If you ever attended an Iyengar yoga class, likely you were asked to sit on a block while waiting for the remainder of the students to arrive and commencement of class. Sitting cross legged is called swastikasana. It is a way to settle in, and draw your senses inward, and as such it is a meditative posture.So what is so hard about sitting on the floor and why sit on a block? For a variety of reasons: in our busy lives when we sit at rest or at work, we customarily sit on chairs, sofas, etc. more or less elevated 17″ off the floor and hardly sitting evenly or balanced resulting in poor posture, back pain, etc. Why sit on the floor and why on a block? Sitting on the floor allows a natural way for rest to occur requiring minimal effort to balance our weight.
Sitting Bones and the Block
The block allows us to be elevated sufficiently for easy extension of the legs and back. Sitting on the block allows our weight to balance evenly on our two sitting bones also known as ischial tuberosities. The ischial tuberosity is an attachment point for several muscles. These sitting bones are the very bottom bony landmarks of our pelvis. Sitting on these allows for weight bearing position without engaging the leg.
How to Sit
Place your mat on the floor, place the block centered at the back edge of the mat so as to have the ankles and knees over a soft surface. Rest your sitting bones evenly on the block.
Extend your legs straight in front of you, toes up, leg muscles engaged. Do not allow your back to round.
Fold your right leg, and place your foot under the left thigh, then fold your left leg under your right shin. Adjust your shins so your knees are even (one knee is not higher than the other).
Be sure your folded leg descends to the floor without straining the knees, but rather let your thighs release from the roots (where the thigh bone enters the hip socket). Do not force your knees downward.
Balance your head and shoulders directly over your pelvis with a flat back. Imagine a string going straight from the center of your pelvis, up your spine, through the crown of your head to the ceiling. Elongate your side waist up but relax your shoulders downward. In other words, keep your upper body elevated from the waist. Widen the collar bones, chin parallel with the floor, eyes fixed on the horizon. No slouching!
Place your hands palm down on the mid-thighs, fingers toward the knees. Sit like this for a few minutes and focus on maintaining the posture keeping the torso erect. After a few minutes, extend your legs forward again, and change the crossing of the legs (left leg in first). If you had difficulty sitting or experienced pain in the back or knees, then sit on two blocks and start again.
Sitting requires a minimum amount of activity, but to the beginner may seem like a lot of effort. Be patient, don’t push yourself, do what you can today.
Variation for Knee Support
There should be no pain, or feelings of pulling on either knee or hip. Alternatively you can roll a blanket or large towel to place under the shins, over the ankles.