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.
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.

One thought on “Garbha Pindasana

  1. Garbha Upanishad
    This Upanishad explains in detail about the conception and growth of a child in the mother’s womb. At each stage of development in the womb, the physical condition of the child’s body and the mental state and the condition of the jeevan (the soul) within is also explained in detail in this scripture. It is great wonder that our ancient Rishis (the seers of truth) were able to grasp and visualize such intense secrets about the body and soul in those ancient days when there were no traces of today’s modern science and research. To go a step ahead, we can even say that parts of this Upanishad are yet to be physically researched and understood by the modern scientists and will remain unknown to the Science world till such time. This Upanishad is part of the Krishna Yajur Veda.
    The Upanishad:
    OM! May Brahman protect us (the Guru and Sishya) both! May he give us both (enough) to enjoy! Efficiency may we both attain! Effective may our study prove! May we not hate (each other) at all!
    Om Shanti ! Shanti ! Shanti !
    The human body is constituted of five things (the five forces of earth, sky, air, water and fire) and is of six shelters (like the physical, ethereal and so on). It is of six different characters and seven compounds, three impurities and has two points of source of birth. It is dependent on four types of food.
    1. Why is the body called as “Panchaatmakam?” (Pancha-Five)
    Because it is constituted out of the five forces of nature – viz., earth, water, fire, air and sky.
    2.Out of the body which portions represent each such force of nature ?
    That portion which is hard is representative of the earth, the liquid one is of the water, the hot one is of the fire, the airy portion is of the air and the portion which gives space is representative of the sky or the space.
    The earth force enables to sustain, water helps consolidation, fire enlightens, air makes the team work, and the space gives time and options to carry on the various duties.
    Each of the sense organs are created for some specific purpose – the ear (srodhram) for hearing sounds, the skin (twak) for feeling the touch, eyes (cakshu) for the vision, tongue (jihvah) for enjoying the taste, nose (naasi) to smell, the birth organ (upastham) to enjoy pleasure and the rectum (apaanam) to shed the unwanted from the body.
    The jivan (or the soul) identifies through the brain, desires with the mind and speaks with the language (vaak).
    3.Why is the body said to be having six shelters ?
    It can sense and distinguish the six forms of taste such as sweet, sour, salty, bitter etc.,
    The seven forms of basic sound viz., shatjam, rishabam, gaanthaaram, madhyamam, panchamam, daivatam and nishaadam, alongwith the other three viz., ishtam, anishtam and pranidaanam constitutes the ten basic forms of sound.
    Again, the colors are basically of seven types viz., white, red, black, smoky gray, yellow and golden white.
    Why is the body said to be of seven compounds ?
    When a man gets to possess and enjoy the material objects which are meant for such enjoyment, because of the good combination of such objects, six types of taste (rasam) are brought in. Out of such taste is created the blood, from the blood the tissue, from the tissue the fat, from the fat the nerves, from nerves the bones, from bones the body, and from the body the reproductive fluids. Thus there are seven compounds and the body is formed of such compounds. When there is a join or combination of the male and female reproductive fluids, the garbha (pregnancy or the embryo) is formed. That garbha is controlled by the Hridayam (the heart). The heart houses an ever-burning internal fire from which a biological fire is generated, which in turn, gives birth to air. That air, which runs throughout the body, ultimately and dutifully traces back its route to the Hridayam or the Heart, as a rule laid down by the Supreme.
    The formation of the embryo and its stages of development
    On a perfect day and on the uniting of the male and female reproductive fluids, after the lapse of one night, the embryo is in a mixed (semi-fluid) state. After seven nights from thereon, it takes the shape of a bubble formed out of water. At the end of a fortnight, it takes the shape of a solid lump. It gets solidified and hardened at the end of one month.
    In two months, the head takes form. At the end of three months, the legs and foot are formed. And by the fourth month, the wrist, stomach and the hip, waist etc are formed. During the fifth month, the spine and the adjoining bones get shaped. The Mouth, Nose, Eyes and the Ears are all formed during the sixth month.
    In the seventh month, life or the jivan enters the body shaped so far. By the eighth month, it attains full shape and gets fulfilled with all other remaining parts. If the potency of the father (the male) is stronger than the mother, it becomes a male and vice-versa. If the potency of both the father and the mother are equal with no pulling force in either, it becomes a nabumsaka. (neither a male nor a female)
    It is born as a blind or as a deaf or dumb or short or with other deficiency due to any mental confusion during the period of pregnancy. If the male reproductive fluid is split because of the air moving around in the body, twins are born. When the body comprised of the five natural forces acquires intelligence by the infusion of the jivan (or the soul), it also acquires the five intellectual organs and the brain, which enables the jivan to distinguish between different forms of objects and tastes.
