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Thread: Lotus Position

  1. #1
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Lotus Position

    Though I often see people first crossing the right leg, then the left over the right, does it really matter which leg is on top of the other? What about which hand is on top of the other in the mudra?

  2. #2

    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Though I often see people first crossing the right leg, then the left over the right, does it really matter which leg is on top of the other? What about which hand is on top of the other in the mudra?
    Hi Amelia,

    As to the Left/Right bias, people lean different ways on this issue (pun within a pun!). Here are two threads on the topic ...which I summarize as follows:

    In the "introduction to Zazen"... Sawaki Roshi [ states that] " ... . First you should know the difference between two ways of sitting: G˘maza, the "posture that subdues demons", and kichij˘za, the "auspicious posture". Even in old texts, there is quite some confusion about the two postures. In short, the right side represents the ascending, active (yang) aspect. The left side represents the descending, passive (yin) aspect. When the right foot rests on the left thigh, that represents the ascending activity that subdues the demons (g˘maza). When the left foot rests on the right thigh, that is a descending, passive activity which is auspicious (kichij˘za).

    ...

    Personally, I think the who thing is a bunch of hogwash, based upon bits of ancient Chinese medicine and ideas of Ki, Yin Yang, traditional "left side/right side" ideas and superstitions, and the prejudice of of "right" handed folks against the "sinister" left. It is a quaint idea, nothing more.

    Several respected older Western Zen teachers were discussing the article recently, and don't see the difference between left and right. I usually favor the right, as I am right handed. It feels strange for to place the hands, for example, with the left hand on the bottom. However, I do not see any magic property in sitting one way or the other. If something feels strange about one side or the other, it is the same strangeness of a left hander trying to play tennis with a right handed grip and visa versa.

    viewtopic.php?p=16691#p16691

    and

    viewtopic.php?p=984#p984

    Gassho (a gesture made left or right ... and without left or right), Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Lotus Position

    Hello Amelia,

    if I may make a comment...

    the reason the left leg is placed on top of the right when sitting lotus (padmassana) position in the traditional hatha yoga methodology is as a consequence of the asymmetry of the human body, i.e.. the liver being largely on the right hand side. If the right leg is on top, the body naturally leans to the left, causing the back muscles to work in compensation, trying to keep the body upright. Left leg on top avoids this, resulting in a greater relaxation, less muscle tension, and an ability to hold the pose for much longer than otherwise. When practicing such poses such as Yoga Mudra, the pressure of the heel of the foot and it's subsequent release, detoxifies the liver. It is also a very good pose for accessing and utilising the bhandas (energy locks)

    However, it should be remembered that unlike the common Western Lotus, the Indian one holds the feet high on the thighs, placing them on a notch near the groin, forming a tight little triangle. It is also performed sitting on a floor or other flat surface. Once you introduce a Zafu or cushion, the sacrial area is opened up and the internal dynamics are fundamentally changed (try it if you don't believe me!). Which legs goes on top diminishes in importance, especially if the Western Lotus is adopted, as it places the feet lower on the thigh, forming a wide, open triangle. In this instance, forming a stable structure, which maintains an erect spine and doesn't harm the knees, takes precedence over other considerations. Many practitioners advocate alternating right and left on top, in this situation, to give the hips an equal stretch.

    Does this make sense? I can point in the direction of several good books which go more closely into the anatomy involved, if you like.

    Hope this helps - with Metta, Kathryn

  4. #4

    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by kathryn Clare
    If the right leg is on top, the body naturally leans to the left, causing the back muscles to work in compensation, trying to keep the body upright.
    I've started sitting with my right leg on top once in a while and I noticed the tightness in my lower back. I thought it was just because I'm right handed. lol

    In any case, I try to alternate the feet and hands on top for a couple of reasons, and I started doing this after listening to one of Taigu's sitalongs:

    1. Flexibility to get into full lotus: I sit half lotus with left leg on top, but full lotus is difficult for me because I lack the same flexibility in my right hip. Sitting with right leg on top (of my calf.. quarter lotus @see Three Pillars of Zen) is helping me to open it up.

