In today’s article, in which we will continue to address groups of postures (asanas), we will devote ourselves to the Sitting Postures.
Today,and for most people, the sitting posture is quite familiar!
In fact, in much of our daily activities we sit: working, watching TV sitting on the couch, at meal time, driving our car, …. and many more!
As already mentioned in the previous article about the standing postures (how shoes have come to constrain and modify the bone structure of our feet, also the chairs and other seats will condition, and in some cases change, the mobility of our joints.
The most affected are the hip joint and the whole spine sacro-lumbar region, back and neck, which can lead to lower back pain and spinal problems, for example.
It is here that the practice of yoga, and particularly the practice of seated poses, is important.
The sitting postures allow not only to recover the natural mobility of the joints above mentioned, but are also the fundamental basics to the practice of more complex techniques:
As an example, the execution of the sitting postures with your legs crossed for extended periods of time with comfort, is a necessary prerequisite to be able to practice meditation techniques.
The ásanas, Sitting Postures are known as Upavistha Sthiti, and can be divided into two categories:
- Sitting postures with vertical trunk and legs flexed in different positions.
- Sitting postures with extended trunk over the legs.
These asanas are introduced after standing asanas because they relax and reduce stress on the legs by removing general fatigue, as well as calming the nervous system.
Initially, the students often can’t sit on the floor with the spine completely vertical due to restricted movement of the sacrum, the sacroiliac region and the gluteal muscles, and also due to the shortening of the posterior muscles of the thighs (ischio-femoral, semitendinosus and semi-membranous.)
The practice of standing asanas will create freedom in these areas and also the stretching of posterior muscles of the thighs (as stated above), which will allow the student to sit with the spine erect and alert, in a vertical position.
As the origin of the action on anteflexion is in the area of the glutes, the extension of the trunk in these positions is facilitated.
Another relation of standing postures with sitting postures relates to the fact that our psychophysical intelligence grows and develops faster vertically (directed to a single point) than horizontally, in which growth is made in different directions to various points. The sitting postures help our intelligence to penetrate the body, turning inward. This way we can take intelligence to more distant areas of the body (horizontally) and to develop awareness of them.
Benefits of the Sitting Postures
In the joints, will relax the joints of the ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulder blades, shoulders, elbows and wrists.
At muscular level, will act on the anterior and posterior muscles of the thigh, calf, deltoids, triceps, trapezoids, abdominal, inter-costal, back muscles and spine.
At an organizational level and for the reasons given above, the practice of these postures helps regulate blood pressure.
Contraindications of the Sitting Postures
As mentioned in the previous article, the practice of Yoga can have many benefits but it also has some contraindications and precautions. In case you have a specific problem should always consult your doctor before start practicing.
- In case of depression.
- Problems of weakened lower back. (In case that you have one herniated disc or sciatica, get some advise with an accredited teacher)
- Weakness or knee injuries.
- Weakness or injured ankles.
- During pregnancy you should avoid tension. Use the belt to wrap the feet, thereby raising the lower back and abdomen.
Tips and Cautions to have while Practicing Sitting Postures
The practice of the sitting postures should start by learning Dandasana, basic stance of this group of postures.
Like Tadasana is the basic posture of the standing postures (consult our article on the standing postures).
See below for the most important points that we should give attention to when doing Dandasana and two categories of sitting postures above:
- Do not confuse the ischium with glutes! What you should feel standing on the floor (or support material) are the bones of the buttocks (ischium) and the perineum, and not the gluteal muscles – a sign that you are tipping over backwards.
- Activate the sacred and lower back forward and up, adjusting the coccyx and ischium in a slight posterior rotation, to verticalize the spine and set the lower back slightly concave – if you are having difficulty in this action and tombs back you should use support material: put a foam block or a folded blanket beneath the ischium, and if even then is not enough, you should bend your legs at an angle that allows you to perform the posture correctly.
- Keep the thorax expanded, rotating the shoulders back and down activating the spine between the shoulder blades.
1 – Sitting Postures with vertical trunk and legs flexed in different positions
a) Sitting Postures with crossed legs used for the execution of meditation techniques (Sukhasana, samanásana, siddhasana and Padmasana)
- In these sitting postures, the articulation of the hips should be in a slightly higher position than the knees (if not you stay in tension and just trying not falling back!).
In order to avoid that use a folded blanket, bolster or other suitable material beneath the ischium, this will allow you to adjust the position on a comfortable way.
- The less flexibility you have in the articulation of the hips and knees, the higher should be the support beneath the ischium and glutes.
- If you feel any pain, place a mini bolster beneath each knee supporting them so you don’t force to much this joint.
