Sit in any comfortable meditative asana. Adjust your position so that you feel the least possible discomfort. Straighten the spine and hold the head erect. Place the hands on the knees or in the lap. Close your eyes and relax yourself completely. Be aware of your whole body. Feel that your body is part of the ground. Imagine that your body is growing from the ground like a tree – your torso and head are the trunk, and your legs are the roots. Convince yourself that because your body is part of the ground it cannot and will not move. You are as steady as a large tree. Feel all the sensations of your body and if possible try to create a mental image of your body. Be aware of any aches or pains. Direct your awareness to the source of this discomfort and try to be aware of nothing else. Let this pain be a focus for your awareness; this will not be difficult. If your mind starts to wander, let it. But simultaneously try to maintain your awareness of the pain in your body. Continue for a few minutes. Then direct your awareness to your right foot. Be aware of nothing else but your right foot. After a short time, transfer your awareness to the left foot.
Create a mental picture of the left foot and/or feel the sensations connected with it. Continue to be aware. Transfer your awareness to your right leg, and repeat the process. Repeat the same procedure in turn with your left leg, with your whole back, abdomen, chest, right arm, left arm, neck, head and finally the whole body. This is 1 round. Intensify your awareness as much as possible; that is even though your awareness may stray onto other subjects, maintain awareness of your body.
Do another round. Be aware. Suggest to yourself that ‘I will not move my body’. Make a resolve that you will be still, and will not move or shake throughout the whole practice. Your body must be like a statue motionless. Imprint the suggestions in your mind; in this way you will gain the most benefits from this practice. Even if you have the impulse to move a finger or a toe or to adjust your clothing or to scratch, try to overcome this urge. When you feel the need to move you must say to yourself: “No, I will not move my body until the end of the practice.” Move your awareness to the different parts of the body. Feel the different parts of the body as you have never felt them before. In this way continue the practice. .After some time you should find that your body becomes very stiff and rigid. You will find that you become increasingly detached from your body. You will see your body as something separate from yourself. You will find that your body feels as though it is weightless. You will find that you have less and less need or inclination to move the body. This stiffening of the body is called psychic stiffening. At this stage you are well prepared for other meditational practices in which your focal point of awareness is internal.
Practise as many rounds as you wish according to the time available. There are some people who have made great progress in meditational practices using only this technique. Some people practise this technique for hours and hours with great success. However, five or ten minutes practice before other meditational techniques is highly recommended.
Use as a preparatory technique
Kaya sthairyam, as we have already indicated, is an excellent meditative technique in its own right. However, its main use is to steady and relax the body, in preparation for other techniques. Furthermore, one of the biggest obstacles for most people in attaining successful meditation is the inability to forget the body. We are almost obsessed by the existence and sensations of the body. This prevents our awareness being directed elsewhere. Kaya sthairyam is a systematic technique for inducing disinterest in the body. As such, it is a useful prelude to other practices.
It is a certainty that your awareness will not remain fixed on the body throughout the practice. You will become aware of other thoughts and distractions. Under no circumstances should you suppress this wandering tendency. This will only create tension. On the other hand, do not become so lost in thoughts that you pay no attention to the body. You must be simultaneously aware of both the body and any interfering thoughts that arise.
Prolonging the duration of meditative asanas
This is an excellent technique for progressively lengthening the time that one can remain in a meditative asana. First choose one of the meditative asanas already discussed1. Then over a period of weeks and months progressively increase the time that you remain in the asana without movement. At first you should be realistic; in other words, only sit in the asana for as long as you can comfortably do so. Then each day gradually increase the duration. While sitting in the asana, practise kaya sthaiiyam. Make a resolve that you will remain in the asana for a prescribed length of time. Throughout try not to make the slightest movement even though you may feel discomfort. In this way, you will eventually gain mastery over the meditative asana. At the same time you are preparing yourself for meditation-al techniques, either immediately afterwards or some time in the future.