One of the most important elements of a successful meditation practice is to find a comfortable sitting position that works best for your body and your practice, so that you can focus on the meditation rather than focusing on body sensations. For best results, it is also important to choose a position that is conducive to an alertness of mind.
When I first began meditating, I was often lying down. This may be quite relaxing, but invariably I would fall asleep or into a semi-sleep state losing complete focus of the meditation. When I began to learn more about the importance of sitting for meditation, I tried sitting cross-legged on the floor. I loved the feeling of connection to the earth and to the ancient practice that this solidly rooted posture gave me. The challenge when I began was that I could not sit long before my feet or legs would would begin to tingle painfully, and my knees begin to burn. But I discovered that it’s absolutely possible to sit comfortably and with ease so that I could focus on my meditation. It just took some practice, and most importantly it took finding the right set up for sitting comfortably.
Here is what I have learned about meditation comfort.
The purpose of a meditation cushion is to elevate your hips off the floor allowing your lower back to rest in it's natural curve, keeping your spine comfortably aligned. Your knees should be lower than your hips. If not, you will have a tendancy to slump and lose the natural alignment of your spine, which leads to discomfort.
The round ANANDA Cushions are available in 3 heights (3", 5" and 7") to adapt to your body and your experience. If you regularly sit on the floor with ease, the 3" height might be ideal. If you are tall or feel you need the extra height to sit comfortably, perhaps choose the 7" height. The 5" height is the most universal, good for most yogis. The HUM CRESCENT Cushion is a little wider than a round cushion, sloping gently down from back to front, with support for the thighs and a space to tuck your feet close to your body.
Still not sure what height is right for you? Stack some yoga blocks and/or folded blankets until you get a sense of the most comfortable height, then measure. As a general guideline, choose a height that will allow your knees to be lower than your hips. If your knees don't reach the floor, you can prop them up with rolled blankets or soft blocks.
One of the most important keys to meditation comfort is a softly padded base. The SHAKTI Ultimate Comfort Floor Cushion will ensure that your feet, knees and legs will be comfortably cushioned and protected from the hard floor. So that you can just forget about them and concentrate on your meditation practice!
See further down for alternate sitting meditation options.
Choose a seated pose that you can comfortably maintain for 10-15 minutes. Finding the right one will take some experimentation. In any seated pose, your spine should be tall and flexible with the natural curves of your back intact, never stiff or rigid. If you feel like your spine is slumped, add more height to your seat. Your neck should be a continuation of your spine, long and free, your head balanced on top of your spine, and your chin slightly tucked. Elbows should hang freely, and your shoulder blades should be down. Here are some poses to experiment with and see what feels most comfortable for you. Don't hesitate to prop up yourself up a little higher, or to give support to your knees if needed.
BURMESE POSE - your feet are placed one in front of the other in front of the pelvis
EASY POSE (sukasana) - simple cross legged pose, each foot is under the opposite knee
ADEPT'S POSE (siddhasana) - one foot is slipped under the opposite ankle
HALF LOTUS POSE (ardha padmasana) - the sole of your bottom foot rests against the inside of the opposite thigh with your heel near the perineum
LOTUS POSE (pasmasana) - each foot rests on the opposite thigh, this pose requires experience and a high level of flexibility.
THUNDERBOLT POSE (vajrasana) - also called SEIZA pose or HERO pose, this a kneeling pose that is a comfortable option if you have sensitive knees. You kneel and sit back on your cushion. For added height you could set your cushion on its side. A meditation bench could also be used for this pose.
It may seem simple and insignificant, but in fact your hand position plays an important role during meditation and deep your practice. The most important this is to be comfortable, and comfort may mean different positions on different days. Experiment with these hand positions.
RESTING ON YOUR KNEES PALMS UP in a gesture of openness and receiving.
RESTING ON YOUR KNEES PALMS DOWN, a closed gesture which may calm and quiet the mind.
RESTING PALMS UP IN THE LAP, the right hand on top of the left.
IN A HAND POSITION CALLED A MUDRA. Mudras are said to channel your body's energy, engage and stimulate different areas of your brain; there are many different mudras with different meanings to choose from so it's worth looking deeper.
IF SORE NECK AND SHOULDERS IS AN ISSUE, place a round cushion upright in your lap and cross your forearms over the top of it.
Sitting on a straight-backed chair is the best option if you have significant knee issues. If you choose the chair option, make sure you sit upright on a straight-backed chair, not leaning against the back of it. Place a small cushion between your lower back and the chair in order to ensure this upright position. Try resting your feet on a cushion on the floor for added comfort. Be sure to choose a chair that has a perfectly level and flat seat (notice that the seat of some chairs tilt backwards, or dip into the centre).
If you are ill, exhausted or unable to sitfor physical reasons, by all means practice meditation lying down. A bolster placed under your knees will relieve tension in the legs and increase your comfort.
Walking meditation is another alternative to sitting, and can also be practiced in alternation with a sitting practice session.