    Having obtained this intelligence, the jivan immediately starts contemplating on the eternal syllable “OM”. Once he digests the essence of the same, he understands the fact that the eight basic forces (five sense organs, the mind, intellect and ego) and their sixteen variants belong to the soul or the jivan residing in the body.
    Whatever is consumed or drunk by the mother passes through the nerves dovetailed with the child’s to the jivan, which is satisfied with such feed.
    It is during the ninth month that all the sense organs and intellect organs attain completeness. And during this time, the jivan is reminded of its previous birth and it realizes all the good and bad deeds it committed during such previous birth.
    Thus thinks the jivan: “By me thousands of birth points (vagina) have been seen; various foods have been tasted; and innumerable times mother’s milk has been drunk (to convey that the jivan had various mothers during its earlier births). I have born and died again and again. All my near and dear (of earlier births) for whom I performed various actions (in earlier births), whether good or bad, have enjoyed the benefits of my actions and have left me all alone. I am left behind all alone. Once I come out of this birth source (vagina), I am going to surrender myself to the destroyer of all sins and the Salvation provider – Maheswara, also called as Naaraayana (or the Supreme Being called by various names). I am going to chant his name and other mantras to destroy all my sins carried from my earlier births.
    Once I come out of this birth source, I am going to practice the Gnaana Yoga (the pursuit of knowledge) strictly to destroy all my sins and to release myself from the bondings of all actions in this materialistic world. Once I come out of this birth source, I am going to contemplate on this Supreme Divine Brahman.” – These are the thoughts of the jivan during the time it remains in the womb.
    However, when he reaches the birth source (vagina) and comes out of it with great difficulty on to the earth, he is inflicted with the illusory force (Maya) created by Vishnu and immediately forgets all the previous births and the deeds performed therein. His memory is cleansed of all the history the very moment he first inhales the air after coming to the earth.
    Why is the body called as “Sariram” ?
    The body is composed of three different types of fire – viz., Gnaana agni, darsana agni and koshta agni. Koshta agni is that fire which enables the digestion of all that is consumed by the human. It creates the internal fire that is used to combust all the materials in taken. Darsana agni is the internal fire that gives the power of seeing to the eyes with which we are able to see different objects. Gnaana agni is that fire of knowledge which enables one to distinguish between the good and bad. These three fires have taken their positions in one’s face, stomach and the heart and are referred by the names aahavaniyaagni, kaarhapatneeyaagni and dakshinaagni respectively. With these fires present within, an internal homa or yagna (or the ritual sacrifice) takes place within a human body regularly and incessantly.
    Atma or the soul is the performer of the homa; the mind is the Brahma (the one who makes it happen); the bad intentions such as anger, greed, jealousy, desire etc are the sacrificial objects (comparable to the animals sacrificed); Mental strength or control is the vow; Contentment and the intellectual organs are the utensils that can be utilized in the homa; the sense organs are the sacrificial objects (comparable to the Havis or the rice) to be used; the Head or the skull is the utensil; the Hair thereon is the Darbha (the dried grass used in homa); the face is the sacrificing stage and the two lines of teeth, the bones, nerves and tissue are comparable to the other utensils and objects used in a Homa.
    Constitution of a human body:
    (Apart from what is said in the earlier paragraphs), The human body consists of 107 secret spots (comparable to the genitals), 180 junction points, 109 nerves called as “snaayu”, 700 other nerves, 500 tissue groups (muscle), 360 bones, four and a half crore hairs, 8 palam (palam is an old measure that weighs around 35 grams) weighing Heart and 12 palam weighing tongue. The body also has got one ser (ser is a measure weighing around 300 grams) weighing biological fire, two ser weighing watery substance, a quarter ser weighing semen or other reproductive fluid and two-sers weighing fat. There is no laid down measure or weight of the urinary or the other solid excretions, which are dependent on the intake.
    (Having thus known the complete constitution of a human body), one should understand his composition and divert all his power and energy into the path of attaining salvation. This Moksha Sastra (the scripture leading to Salvation) was enunciated by the great sage, Pippalaada. This Moksha Sastra (the scripture leading to Salvation) was enunciated by the great sage, Pippalaada. (second stress given in the Upanishad itself).
    OM! May Brahman protect us (the Guru and Sishya) both! May he give us both (enough) to enjoy! Efficiency may we both attain! Effective may our study prove! May we not hate (each other) at all!
    Om Shanti ! Shanti ! Shanti!
    By P.K.Hari Hara Subramanian. From Vedarahasya

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