Meditation Sitting

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How to Sit During Meditation

Meditation is an increasingly common practice. Many people meditate to relax and stretch their bodies, or to find a sense of peace and calm. However, there are many different postures and sitting positions that you can use while meditating. Many of the seated postures—such as the full lotus position—require substantial flexibility and can be uncomfortable. You may start with the supported sitting postures and move into the unsupported postures as you feel comfortable (and your flexibility

Meditation Poses: In Your Desk Chair, on the Floor, and More

Why position matters

Meditation is gaining popularity due to its countless benefits.

Meditation isn’t one-size-fits-all —dozens of variations and techniques are available to you. But you don’t have read every book on the topic or start signing up for retreats around the world to get started. Just sit back, relax, and breathe where you are.

Meditation can be done anytime, anywhere, and for any length of time. Whether you’re exploring meditation for the first time or are a regular practitioner, it’s important to stay flexible in your approach. Creating a practice that works for you is key, and you’ll likely modify and adjust your practice to suit your evolving needs.

Keep reading to learn four different meditation positions, how to maintain the correct posture, and more.

Chair-sitting meditation

You can easily meditate while sitting in a chair, making this the perfect practice for midday rejuvenation while at work. You can meditate at work or while traveling.

To get in the right position to meditate, sit in your chair with a straight back and with your feet flat on the floor. They should form a 90-degree angle with your knees. You may need to scoot to the edge of the chair.

Sit up straight, so that your head and neck are in line with your spine. You may place a pillow behind your lower back or under your hips for added support.

If you aren’t sure what to do with your hands, you can rest them on your knees or place them in your lap.

Standing meditation

To do this, stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your feet so that your heels turn slightly inward and your toes are pointing slightly away from each other.

Once you’re in position, slightly bend your knees. Allow your body to root down through your feet with each exhale. Imagine your energy lifting out through the crown of your head with each inhale.

For added relaxation, place your hands on your belly so that you can feel your breath moving through your body.

Kneeling meditation

If you’re in a place where you can comfortably kneel down, give it a try. One advantage of this pose is that it’s easier to keep your back straight.

To do this, rest on the floor on bent knees. Your shins should be flat on the floor with your ankles below your bottom. You can place a cushion between your bottom and heels for more support and less strain on your knees. You shouldn’t feel pain when you’re in this position. If you do, try another meditation pose that allows you to be pain-free and feel relaxed.

Be sure to root your weight back and down through your hips. This keeps you from putting too much pressure on your knees.

Lying-down meditation

You may find it easier to relax and release tension if you lie down. This way your body is totally supported.

To do this, lie on your back with your arms extended alongside your body. Your feet should be hip-distance apart, and your toes can be turned out to the side.

If this is uncomfortable, modify the pose to support your lower back. Place a pillow underneath your knees to slightly elevate them while lying flat. You can also bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground.

Relationship between meditation and posture

Posture is essential to meditation, but you can take a flexible approach to it. Start your practice while in a position that comes naturally to you. It’s important to start in a comfortable place, so that you can gently shift your body into the correct positioning throughout your practice.

You may find that maintaining a specific posture helps you to set a positive intention or resolve for your practice. When you come back to the posture or position, you can remind yourself of why you’re practicing — to be present, to feel relaxed, or whatever else you may need.

Seven-point meditation posture

The seven-point meditation posture is an approach to sitting while meditating. There are seven guidelines that you can use to help correctly position your body. Of course, you’re welcome to adjust anything that doesn’t work for you. Approach the practice the same way that you approach your posture. Your body is actively engaged, yet there is a softness to it.

1. Sitting

Depending on how flexible your hips are, you can sit in quarter, half, or full lotus positon. You can also sit cross-legged with your hips elevated higher than your heels by sitting on a meditation cushion, towel, pillow, or chair. You can use a cushion or meditation bench to get support in most positions. It’s important to choose a pose that’s comfortable so you can focus on your meditation.

2. Spine

No matter how you sit, your spine should be as straight as possible. If you tend to slouch forward or sway slightly backward, now is the time to gently remind yourself to come back into the correct posture.

Continue to root down through your body with each exhale. Lift your body up and lengthen your spine with each inhale. Feel the line of energy that goes from the base of your spine out through the crown of your head. Keeping your spine straight will help you to stay alert.

3. Hands

You can rest your hands on your thighs with your palms facing down. Keeping your hands placed down is said to be more grounding and help relax your body’s energy flow.

You can also stack your hands in your lap with your palms facing up. To do this, place your right hand on top of your left hand with your thumbs gently touching. This hand position is said to generate more heat and energy.

4. Shoulders

Keep your shoulders relaxed and comfortable as your draw them slightly back and down. This helps keep your heart center open and your back strong.