    2. It annoys me. I'm right handed and so sitting with my right leg/right hand on top feels unnatural to me. And I like the annoyance in a way... it keeps me more aware or sharp during zazen.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by kathryn Clare
    ...the reason the left leg is placed on top of the right when sitting lotus (padmassana) position in the traditional hatha yoga methodology is as a consequence of the asymmetry of the human body, i.e.. the liver being largely on the right hand side. If the right leg is on top, the body naturally leans to the left, causing the back muscles to work in compensation, trying to keep the body upright. Left leg on top avoids this, resulting in a greater relaxation, less muscle tension, and an ability to hold the pose for much longer than otherwise. When practicing such poses such as Yoga Mudra, the pressure of the heel of the foot and it's subsequent release, detoxifies the liver. It is also a very good pose for accessing and utilising the bhandas (energy locks)
    I really should be more aware of my organs and where they are! Thank you for sharing this.

    Quote Originally Posted by kathryn Clare
    However, it should be remembered that unlike the common Western Lotus, the Indian one holds the feet high on the thighs, placing them on a notch near the groin, forming a tight little triangle. It is also performed sitting on a floor or other flat surface.
    This is usually the position I am in, actually.

    Quote Originally Posted by kathryn Clare
    Once you introduce a Zafu or cushion, the sacrial area is opened up and the internal dynamics are fundamentally changed (try it if you don't believe me!). Which legs goes on top diminishes in importance, especially if the Western Lotus is adopted, as it places the feet lower on the thigh, forming a wide, open triangle. In this instance, forming a stable structure, which maintains an erect spine and doesn't harm the knees, takes precedence over other considerations.
    I have built a "zafu" out of pillows, and I know what you mean by how it opens the lotus posture. I get the same opening of the sacral when sitting in a Burmese position on the floor, which, if I had to be honest with my body, feels the best and most steady to me, and in that one it really doesn't matter which heel is closest to the groin... or does it? Haha. As much as I enjoy Burmese, I find myself wanting to return to Lotus more often, because sometimes it feels really good and familiar, even though I haven't given it much preference in the past.

    I have also meditated with my feet in Cobbler's pose, which I really like as well, although I have never seen it being used in zazen.

  6. #6

    Re: Lotus Position

    Hi,
    I always used to alternate in order to keep the spine stretch evened out. Now I sit whichever way hurts the arthritic knee least - Hey Ho, inpermanence in action.
    Gassho

    Joe :roll:

  7. #7
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Lotus Position

    Very interesting posts. Thank you so much.

    A very important point that arises from a few decades of sitting: there isn t a method, one has to find out what works for oneself. Everybody is different and our body is constantly changing so no reference point is reliable. Experiment, explore, be opened and mind what Alexander used to call faulty sensory appreciation, the fact that we are not doing what we think we are doing. Not a single book will help your sitting, rather observation of young children, animals and birds, constant will to admit we are wrong and over doing, and not trying to trap something called the propper posture: there is no posture, just a dynamic body-mind constantly flowing and walking like mountains ( this beautiful Dogen metaphor and reality).

    deep bows

    Taigu

  8. #8

    Re: Lotus Position

    One of the best advices I received on sitting posture was from AnShin Thomas.

    During our Q&A, we knew that he had been in the military and we had all these ideas about what he would recommend on sitting. "Lotus! Lotus! Lotus!" There we were all sitting and one of us raised a hand. "AnShin. How should we sit?" He told us what I have found out from other teachers, lotus is good, but....find your sweet spot.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Lotus Position

    Thank you all very much, Jundo, kathryn Clare, cyril, JoeTurner, Taigu, and chicanobudista. I appreciate the help.

    _/_

  10. #10

    Re: Lotus Position

    Once upon a time I sat left over right... time passed, and so did flexibility.

    On bad days I now sit in a chair.. on good I sit with left foot against right thigh and small tuxedo cat resting head on right arch. (yes, cats meditate)

    I am balanced in body so I suspect its merely practice... it is good no matter what leg position as long as I sit.

    BTW: I can light incense and both cats will instantly quiet down. its a lovely thing!

  11. #11
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Lotus Position

    Of course, I don't need incense...

    But I haven't had any in a few months and would really like to be able to buy some when the money-check rolls on through... I miss it because it always used to burn in my room. Poetry for my nose.

  12. #12

    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Of course, I don't need incense...

    But I haven't had any in a few months and would really like to be able to buy some when the money-check rolls on through... I miss it because it always used to burn in my room. Poetry for my nose.

