Meditation is an increasingly common practice due to its countless benefits. Lots of people meditate to relax and to find a sense of peace and calm. There are several postures that you can use while meditating. Although posture is essential to meditation, we can have a more flexible approach to it. The idea that you have to sit in uncomfortable postures, like full lotus, is a myth. The reality is that you can practice meditation in any position as long as you’re comfortable.
In this article, we will see 3, not so common, meditation postures, alternatives to the seated position. You can try them, and if they are comfortable for you, you can incorporate them into your meditation program. This means you will now be able to perform meditation anytime and anywhere you have an opportunity. (Read also our article: Warnings about Meditation (Precautions and Negative Side Effects).
Walking meditation is a simple and common practice for establishing calm and awareness. It may be practiced frequently before or after sitting meditation, or at any time on its own. In addition, it is a great transition between keeping a still mind when the body is still, and preserving a still mind in the middle of all your activities. Practicing walking meditation makes you able to protect the stillness of the mind in the midst of the movement of the body, while at the same time dealing with the least possible external interruptions.
A perfect time to practice walking meditation is right after you have actually been doing sitting meditation, so that you can bring a mind already stilled, at least some extent, to the practice. Some individuals, however, discover that the mind settles down more quickly while sitting if they have actually done a session of walking meditation.
If you’re practicing meditation right after a meal, it’s a good idea to do walking meditation instead of sitting meditation, for the movement of the body assists both to digest your food and to fend off sleepiness. There are two ways of practicing walking meditation:
- walking back and forth on a set path.
- going for a stroll.
The very first method is more favorable for assisting the mind to calm down. The second is more convenient when you do not have access to an undisturbed path where you can walk back and forth without causing curiosity in other people.
(Further reading: 4 Documented Meditation Benefits for the Brain You have to know)
Walking on a path.
To practice the first method, choose a peaceful location where you can walk conveniently back and forth, about twenty to seventy paces long. It can be indoors or outdoors. Prefer a straight path if it is possible. If you want to pre-set your meditation time, set the timer and put it somewhere near the path. However, put it faces away so you cannot see how much time remains while walking.
- Begin by standing at one end of the path for a moment. Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground. Gently grip one hand with the other, either in front of you or behind you, and let your arms suspend comfortably. If you have your hands in front of you, have both palms facing your body. If behind you, have both palms facing away from your body.
- Close your eyes and open your senses to see and feel the entire surroundings. Check to see if your body feels properly aligned, leaning neither to the left nor to the right. If it feels out of alignment, relax the muscles that are pulling it out of alignment, so that your body is as balanced as possible.
- Bring your attention to the breath. Take a couple of long, deep in-and-out breaths, and focus your attention on the breath sensations in one part of the body. It’s usually wise, in the beginning, to pick a point anywhere on a line drawn down the middle of the front of your upper body. If you focus in your head, you tend to stay in your head: You don’t get a clear sense of the body walking, and it’s easy to slip off into thoughts of the past and future. If you focus on a point on one side of the body, it can pull you out of balance. However, if in the start you find it tough to keep track of a still point in the upper body, you can simply remain aware of the movement of your legs or feet, or of the sensations in your hands. As your mind settles down, you can then try finding a comfortable place in the torso. Breathe in a way that allows the spot you’ve chosen to feel comfortable, open, and refreshed.
- Open your eyes and gaze either straight ahead of you, or down at the path several paces in front of you, but don’t let your head tilt forward. Keep it straight. Make sure that you’re still clearly aware of the point of your internal focus on the breath, and then start walking.
- Begin to walk a bit more slowly than usual. Let yourself walk with a sense of ease and self-respect. Pay attention to your body. With each step feel the sensations of lifting your foot and leg off of the earth. Then mindfully place your foot back down. Feel each step mindfully as you walk.
