The lotus pose helps us achieve higher levels of consciousness
by Ellen Diamond
No earthly object is more symbolic and no pose is more illustrative of karmic principles than the lotus flower and padmasana, or lotus pose. Connections between the sacred and splendid lotus flower, padmasana, which is considered one of the most advanced of the asanas, and the lessons of karmic evolution are abundant.
The word “karma” derives from the Sanskrit root, meaning “to do, make, perform, cause, effect.” It is widely understood and translated as “deed” or “action.” Karma is a complicated spiritual concept, and its complexity and nuances are only compounded by its multiple definitions, depending on the various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and the other sects that flourish in the rich spiritual soil of Mother India.
In the West, karma is often defined as the causality of action, the idea that the actions and intentions of a person will influence that person’s present and/or future. As such, it is a valuable ethical teaching that good deeds and good intentions will lead to good karma and bad deeds and bad intentions will lead to bad karma. In some traditions, rebirth or reincarnation is a necessary component of karmic evolution, or achieving full consciousness or enlightenment.
The lotus, considered a sacred flower in India, is the very emblem of karma, exemplifying the process of moral evolution and elevation from lowly depths to spiritual heights, and from narrow mind to spacious mind. The lotus flower begins by rooting into the murky, muddy floor of a pond or river. “Mud-born,” pankaja, is poetic Sanskrit for lotus flower. Like all life, the lotus begins in the primordial dark waters, the “prima materia” of the alchemists, the mysterious essence of the life force.
Chakras, the vital energy centers of the body, are also called lotuses by the yogis of Tibet and India. Each chakra corresponds to a lotus of a certain color and number of petals. Like the flower, chakras can be opened or closed, blossoming or dying, depending on the state of consciousness within. As each chakra is opened, through mediation, pranayama, visualization and chanting, the flower unfolds until there is a thousand-petaled lotus at the crown of the yogi’s head.
Padmasana is perhaps the most advanced of the asanas. It is a cross-legged seated posture. The benefits of this pose range from ease in childbirth and menstrual discomfort to improved posture, digestion and circulation. But its essential benefit, when mastered or adapted until alignment, balance and comfort are experienced, is that it is the ideal posture for sustaining a stable, restful position for meditative practices.
The truest advancement of the pose is when the yogi mirrors the lotus and the transformative principles of karma the flower symbolizes. Here is a suggested visualization:
*Plant your sit bones firmly in the space beneath you. Imagine your sitting bones are sending roots into the muddy river bottom.
*Place one foot on top of the opposite thigh in a symmetrical way with its sole facing upward and close to the abdomen. Repeat the same with the other foot.
*Place your hands on your knees in mudra position. Imagine that this triangle forms the leafy throne that will support the lotus flower. Your head, neck, and shoulders are in relaxed alignment with your eyes closed.
*As you settle, imagine that you are surrounded by chidakasha, the space of consciousness, pervaded and embraced by spaciousness both inside and outside of your body.
*Hold your spine erect. Imagine a lotus flower growing from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. As the long green stem rises upward along your spinal column, imagine that your ujjayi breath is climbing up inside the cavity of the stem. In harmony with your breath, allow your mind ascend to higher levels of consciousness.
*Finally, your breath and awareness reach the top
of your head, or sahasrara, crown chakra, where the lotus bud resides. Visualize the lotus flower opening slowly, petal by petal. Feel as if you are mirroring the calm, quiet beauty of this sacred flower.
“Om mani padme hum” is a classic chant in padmasana. It is literally translated as, “Om the jewel in the lotus hum.” The jewel in the lotus is enlightenment, the Buddha mind.
The lotus flower is the earthly representation and padmasana is the embodiment of karma: the journey from muddy bottom waters to space and light; from great depths to great heights; from primordial darkness to the full light of consciousness. In the body, it is the ascendant energy of the opening chakras from muladhara to sahasrara. In our minds, it is the journey from samsara to nirvana.
Ellen Diamond is a Jungian-inspired licensed clinical psychologist currently in private practice in Highland Park, Ill.