One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925-1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in Northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally in 1969, came to the United States where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best known work, Living With the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.
The requirements for a good meditation posture are that it be still, steady, relaxed, and comfortable. If the body moves, sways, twitches, or aches, it will distract you from meditation. Some people have the misconception that to meditate, you must sit in a complicated, cross-legged position called the Lotus Pose. Fortunately, this is not accurate. There is only one important prerequisite for a good meditation posture – it must allow you to keep the head, neck, and trunk of the body aligned so that you can breathe freely and diaphragmatically.
In all the meditative postures, the head and neck should be centered, so that the neck is not twisted or turned to either side, nor is the head held too far forward. The head should be supported by the neck, and held directly over the shoulders without creating tension in either the neck or shoulders. Face forward with your eyes gently closed. Simply allow your eyes to close; don’t squeeze them shut or create any pressure in your eyes.
Unfortunately, some people have been told to force their gaze upward at a point in their forehead. This creates strain in the eye muscles and may even produce a headache. There are some yogic practices that involve specific gazes, but they are not used during meditation. Simply let all your facial muscles relax. Your mouth should also be gently closed, without any tension in the jaw. All breathing is done through the nostrils.
In all the meditative postures, your shoulders and arms should be relaxed and allowed to rest gently on your knees. Your arms should be so completely relaxed that if someone were to pick up your hand, your arm would be limp. You can gently join the thumb and index finger in a position called the “finger lock” … This mudra (gesture) creates a circle, which you can think of symbolically as a small circuit that recycles energy within.
-Swami Rama in Meditation and Its Practice, pages 23-24.