- Walking meditation is slow and involves taking small steps. Most important is to feel natural, not exaggerated or stylized. Don’t gaze around while you walk. Maintain your inner attention at your chosen point in the body all along the path. Allow the breath to find a comfortable rhythm. There’s no need to breathe in sync with your steps.
- Let yourself be present and alert.
When you reach the other end of the path, stop for a moment to make sure that your attention is still with your selected point. If it’s wandered off, bring it back. When you’re ready, turn and walk back in the opposite direction to the other end of the path. Pause for a moment again, to ensure that your attention is still with your selected point. Then, when you’re ready, turn once more and continue with the walk.
If you find it helpful in calming the mind, you can decide beforehand to turn either clockwise or counter-clockwise each time you turn. Repeat these steps until your predetermined time is over. In the beginning, it’s best to concentrate on maintaining your attention at your one chosen point in the body as much as you can, as you would in sitting meditation.
This is due to the fact that you’re balancing attention to several things at once: your chosen point, the fact that you’re walking, and the fact that you have to be aware enough of your surroundings so that you don’t stray off the path, walk past the designated end or bump into anything.
That’s enough to keep you fully occupied at first. As you get more proficient at this, you can start paying more attention to how the breath energies flow in the different parts of your body as you walk— while at the same time keeping the primary focus at your picked point— in a similar way that you preserve a broad however centered awareness in sitting meditation.
You can make a game of seeing how quickly you can move from being focused comfortably on one spot to spreading your awareness and the sense of comfort throughout the body. Once it’s spread, see how long you can keep it that way as you continue walking.
Going for a stroll.
If you’re going to practice walking meditation by going for a stroll, you have to set some guidelines on your own so that it doesn’t turn into just an ordinary walk.
- Choose an area that’s relatively quiet and where you won’t run into people who will want you to stop and chat with them. A park is great, as is a peaceful, backcountry lane.
- If you’re walking around your neighborhood, go in a direction you don’t normally go and where the neighbors will not attempt to engage you in discussions.
- If someone does call out to you, make it a rule that you’ll nod and smile in response, however, will not say any more words than are needed.
- Before you begin your walk, stand for a moment to put your body in alignment, and bring your attention to your selected spot for observing the breath.
- Walk at a normal pace in a manner that’s composed but doesn’t look unnatural.
- You want to keep your secret: that you’re doing walking meditation and you don’t want anyone else to know.
- Gaze around only as much as is necessary and appropriate to keep yourself safe.
- If your thoughts start wandering off, stop for a moment and reestablish your primary focus at your selected point. Take a couple of especially refreshing breaths, and then resume walking.
- If people are around, and you don’t want to call attention to yourself, pretend that you’re looking at something to the side of your path while re-establishing your focus.
Whether you practice walking meditation on a set path or as a stroll, conclude the session by standing still for a moment and spread thoughts of goodwill to others.
Some people find that their minds can gather into strong concentration while walking. But generally, you’ll find that you can get into deeper concentration while sitting than while walking because you have more things to keep track of while you’re walking.
However, the fact that your attention has to move between three things when you’re walking—your still point, the motion of your walking, and an awareness of your surroundings—means that you get to see clearly the movements of the mind in a restricted field.
This provides an excellent chance for observing them carefully and for acquiring insight into their different ways of deceiving you. For example, you’ll come to notice how unbidden thoughts try to take advantage of the fact that the mind is moving quickly among three things. These thoughts slip into that movement and hijack it, directing it away from your meditation.
As soon as you notice this happening, stop walking for a moment, return your attention to your selected point, and after that resume walking. Eventually, you’ll see the motion of those unbidden thoughts but won’t move along with them. When you don’t move with them, they go for just a little way and then disappear. This is an essential skill in acquiring insight into the operations of the mind.
You can then extend your practice in an informal way when you go shopping, or whenever you walk down the street. You can learn to enjoy walking for its own sake instead of the usual planning and thinking and, in this simple way, begin to be truly present, to bring your body, heart, and mind together as you move through your life.
