There are eight meditative asanas. We do not expect you to practise all of them regularly, for there is no need. Choose any one of them in which you feel the most comfortable and use it for the duration of your practice. However the three asanas, padmasana, siddh-asana and siddha yoni asana, are considered the best asanas and you should aim at eventually mastering one of these three. Some people believe that padmasana is superior to siddhasana and others say the opposite. Actually neither one is superior, they are equally as good as each other. However, some practices of yoga, including kriya yoga, prescribe either padmasana or siddhasana for specific purposes. Remember, siddha yoni asana is the female equivalent of siddhasana.
These three asanas are not the best or most suitable because they look spectacular or because they are difficult. There are veiy good reasons why they are the preferred sitting positions for meditational practice. Firstly, these asanas provide the most stable and rigid sitting positions of all meditative asanas. The body feels as firm and as immovable as a rock. Secondly, these asanas will automatically encourage the practitioner to hold the back and spine upright with little or no effort. There is much less tendency to slump forwards compared to other sitting positions. Thirdly, the contact area between the body and the ground is large. This distributes the weight of the body over a wide area, thereby preventing the occurrence of pain in the buttocks. This is one of the main faults of sukhasana3 The weight of the body is supported on a small area of the buttocks, which quickly results in discomfort. If you are a beginner to yoga, we don't expect you to be able to sit in these three preferred asanas immediately, for they require flexibility of the legs. This suppleness can only be attained with regular practice over a period of time. In this case meditational and prana-yama practices can be performed using a simpler sitting position. For this purpose swastikasana, ardha padmasana and vajrasana are excellent asanas. Furthermore, they progressively loosen up the legs so that one can eventually sit in padmasana, siddhasana or siddha yoni asana. The three simpler asanas are all splendid sitting positions for they keep the back straight, provide a good area of contact with the floor, and are reasonably steady. The reader must choose for himself through personal experience which is best for him.
If you cannot sit in any of the asanas we have just mentioned, then use either sukh-asana or veerasana. These are both reasonably good sitting positions, but not as beneficial as the other sitting poses for the back easily slumps forwards and one feels discomfort.
If you are exceptionally stiff, then you may find that all of these asanas are unsuitable. Under these circumstances sit with your legs outstretched in front of the body, if necessary leaning your back against a wall for support.
Sitting in a comfortable chair is often recommended for meditational and pranayama practices. However, we don't advise this for it quickly leads to discomfort; the body will slump forwards, one will move and be continually aware of the body. This will occur in even the plushest armchairs, unless of course you relax so much that you fall asleep. So we emphasize that you should not practise while sitting in a chair of any kind. If, however, there is some physical reason why you cannot take any position but one in a comfortable chair then you should by all means do so. Shavasana could also be used for meditation if necessary but as we have previously mentioned it is not recommended because it is so conducive to sleep.
There must be a balance between too much discomfort so that one cannot forget the body and too much comfort so that one falls asleep. The eight meditative asanas we have listed have been found throughout thousands of years of practice to most perfectly fit this role.
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