well researched books which I advise students and practitioners to read and study, among them I include the following:
Light on Yoga, a classical masterpiece, by BKS Iyengar (published by Thorsons) advises lotus can be used specifically for the knees. Hatha Yoga Illustrated, For greater strength, flexibility and focus by Martin Kirk and Brooke Boon, (published by Human Kinetics) state that perfoming lotus “opens the hips, increased knee flexibility and lubricates the joints and prevents arthritis and osteoporosis .'(p.156). Integral Yoga Hatha, by Yogiraj Sri Swami Satchidananda, (published by Holt, Ribehart and Winston) speaking of padma-sana at p.31 notes, ‘this pose is highly suited for meditation as well as pranayama. It helps increase digestion, aids good appetite, helps in removing rheumatism and is an aid to strengthening the nerves of the legs and thighs.’
Another master of yoga, Swami Sivananda in Yoga Asanas (published by the Divine Life Society), speaking of the padmasana (and its variations) at p.13 observes: ‘These asanas increase digestive fire and give good appetite, health and happiness. They remove rheumatism and keep the three humours, wind, bile and phlegm in proper proportion. They purify and strengthen the nerves of the legs and thighs.’ have found through personal experience that once this pose is mastered it becomes an integral part of any yoga or meditation practice.
When i began learning yoga as a child my teacher told me the first asana I should learn was lotus and second one was the headstand. These asanas have been practised and recommend by ancient sages for centuries. Aside from the benefits mentioned above, lotus is also one of the primary asanas assumed during meditative practice. The ancient classical texts (written in poetry) speak of the wonderful benefits of performing lotus. The Gheranda Samitha in the second lesson advises that this posture destroys all diseases (8). Lotus is also recommended for conditions ranging from sciatica to insomnia, its benefits have been documented again and again. It is a beautiful yet beneficial pose that has a myriad of benefits. I have recommended to many students and will continue to do so. I
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