One of the most challenging things about meditation—especially when we’re just getting started—is finding a position that feels comfortable to sit for a longer period of time. In this blog I’ll explore why finding the right posture for meditation is so important and how to sit properly for meditation.
If you prefer you could jump right into my video on how to sit comfortably for meditation where I share a few key principles for sitting comfortably, show a variety of meditation positions and then let you test out your chosen position in a guided meditation practice.
Why is posture important in meditation
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that having a good posture most of the time is important not only in meditation but throughout our daily life.
With the majority of us spending far too much time sitting, it’s really important we find a good posture where we use our skeletal structure and minimal muscle strength to hold our body in the right position. By paying attention to good posture when sitting we can do our best to avoid neck, shoulder, and back pain.
Meditation requires us to sit in stillness so we can work on focusing the attention of our mind. The more comfortable we can be in our meditation position the less likely we will feel the need to move the body. And therefore more able we’ll be to focus on cultivating concentration and awareness in our meditation practice.
Key principles of sitting for meditation
One of the key principles that will affect our ability to sit properly for meditation is the mobility of our hips. For most of us our hips feel a bit tight when we try to sit in crossed leg position. This is due for a variety of reasons like the long amount of time we spend sitting in chairs.
This tightness in our hips will affect the rest of our posture. Particularly when trying to sit on the ground or cushion for meditation. For example, tightness in the hips can make it hard for us to sit up straight with our upper body and can result in our knees being high when sitting crossed legged.
Now if sitting on the ground for meditation does feel inappropriate you can always choose to meditate sitting in a chair or even lying down on your back. Although when we lie on our backs it can be hard to stay focused and we might find we drop off to sleep.
If however it does feel appropriate for you to try sitting on the floor for meditation there are a few ways you can support yourself to be able to maintain a general good posture where your spine is long and knees are heavy.
Different sitting positions for meditation
Keeping the above basic principles in mind for your posture you can try some of the following sitting positions out with the help some cushions and blankets to make the body comfortable.
Sitting on a meditation cushion
If when you sit on the floor you notice that it’s hard for you to lengthen your lower back and sit up tall, and/or your knees are higher than your hips you can try sitting on one or several cushions so that your hips become higher than your knees and you feel it’s easy to sit straight with your spine (vs. rounding your lower back).
If your hips do feel discomfort sitting on the ground (even when you raise the hips to sit on cushions) it can be useful to sit up on a chair instead. So you can still find an upright position that feels supportive.
Grounding your knees
We also want to ground our knees on the floor. Now depending on your hip mobility and the way you’re sitting (crossed-leg vs. one foot in front of the other) your knees might naturally rest on the ground.
If this isn’t the case you can try supporting the knees with cushions so that they drop against the cushions and support the circulation in your legs. This is especially important if you are sitting for a longer period of time (anything over 20 mins).
Lengthening your spine
Another thing you could try is kneeling on a cushion or several cushions. As long as this is comfortable for your knees it can be a great posture to allow the spine to lengthen.
This position naturally support inward rotation of the hip and makes it much more easy to sit up tall and lengthen your lower back.
Supporting your back
You can experiment with having your lower back self-supporting so that it is away from a wall or back of a chair. Without the back supported you need to work a bit more on lengthening your back and allowing the back muscles to strengthen and support you.
If you have some sort of back pain you’d be better to find a meditation position where you can support your back against the wall or back of a chair.
How to experiment with your posture in meditation
Of course you can get some idea of what a meditation posture feels like from sitting briefly in these different positions. But the real way to experiment with your posture in meditation is to choose a position that feels comfortable and test it out during a meditation. That way you’ll get to know how it feels for your body to sit for a longer period of time.
Therefore, I suggest to choose one of the above sitting postures and starting to sit for 5 – 10 mins in meditation to see how the position feels for your body. Based on the feedback you get from your body you can decide whether this position is suitable for you and if it is starting to gradually build up the time you sit in meditation.
It might be that you need to select a more supportive position for sitting for a longer period of time in meditation. And that’s absolutely fine! The most important thing is that you experiment with what feels comfortable and get to know over time what feels best for your body.
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