    I think it completes the whole sitting thing for me. I light a candle, rosewood incense that is unique to my apartment. My neighbors know when I sit and they leave me alone!

    I can't burn anything in my room anymore.... I am on oxygen at night now. :|

  13. #13
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Lotus Position

    There is a story about a monastery that had a cat. During meditation, it would come in and meow and disturb the monks. So, every day, they would tie up the cat before meditation. After many years, the cat died, but tying him up had become a sequence in the meditation. Because there was no cat to tie up, the monks had as much trouble meditating as they did when the cat came in and meowed.

    Sometimes, I feel this way about incense...

  14. #14
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by Shinko
    I can't burn anything in my room anymore.... I am on oxygen at night now. :|
    Speedy healing to you, and peaceful presence.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    "AnShin. How should we sit?" He told us what I have found out from other teachers, lotus is good, but....find your sweet spot.
    This rings true... and I think my sweet spot, for the moment, is Burmese. It makes me feel taller. Lotus will probably feel much better when I get a "real" zafu.

  16. #16

    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    "AnShin. How should we sit?" He told us what I have found out from other teachers, lotus is good, but....find your sweet spot.
    This rings true... and I think my sweet spot, for the moment, is Burmese. It makes me feel taller. Lotus will probably feel much better when I get a "real" zafu.

    And before I get my hand zen slapped :mrgreen: , by sweet spot (I am a former high school tennis player) I don't mean finding a perfect or pleasurable or that it will always be good position forever. There will be always be a level of discomfort when one sits for a while. But. If the pain is getting to the point of distraction or worse, then it's time to change. :wink:

  17. #17

    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    There will be always be a level of discomfort when one sits for a while. But. If the pain is getting to the point of distraction or worse, then it's time to change. :wink:
    For me its between the shoulder blades.. a burning sensation. :wink:

  18. #18

    no way so its very zen like

    I understand some of the reasons for the lotus position but at 57 with an arthritic knee its not going to happen its the way but no way! so zen like.

    The alternatives are my chair and sitting, my stool in the sky position ankles crosses left over right or right over left. of on the floor "Indiana" style and by that i mean the American natives. If its Western Buddhism that seems to be appropriate.

    I use what works I open around the idea that I am not that limber.

  19. #19

    woa

    ok typing that early in the morning never a good thing .

    I mean "indian" style of course. I guess the thing is the position matters only to the extent its the best effort.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Lotus Position

    Hahah! "Indiana Style."

    That one sounds kind of sexy...

    Gassho, and good morning to you!

  21. #21

    Re: Lotus Position

    ok.. i finally found an example of how I sit.. please excuse her shiny little face and fancy dress! She is a tad older than I am so I guess she has arthritic knees too :lol:

    Attached files

  22. #22

    Re: Lotus Position

    Because of knee and hip problems, the best I can do is Burmese...


  23. #23

    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonsai Doug
    Because of knee and hip problems, the best I can do is Burmese...

    Burmese is fine around here. I alternate between Burmese, Half-Lotus and Full-Lotus. My 50 year old knees protest at Full Lotus now.

    Be sure to check out Taigu's several posts on sitting posture in our 'Beginner's' Series ...

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=447

    Also, this book recommendation ...

    viewtopic.php?p=30208#p30208

    Gassho, Jundo

  24. #24

    Re: Lotus Position

    Thank you Jundo. I have a friend who swears by his kneeling bench, but as yet I have not tried one.


  25. #25

    Re: Lotus Position

    Hello Doug,
    I used a kneeling bench for years as it was the best thing for keeping the back straight, but now I have arthritis I have had to stop using it as it hurts to settle down on it with full weight of the body pulling on the knees. So I would suggest you borrow one from somewhere for a while before buying, just in case you have the same problem. I do suspect, however, that if it was higher so the knees were bent less it might be slightly better.

    Gassho


    Joe
    (a founding member of the Treeleaf wonky-knee club)

  26. #26

    Re: Lotus Position

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeTurner
    Joe
    (a founding member of the Treeleaf wonky-knee club)
    That sounds like a sub-forum I need to subscribe to! :wink:

  27. #27

    Re: Lotus Position

    Hi Amelia.

    Sit in the space that has no body.

    Then rise and be the body that contains all space.

    gassho

    Greg

  28. #28

    Re: Lotus Position

    When my knee bothers me, I sit in a chair or stand.

    /Rich

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