My class is themed this week around the idea of the Lotus flower. Have I gone all Alan-T I hear you say!? Well I am a fan of his work, but it is in fact because I was inspired by an amazing teacher* whose class I came across whilst travelling for work in New York last week, in which she taught stories and asanas via the image of the Lotus which got me thinking…
…Why does the symbol of the Lotus flower appear so much throughout Yoga? Sure, it made great tattoo fodder in the late 90s along with smiley faces and Chinese symbols (good times), but it’s image is much more than skin deep.
Perhaps because the Lotus varieties of asanas in yoga are some of the trickiest and so by virtue, intrinsically linger in the subconscious of all Yogis – or in my case in desperation to master them (in a completely calm and Yogic manner of course). A combination of binding and folding and balancing whilst all the time remaining centred and undisturbed. No mean feat even for the bendiest of yogis (NB not me).
There’s Padmasana, Supta Padmasana, Padma Mayurasana, Singhasana, Gupta Padmasana, Ardha Padmasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (sorry this weeks class – this one’s for you!) all with a Lotus element. And about 1% I can do. But everyday is a learning day.
In Meditation, not only are you sat in the Lotus pose to hold the mind still for long periods of time, it’s image quite often replaces that of a deity, which in the original Yogi’s meditated on for a fast track to a higher self. It’s what you see the original Divine Dudes sitting in in their higher state – and Padmasana actually translates into “Lotus Throne”. I fancy me one of those. In contemporary Yoga, a Lotus flower is used as a visualisation, the opening and closing of the petals in tune with the inhale and exhale in an attempt to banish the mind chatter.
The earliest obviously mention was in the Atharva-Veda – which was the book that Yoga eventually came from as a hymn thanking Mother Earth for its lovely smell, and consequently made several other appearances throughout key texts with links to creation, and as a symbol for fertility and immortality too. Pretty magical flora.
I particularly like to use it’s likeness and symbolism in my own practise to focus on during Meditation as it presents some lovely visual imagery. For example, it grows through the mud to come to flower and bloom with glorious colour, coming to represent being grounded in the earth, yet aspires upwards.
It’s leaves are rubbery too, to protect the delicate roots underneath the water – much like Yoga it teaches us the path to self mastery is from the internal being and not the physical body.
We can become the Lotus.
To come into the Lotus – check out these original instructions from The Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika:
“Place the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh…with the soles upward, and place the hands on the thighs, with the palms upwards…This is called Padma-asana, the destroyer of all diseases. It is difficult of attainment by everybody, but can be learned by intelligence.”
If you can’t master this, sit in a comfortable seated position, sitting tall with the crown of the head lengthening up towards the sky with the chin tucked and the spine long. Breathe here.
Draw awareness to the pelvis, and as you inhale imagine the breath travelling up the spine and into the chest resting in the heart centre, and on the exhale travelling back down to the pelvis. Now imagine a Lotus flower is sat at the base of the spine in the bowl of the pelvis and on the inhale, the petals open and allow the breath to carry to the heart space, and then on the exhale travel back to the centre of the Lotus closing the petals.
Follow the breath out of and into the Lotus, gently spreading it petals with every movement. Bring your attention back here each time it wanders. When things arise, acknowledge them and thank them and go back to the centre of the Lotus. Notice it’s latent energy and how it makes your feel. It’s expansion and retraction. Like day turns to night.
When you’re ready to come back to the mat, bring the hands to heart centre to thank yourself for this moment.
FROM THE UPANISHADS:
“Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart.
Everything that moves, breathes, opens, and closes lives in the Self-the source of love.
Realize the Self hidden in the heart and cut asunder the knot of ignorance here and now.”
*For those who are passing by those parts – you must go to Julie Pasqual’s class at Yoga Maya – an absolute gem of a teacher.