- Keep the lumbar active and moving forward and upward, the spine vertical, and the thorax expanded – the trunk is as in Dandasana.
- Make sure that you execute the sitting postures with both legs, exchanging them alternately.
b) sitting postures on knees
- In these sitting postures, as the support will be manly on the knees and ankles and not over the ischium, you must be more carefull not to injure the joints which are more fragile. The most common approach, used to improve mobility of the knee joint, is Virasana. This sitting posture must be done using one or more foam blocks, or a folded blanket under the buttocks, if you feel pain, discomfort, if you have a problem in the joint (eg, meniscus), or simply if you can not stay for more than 1 min, with comfort.
- The use of this material allows you to create space and freedom in the articulation of the knees and hips. You get so comfortable and stable to manage to stay with the vertical spine, or doing the different variants and postures that come virasana.
2 – sitting postures with trunk extension over the legs
- Adjust the rotation of the Ischium back, to rotate the pelvis and be able to extend the trunk forward.
- Keep the spine slightly concave, and not convex. Both sides of the torso stretched and the thorax expanded, the neck muscles relaxed and the head passive.
- If you do not reach with hands to the feet do not worry and do not force it, as this is secondary. Besides using the plate block beneath the ischium and bending the legs, use a belt around the heels. Looking to adjust with the lowest muscle tension possible.
Due to the importance of the sitting postures in front extension, we will take more time looking over these postures.
We will check how performing these postures in particular, may contribute to maintain the health of your spine, and more.
Major Physiological and Organic Effects of the Sitting Postures in Front Extension
Spinal, muscular system and nervous system
- These sitting postures are essential to strengthen and maintain flexibility and elasticity of muscles and tendons that surround the spine, as they are his support.
A sedentary lifestyle wherein we do not exercise enough and we do incorrect postures (as explained above) lead to stiffness and progressive weakening of that muscle and joint structure over the years, resulting in the most part into problems, sciatica and disc hernias, that can be avoided, particularly with the execution of these postures.
- Elongate spine creating space between the vertebrae, thus maintaining free and uncompressed nerve fibers (which lie between each pair of vertebrae). This allows to alleviate or eliminate many of the problems mentioned above.
This deep vigorous extension of the spine and muscles around them also helps to correct the misalignment of the vertebrae
- The stretching of the whole spine and back of the trunk during these postures, will also have an action on the nervous system (nerve fibers that radiate from the column):
Strengthens and decompresses this system (as well as the organs and body parts innervated by it), producing a deep sense of physical mental tranquility.
- Lengthen and decompress the posterior muscles of the legs.
- Nowadays it is unquestionable the importance of keeping our abdominal organs healthy and functioning properly.
In seated postures in forward extension, the pressure on the area of the thighs and abdominal organs causes increased intra-abdominal pressure, which in turn contributes to a deep massage to the internal organs, toning the abdominal organs. This helps to eliminate stagnant lymph and blood in this area, also taking significant action on the kidneys and adrenals.
- These postures help in constipation problems:
the peristaltic movements are stimulated not only by increased intra-abdominal pressure, but also by stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, mentioned above – the overall feeling of mental and physical tranquility produced, it is very important to eliminate the problems constipation (which may of course have other causes: food, genetic, etc.).
Organs in the pelvic area
As already mentioned for the abdominal organs, also the organs in the pelvic area are eased by increasing the intra-abdominal pressure and more blood surging to the pelvic area.
Especially they improve the functioning of the prostate and gonads (sexual glands: testicles in males and ovaries in females).
The sitting postures can be performed in two ways, while breathing:
- With active breathing – are energetic and revitalizing.
- With quiet, slow and deep breathing – inducing mental quiescence (with supporting material).
The implementation of these postures with the concave back is particularly suited to women during the menstrual period.
If after the anteflexions you have a feeling of tension in the back, you should perform some twists.
Drawing a parallel between the sitting and standing postures, we can say that:
- While standing asanas are stimulant, seated asana of anteflexions calms the brain.
- The first leads to activity and the latter to quiescence – and so the energy remains balanced.
- The standing asanas improve musculoskeletal structure, while seated asanas strengthen and calm the neuromuscular system.
- The former generate body heat and the latter cool the mental structure.
- The standing asanas increases endurance and physical strength, while the latter increases endurance and mental strength.
- The first develops willpower, while the second controls excess temper.
We can then easily understand how an agitated mind is reassured by performing seated postures of anteflexion, while the numbness of body and mind is eradicated through the execution of standing asanas.
Now try and enjoy the practice of these postures and wait for the coming articles, we will address other groups of asanas.