Meditation is something you can do anytime, anywhere, for any length of time and in any posture. While posture is important to meditation, you can take a flexible approach to it because some postures are more conducive than others to help the mind settle down.
Discovering a practice that works for you is the key, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You can start your practice with a position that comes naturally to you. When you are ready, you can modify and change your position to match your progressing needs. Your body is unique and it takes some time to familiarize yourself with this new procedure, but that’s ok.
These are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you are trying to find the position that fits best for you.
- Keep your eyes closed or look slightly downwards.
- Keep your chin slightly tucked to keep your cervical spine aligned.
- Keep your arms parallel to the upper body, should fall naturally to the thighs.
- Your spine should follow a natural curvature – upright but natural.
- Keep your knees below hips, with legs loosely crossed.
- Your sitting bones must be centered and firm
Sitting on the floor.
The standard posture for meditation is sitting, and it’s wise to learn how to sit in a way that allows you to meditate for long periods of time without moving and without at the same time causing undue pain or harm for the body.
For those people who are accustomed to sitting in a chair (No problem, you can meditate while sitting in a chair, keep reading), you might be a bit intimidated by the idea of sitting on the ground in a cross-legged style. This is a great time to give it a try.
A vital part of training the mind depends on training the body to remain still so that you can concentrate on the motions of the mind without being disrupted by the motion of the body. The act of training the body will have to go along with training the mind if you’re not utilized to sitting still for long durations of time.
It’s smart not to focus too much on your posture for the first sessions if you’re new to meditation. That way you can give your complete attention to training the mind, saving the procedure of training the body for when you have actually had some success in concentrating on the breath.
If your posture gets unpleasant, you can shift slightly to decrease the discomfort, however, try to keep your focus the breath while you change posture. (Further reading: Warnings about Meditation (Precautions and Negative Side Effects)
If, after a while, you feel ready to concentrate on your posture, here are some things you can attempt:
The Lotus Position
An ideal posture is to sit cross-legged on the floor, with at most a folded blanket under you– positioned simply under your sitting bones or under your folded legs. This is the full lotus position and it is quite tough till you master it – which may or may not happen depending on your flexibility. It is a classic meditation posture for two good reasons:
- One, it’s stable. You’re not likely to fall over even when, in the more advanced levels of meditation, the feeling of the body is replaced by a sense of space or pure knowledge.
- Two, when you’re familiarized to this posture, you can sit and practice meditation at any place. You can go out into the woods, place a small mat on the ground, sit down, and you are ready to start. You don’t need to bring a bunch of cushions or other things with you.
You begin with your right foot on your left thigh and then bring your left foot up to your right thigh. It is a little awkward in the beginning, however meditators and yoga enthusiasts who are comfortable with this posture discover that it naturally supports their alignment and meditation.
- Put your hands on your lap, palms up, with your right hand on top of the left.
- Bring your hands near to your stomach. This will assist maintain your back straight and reduce the tendency to hunch over.
- Sit straight, look directly in front of you, and close your eyes. If closing your eyes makes you feel uncomfortable or induces sensations of sleepiness, you can leave them half open. Although if you do, don’t look directly ahead. Lower your gaze to a mark on the floor about three feet in front of you and keep your focus soft.
- Notice if your body feels like it’s leaning to the left or the right. If it is, relax the muscles that are pulling it in that direction, so that you bring your spinal column into a fairly straight positioning.
- Pull your shoulders back a little and after that down, to create a minor arch in your middle and lower back. Pull your stomach in a bit, to ensure that the back muscles aren’t doing all the work in trying to keep you erect.
- Relax into this posture. To put it simply, see how many muscles you can relax in your upper body, hips, and so on, and still remain erect. This step is essential, for it assists you to stick with the posture with a minimum of stress.
As we mentioned the full lotus position is an exceptionally steady position if you can handle it, however, do not attempt it till you’re skillful at the half-lotus.
The half lotus position
Alternatively, try the half lotus position. It is called half-lotus because only one leg is on top of the other.
- Sit on the floor surface or your folded blanket with your left leg folded in front of you, and your right leg folded on top of your left leg.
- Put your hands on your lap, palms up, with your right hand on top of the left.
If you’re not accustomed to the half-lotus, you may find in the start that your legs will quickly fall asleep. This is due to the fact the blood that normally flows in the main arteries is being pushed into the smaller blood vessels (capillaries). This may be unpleasant at first, but do not worry. You do not harm the body because the body can adapt. If the small blood vessels bring an increased load of blood regularly enough, they will increase the size of, and your circulatory system will be rerouted to accommodate your new posture.
To avoid this posture from causing an imbalance in your spine, you can alternate sides by often positioning your left leg on top of your right leg, and your left hand on top of your right hand.
Τhe Tailor position
If you still think that it is challenging, try the tailor position which is a rather gentler way of sitting cross-legged than the half-lotus.
