Rakesh Jain’s go-to asana for seeking a higher consciousness is padmasana. He explains the importance of the lotus and how to practise it.
I was born in Rajasthan but my family moved to Mysore when I was 12, so ashtanga was a part of my reality from a very young age. Being Indian, we are exposed to yoga from birth. I was born in a Hindu family so my first experience of yoga was in the form of bhakti (faith), when I listened to my mother chant at puja every morning. I only started practising yoga on an individual level when I started practising ashtanga at age 34. For Indians, spirituality is a way of life. It’s what we’re raised on so very often, we take it for granted. As a young boy, when I chanted at a puja being held at home or at the temple, my practise was a habit. I chanted without awareness of my breath, my body and my mind. To me, ritual was just a part of life. I didn’t understand the science behind it or its effects on the subtle body. I didn’t even know what the subtle body meant. My mother always insisted that I sit for any ritual in padmasana. I didn’t understand why this was so important back then.
When I started practising ashtanga yoga under the guidance of Paramguru Sharath Jois, it changed my understanding and experience of the practice completely. When I chant or do asanas during ashtanga, I do it with awareness. Even in a posture, I focus on breath, gaze and alignment, and this increases concentration. I stopped chanting and practising as a habit and instead, I tried to focus all my attention on my breath, my mind and my body, and observed the effects these practices (chanting, ashtanga, etc.,) have on me.
The pose that elevates me the most is padmasana. I love the seated lotus because it helps me concentrate on my mind and tune into my consciousness. I can completely detach from external stimulation when I’m in padmasana with my eyes closed. This helps me move inwards and introspect with clarity, which in turn helps me make better decisions in life. It’s also a great posture to breathe in, as when we sit in padmasana in a cross-legged position, this foundation brings the spine to its natural alignment and enables smooth flow of prana (breath).
On a physical level, when we practise padmasana, it helps to open the hips, stretches the ankles and knees, eases menstrual discomfort, improves digestion and makes the knees, joints and ligaments flexible.
I highly recommend this pose and listed below are my guidelines on how to practise padmasana.
Deconstructing the Seated Lotus
Sit in dandasana with your legs straight and your palms on your knees. Gaze fixed forward.
Bend your right leg at the knee and keep your right foot close to the groin. Knee tucked in tightly and close to the chest.
Take the bent right leg across your body and place it on your left thigh with the heel of your foot touching the hip bone.
Bend the left leg at the knee and take it over the right leg to place the left foot on your right thigh with the left heel touching the hip bone. Once you’re comfortable in the pose, close your eyes and calm your mind. Keep your breath deep and steady.
Rakesh Jain is a Mysore-based Level 1 Authorised Ashtanga Teacher. For his teaching schedules, visit @rakesh_yoga.