Garbha Pindasana

An embryo in a womb would not feel as hopelessly trapped as I did.

This is one of those asanas that get you stuck, literally, at step three.

Step one: Fold the legs into Padmasana. Rotate the femur until the knee points down to the floor, and the soles and heels face upward to rest on the upper thighs.

Step two: Slide the right arm through the gap between the right calf and thigh, and do the same for the left side.

Erm. What gap?

“If you can’t stick your hands in, you probably need to lose some weight.”

That was meant to be a joke, but the flesh does get in the way. For now, a more practical and immediate possibility will be to gently bring the knees closer together by bringing the foot further towards the pelvis, so that the thighs become almost parallel. If this does not hurt too much, where there was initially no gap, a glimmer of light should be able to shine through.

If the student has sufficiently warmed up before this posture, sweat on the limbs will increase the ease of the arms slipping through. Otherwise, one can spray water on the contact points to serve as a lubricant too.

On a side note, if the student finds it hard to perform a full Padmasana as the ankles are still not flexible enough, preparatory poses such as Ardha Padmasana and Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottasana will help. There is no need to rush into the more difficult posture. Build up your foundation first by making sure you are able to perform all the basic poses with relative ease through constant disciplinary practice, and the rest will follow.

Step three: Wriggle the arms through, and bend the elbows under the calves.

And there I was. Trapped.

My legs were tied in a knot. My hands were bound and getting increasingly numb due to lack of blood flow. No matter how much I force my arms through, they simply refuse to budge. And perhaps somewhere in my mind I did not want to push through further. I was getting my body into a situation where I felt I had no control, and my mind instinctively wanted out.

Step four: Place the chin in between the palms, sit on the tailbone, and roll back and forth a few times.

An external push on the shoulder sent me rolling flat onto my back, rendering me even more helpless.  I lay bound in a fetal position waiting for help because I was unable to roll back on my own.

I dreaded this asana because I saw no point to it, and it deprived me of control over my own limbs.

Calming the mind

It is interesting to learn that the purpose of this asana is to calm the mind. I was feeling panicky because my limbs were entangled, and my breaths shallow due to compression of my lungs and abdomen.

And then, it suddenly occurs to me that unwavering concentration and calm awareness are also the pre-conditions to entering this asana, and in fact, all asanas. It transforms your practice into a meditation, which is one of the primary differences between practicing yoga asanas and pure “exercising”.

Therefore, do not expect a posture to calm your mind, but train your mind to enter the pose with calmness and control.

First, identify the physical limitation with peaceful awareness and overcome them, such as wearing shorts instead of long pants, using sweat or water as a lubricant, and bringing the feet as high up as possible to increase the space between the calves and thighs. Wriggling the arms through requires a strong and determined mind too.

As one finally enters into full fetus position, continue to breathe and focus. Be aware of the situation, but do not think. Close your eyes and see in your mind that the legs are folded, accept that the arms have gone through, and relax. Nervousness tightens the muscles, restricting blood flow. Release mental tension, and blood will circulate to the fingers.

Finally, roll back and forth with a firm abdomen. Synchronize the movement to your breaths, and engage in bandha to keep the body compact. Exhale on rolling back, and inhale as you come up. Maintain the momentum, and let a focused mind guide the body each time you strive to roll up.

Benefits

This posture regulates the adrenal gland, massages the abdominal organs, alleviates digestive problems, and stimulates the manipura chakra. By rocking back and forth, one also massages the spine, builds up abdominal strength and works the small muscles in the lower back. More importantly, this asana connects the body and the soul, as one gets into the posture by calming the mind, and calms the mind by getting into the pose.