Fold your legs, but don’t put the right leg on top of the left. Place it on the floor in front of the left, so that your right knee makes a gentler angle, and the left leg isn’t pushed down by the right. This helps relieve a portion of the pressure on both legs. (Related article: “3 Not so Common Meditation Postures“)
The secret with all postures is to break yourself in slowly. It is not wise to push yourself to sit down for many hours from the beginning because you can hurt your knees. If you know any good yoga instructors, ask them to suggest some yoga poses that will help to limber up your legs and hips. Do those poses right before you practice meditation to accelerate the body’s adjustment to the sitting posture.
Benches & chairs
In case you have a knee or hip injury that will make it difficult to sit cross-legged, you may try out sitting on a meditation bench, to see if that’s more convenient. Kneel with your shins on the floor, put the bench over your calves, and then sit back on the bench.
Some benches are designed to force you to sit at a certain angle. Others can roll back and forth, allowing you to pick your own angle or to change it at will. Some people like this; others find it unstable. It’s a personal choice. (Here are some types of Meditation Benches.)
If none of these three alternatives (sitting right on the floor, sitting on the floor on top of a folded blanket, or sitting on a meditation bench) works for you, there are numerous designs of meditation cushions offered for purchase. They’re in most cases a waste of money, though, because an extra folded blanket or firm pillow can usually serve the same purpose.
Blankets and pillows may not seem as serious as a specialized meditation cushion however there’s no requirement to pay a lot of extra money simply for appearances. A great lesson in becoming a meditator is finding out how to improvise with what you’ve got.
However, here are some advantages of using specialized meditation benches and cushions.
- Meditation benches enable you to being in a relaxed kneeling position while keeping your posture lined up.
- Rectangle-shaped cushions, or gomdens, are good for sitting cross-legged, and can be found in various heights and degrees of firmness.
- Round cushions. You can use them for cross-legged sitting or, placed on their side, between your legs, for a kneeling posture.
Sitting on a chair.
There are numerous reasons you may prefer sitting on a chair- convenience, flexibility, aching knees, and so on. This posture is comfy because it doesn’t strain the knees or legs.
The fact that you can easily meditate while sitting in a chair, making this position the perfect practice for midday restoration while at work or while traveling.
Select a chair with a seat just high enough off the ground in order that your feet can rest flat on the ground and your knees can bend at a ninety-degree angle. Sit slightly away from the back, to ensure that your back supports itself. A thin cushion under the buttocks and/or pillow between the chair and the small of your back can help. Too thick a cushion is not the right choice, for it leads you to hunch over.
Then follow the same steps as with the half-lotus:
- Rest your hands on your knees or place them in your lap.
- Bring your hands near to your stomach.
- Sit straight, and close your eyes or look right in front of you.
- Pull your shoulders back a little and after that down, to make a nice arch in your middle and lower back.
- Pull your stomach in a little bit.
- Relax into this posture. Simply put, see how many muscles you can relax and continue to maintain it.
A few more Tips and Tricks
You might find that your meditation practice is more advantageous if you do the following:
- Choose a posture that feels comfortable for your particular condition, especially if you’re disabled or too ill to sit in any of these postures.
- Start with much shorter practices, and increase as you feel comfortable.
- Concentrate on your breath moving in and out through your body.
- Keep your breath slow, consistent, and smooth.
- Observe all thoughts, sensations, and feelings as they emerge and pass.
- Bear in mind that these can be favorable, unfavorable, and neutral.
- Gently bring your mind back to the present without judgment when it roams.
- Be conscious of the silence and stillness within.
- Bring your awareness to the noises around you one by one.
- The meditation posture you select should be comfortable enough to allow you to sit mindfully without pain.
- You can find your balance by gently rocking your body forward, backward, then side to side (like a pendulum) until you’ve found your meditation posture sweet spot.
- As you settle into your preferred meditation posture, keep in mind that your back ought to be as lined up as is conveniently possible. In traditional Buddhist texts, the description to keep a great posture is to envision your spinal column is a stack of coins. This offers a good sense of balance and stability and if you lean too far forward or back or too far left or right you can quickly envision the coins tumbling over.
- A great Meditation Masters advice is to sit like a mountain, unmovable, stable and also majestic. When you have actually established positioning and relaxation in your posture imagine you are like a mountain and draw upon that visualization to assist keep you straight and unmovable.
- Make your meditation posture symmetrical. Your right side of your body ought to be a mirror image of the left. This is specifically appropriate for shoulders and knees. Adjust your posture so your knees are at the exact same height and shoulders are completely even. Keep your hands in your lap or on your knees however ensure they are a mirror image of each other.
- If you find out that you have a tendency over time to slump your back, it may be as a result of the way you breathe out. Pay a little more attention to your out-breaths, reminding yourself to maintain your back straight every time you breathe out. Try to keep this up until you’ve established it as a habit.
- Feel the air or clothing touching your skin and feel your body touching the floor.
Remember, everybody is different – use your common sense to find a posture that works for you. There is no incorrect method to practice meditation, and what you want to get out of practice is completely up to you. Also whatever your posture, keep in mind that you don’t have to make a vow at the start not to move. In case you find yourself in pain, hold on a minute to make sure that you don’t become a slave to every passing pain, and after that very consciously– without thinking of anything else– change your posture to something more comfortable. Resume your meditation.
Related article: “3 Not so Common Meditation Postures“
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