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I received some excellent and thoughtful comments from Sada-Ji (Dr. K. Sadananda) on the article, “The Method of Deep Body Relaxation.” These comments with minor editing are given below. Thank you Sada-Ji.
Comments on “Deep Body Relaxation” By Dr. K. Sadananda
Harshaiji – PraNAms
Here are some comments on your article about “Deep Body Relaxation.”
Shava Asana is always done at the end of yoga exercises as a relaxation technique.
However, I would like to add a word of caution for going from Shava to Shiva – that is lying down and doing regular meditation. There is a good reason why the Lotus Posture (Padmaasan) is universally recommended for meditation. Shava or the corpse is considered as inauspicious while Shiva means auspiciousness itself
Also, it should be kept in mind that when one is in meditation, the normal breathing process will slow down and mind becomes quiet and calm. These conditions are conducive for the mind to go to sleep easily. Hence for most meditators, sleep becomes a big hurdle to overcome. Therefore, the Shava Asana (Corpse pose lying on the floor or bed) may not be useful for meditation.
Sleep is the opposite of meditation. In meditation one attempts to stay conscious and awake. That is one of the reasons why meditation is not recommended in the night when the mind is tired, but in the early mornings when the mind is fresh and vibrant. The period around 4am in the morning is considered best for meditation (it is called brahma muhurtham in Sanskrit).
The Lotus posture insures that the person who is meditating does not fall forward. Sitting in the lotus pose is recommended so that the student is stable and firm on the ground.
Yogic texts all advise that the vertebral column and the neck be in straight line (without going into the details of kundalini aspects).
This way one can stay in meditation for any length of time – awake-vigilant and meditative. Indeed that is the state of mind in meditation to be aimed at.
As Harshaji states, one can easily go to sleep in the Shava Asana. In fact one should go to sleep in that pose thinking of the Lord.
Then one can have Yoga Nidra and blissful heavenly relaxation.
But for Vedantic inquiry, the mind has to be sharp. Our own experience is that we can read stories or popular magazines lying down. But for any serious work, we have to sit up and study. Knowledge can take place only when the mind is sharp. Then, what to talk about the subtlest knowledge about one’s own self. So the recommendation is to do meditation in the sitting pose – if you can.
If you cannot, then alternate poses are recommended.
Now the question is whether one should do meditation in a lying down pose such as Shava Asana! Of course you can do! It is like a drunkard who went to ask a priest, “Sir, can I drink while praying to God?” Priest of course said, “No. you should not drink while praying.”
The drunkard thought about this and re-framed his question and asked again, “Sir, can I pray while drinking?” “Yes of course”, said the priest. So, can one meditate while lying down? The answer is, “of course you can meditate any time and anywhere.” No problem!
Should one lie down to meditate? No, that is not advisable. Sri Krishna himself recommends sitting down and meditating in the 6th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita.
Of course for relaxation – what Harshaji says is correct.
But For a meditator, relaxation is not the goal, but it is only a by-product. Vedantic meditation requires a calm, quiet, and vigilant mind. It is a subtle inquiry within of the very essence of life itself. If relaxation becomes a goal, the meditative mind will only long for that. If the mind settles in that groove, it will not be ready to take a higher flight.