Standing meditation is a very useful position for people who cannot sit for long periods of time. You can practice it on its own or as a part of walking meditation.
To practice standing meditation, choose a flat, stable and quiet place. Shift your feet so that your heels turn slightly inward and your toes are pointing slightly away from each other. Bend your knees slightly so that they are not locked tight. For added relaxation, place your hands over your belly, right hand over left, so that you can feel your breath moving through your body. Your eyes can be open (with your glance unfocused and soft) or closed (the attention within) and the head is well balanced over the body.
Close your eyes, and see if the body feels aligned. Tune into your breath and allow your body to root down through your feet with each exhale. Envision your energy pulling you up with each inhale. If you’re slouching, straighten up, pull in your stomach a bit, pull your shoulders back and then down a bit, to create a slight arch in your back. If you’re leaning to one side or the other, relax whichever muscles are pulling you out of alignment.
Then relax into this straightened posture so that you can maintain it with a minimum of strain. (Read also our article: Warnings about Meditation (Precautions and Negative Side Effects).
The practice of standing meditation allows you to develop a higher kinesthetic awareness of your body, better orientation in area and a much better sense of the world around you.
Like everything worthwhile, it requires practice, but once you get used to it, you can do it almost anywhere. While standing in line, on bus or train, or while waiting for someone to appear. You will find yourself a lot less anxious and even begin to enjoy these waiting moments that often drive people crazy.
Lying down Meditation
You may find it easier to relax and release tension if you lie down. Lying down meditation (also called Corpse pose) is really useful for people who have back issues or for those who found this position preferable for being relaxed, open and still. This very relaxing meditation posture is typically practiced at the end of a yoga session. Some people find that it’s actually more conducive for concentration than the sitting posture.
Nevertheless, this position naturally causes sleepiness. That is why you need an extra effort to keep your vigilance when you’re lying down. Because of that, it’s much better to use it in the mornings when you’re still full of energy than evenings when you are tired and as a repercussion, you can easily fall asleep.
To practice lying meditation, just lie with on back on a flat horizontal surface, either on the floor or on the bed. If you find it difficult to lay directly on the floor, put down a blanket.
Rest your hands beside you alongside your body. Remove your shoes and socks. Your feet should be about hip-distance apart, and your toes can be turned out to the side. You can use a blanket if you feel cold.
If this is uncomfortable, you can customize the pose to support your body in order to be more comfortable.
- Place a pillow or a small rolled towel under your head to support the neck
- Place a pillow or a small rolled towel underneath your knees to slightly elevate them, to support your lower back.
- You can also bend your knees – pointing to the ceiling – and put your feet flat on the ground.
Additionally, you can try to meditate while lying on your side. Generally, it’s much better to practice meditation while lying on your right side, rather than on your left side.
If you have to lie down for long periods of time— as when you’re ill— there’s absolutely nothing incorrect with shifting your posture amongst these lying postures and meditating all the while. Nevertheless, lying on the right side has three advantages.
- The heart is above the head, which improves the blood circulation to the brain.
- It’s better for digestion.
- You can make a point of placing one foot on top of the other and keeping it there, not allowing it to slip off. The amount of attention this needs you to commit to your feet can assist keep you awake.
Have your head supported with a pillow at the appropriate height for keeping your spine fairly straight. Place your right arm somewhat in front of you so that the body doesn’t weigh on it if you’re lying on your right side. Fold your arm so that your right hand is lying palm-up in front of your face. Allow your left arm to lie straight along the body, with your left palm facing down. The steps for surveying your mind, concentrating on the breath, and leaving meditation are the same as for sitting meditation.
So, Meditation isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are lots of other alternative meditation positions and techniques readily available to you. Test as many as you want and keep one that works best for you.
♦Further reading: How Meditation Unlock Valuable Benefits in Mind and How to Use Your Breath to Elevate Your Mind.
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