The first obstacle to be overcome in meditative practice is physical discomfort. That is, one must be able to relax and make the body perfectly comfortable and forget it. This is very7 difficult for many people, especially beginners, because general physical stiffness, aches and pains, are a continual reminder of the presence of the body. Under these conditions, it is impossible to introspect and direct perception into the mind. Until the body is made more flexible, it is very difficult to make headway in meditative practices, for one’s attention is continually drawn outside.
There are two major aspects of body discomfort associated with meditative asanas:
- Stiffness of the legs: this prevents one sitting in a comfortable position for a prolonged period of time.
- Stiffness and weakness of the back muscles: under this condition, one tends to slump forwards, giving rise to backache and interference with breathing.
The two forward bending asanas we will discuss in this topic, janu sirshasana (head to knee pose) and ardha padma paschimottanasana (half lotus back stretching pose), help directly to overcome these two hindrances. Firstly, they loosen up the leg joints and muscles, so that one eventually can sit in any one or more of the meditative asanas without the slightest physical discomfort. Secondly, they stretch, loosen and strengthen the back muscles, making it easier to hold the spine upright. These are two good reasons for practising both of these asanas.