After our chanting for the day, we gathered our belongings and headed back to our room. As we climbed the stairs at the Gangotri Temple we were met by the Head Pujari and Chairman of the Temple Trust. He had met us previously so it was nice to bump into him again.
When he saw us, he said: “I have been watching you every day. What you are doing is incredible! It is an amazing achievement to have translated so much of our sanskrit scriptures, but then to be able to sit for nine to ten hours at one time and recite them with such impeccable accuracy in one asana, is absolutely incredible!”
So when we returned home, we thought about the ingredients that went into our discipline.
All forms of yoga find an application in the sadhana we perform. The Devi Gita famously proclaims that for reaching the goal of yoga (Union), combining Bhakti (Devotion), Jnana (Wisdom), and Karma (Action) is most effective.
The Goddess also proclaims in the Devi Gita that it is easier to meditate and perform sadhana when the body is free from pain. Hence, Hatha Yoga too finds a place in our sadhana, as a tool for enabling us to sit for longer periods of time with less pain or discomfort.
The word “hatha” means forceful. Hatha Yoga is a method we learn to restrain our bodies, minds, and souls into the union with divinity (it takes some force sometimes).
If we can sit in one asana, without having to get up, our mind and especially body are limited in the trouble they can cause. The mind may be able to think of many random desires, but it can take no action to obtain them as the body is restrained in asana. With the body remaining in the asana, the mind is eventually forced (hatha) to pay attention to the sadhana and give up other thoughts.
Ultimately, there are three asanas which are recommended for the long sitting sadhana that we are doing: Padma Asana, Swastik Asana, and Siddha Asana as illustrated below:
These three sitting postures allow for the free flow of pranayam, the flow of our breath without restriction. This is essential to long continous chanting.
Pranayam is measured in mantras, the mathematical formulas which make the breath controlled with regularity. Mantras are written in chandas, the rhythm of sanskrit which tell stories and express philosophy in poetry. So this sadhana requires an asana which supports our ability to breathe fully and easily.
To reach the point where we can sit comfortably in these asanas for long periods of time will require the practice of other yoga poses as well.
We will not need to do every yoga pose under the sun, but for our purposes we should focus on those which will lengthen our sitting posture and free our body from pain.
Often, when we sit, we discover (whether we like it or not) that certain parts of our body are tight, weak, or sore. We then choose the Yoga Asanas which will stretch or strengthen those areas in question.
For example, if you have tightness in the hips, then Baddha Konasana will be an aid in achieving the desired limberness. If you find you have a weak back when you sit, poses like locust (Shalabhasana), half locust and warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) can strengthen your back muscles.
If you have sufficient time, you can practice the whole Shree Maa Yoga Sequence which Swamiji used in the days of his sadhana to prepare his body for sitting in longer asana. Swamiji has said that practicing the Seated Postures of the Devi Gita will also aid us in sitting longer in our chosen asana:
Adding these practices to our regular sadhana will give us an arsenal of tools by which we can prepare ourselves in every way. Remember, our sadhana is holistic spirituality, a way of life which affects everything we do. We must prepare ourselves in every way possible to become the sadhus we choose to become.