During your practice, check in with your posture from time to time. Ensure that your spine is straight and draw the tops of your shoulders down and away from your ears. Pay attention to the height of your shoulders and notice if one feels higher than the other so that you can adjust as needed.

5. Chin

Keep your chin tucked in slightly while maintaining length in the back of your neck. Correctly positioning your chin helps you to maintain your posture. Keep your face relaxed. You may find that turning the corners of your face up slightly helps to release any tension in the face.

6. Jaw

Try to release any tension you’re holding in your jaw. It may be helpful to keep your jaw slightly open as you press your tongue against the roof of your mouth. This automatically relaxes the jaw, allows for clear breathing, and slows down the swallowing process.

You can also do a few exaggerated yawns before you meditate to stretch your jaw and release tension.

7. Gaze

Most people find it easier to meditate with closed eyes. Avoid squeezing your eyes shut. Softly closing them will help you keep your face, eyes, and eyelids relaxed.

You can also meditate with open eyes. Maintain an unfocused gaze on the floor a few feet ahead of you. Keep your face relaxed and avoid squinting.

Decide which way you’ll meditate before you begin, so you’re not switching back and forth between open and closed eyes. This can be disorienting and disrupt the flow of your practice.

Everything You Need to Know About Meditation Posture

Do you sit down for meditation and wonder if you’re doing it right? Learn all about the universal meditation posture here.

There are a million forms of meditation in the world, but if you went around the world taking photographs of people meditating many of them would look quite similar. Why? Because there are some basic elements of the meditation posture that are employed across the globe in order to calm the mind and align the body.

Seven-Point Meditation Posture

I come from a Tibetan Buddhist background, so the framework I typically employ is the seven points of Vairocana. The Buddha Vairocana is often represented sitting in this posture at the center of a mandala of the five principle Buddhas. He is the lord of the Buddha family, all white representing the wisdom of all-encompassing space, as well as it’s exact opposite, the very ignorance that is the driving force behind our cycle of suffering. He represents, in part, the idea that our ignorance can be transformed into vast spaciousness, which can accommodate everything. Not a bad role model, right?

First Point of Posture: Sitting Down

For those of us who are accustomed to sitting in a chair, you might be a bit intimidated by the notion of sitting on the ground in a cross-legged fashion. This is a good time to give it a try. If you find that it is difficult, you can assume one of the simpler cross-legged postures I mention below.ADVERTISEMENT

There are a few variations on sitting cross-legged on the ground, but all of them are best supported by having a formal meditation cushion. I’m partial to those sold at Samadhi Cushions as their seats are well-made and firm. It is worth the investment to purchase a cushion if you’re going to launch a consistent meditation practice. And if you are going to use pillows from your couch or bed that’s okay, but it takes a lot of adjustment to get you sitting high enough so that it’s not painful. That said, if you want to grab some sturdy cushions and sit on those to get going, go for it.

There is a myth that you have to sit in full lotus pose or look like a human pretzel to meditate. The reality is that you can meditate in any position as long as you’re comfortable. With that said, there are some important guidelines when you’re finding a seat for meditation.

The first thing is simply to sit up straight—on the floor, on a cushion or in a chair—it doesn’t really matter where, but a straight spine will help you to stay alert for your meditations. You want to feel alive and energetic while you meditate—physically and mentally—and sitting in a physical position that is upright encourages that alert state of being.

Try it out so you can experience the difference. You’ll likely find it’s actually much easier to sit for longer periods of time when your spine is stacked properly, as opposed to slouching. When you’re hunched over, not only will that promote a tired feeling, it’s hard to maintain for longer stints of time and you can hurt yourself, causing pain in the back and neck as gravity pulls you down.

If sitting up straight is painful or uncomfortable in any way, lean against a wall or piece of furniture for support to encourage your vertebrae to be stacked. Remember, your number one rule for meditation is to be comfortable, so feel no shame for using props.

If your hips are tight or your knees feel achy when you sit on the floor, you have options. Sitting in a chair is a great place to start meditating, just find a chair that doesn’t invite you to slouch. Notice if your favorite love seat encourages you to sink, and make a choice that will better support your upright position. Over time, you may find that you become more flexible and may want to explore other positions.

Laying down is not the best option for meditation, but if you are in pain or there is some reason where you cannot sit comfortably, it’s absolutely fine to lie down. There are some meditations that actually call for lying down, such as the body scan. But typically, this is not the position you’ll use for your consistent practice.

Check out these eight variations for seated meditations. The list starts with the easiest variation and gradually gets more difficult. Remember that everyone has a different body—you may find that crossing your legs for more than five minutes at a time makes your right shin fall asleep or your big toe go numb. You may find that one variation allows for a straighter spine. Try them all to find out what will work best for you.

8 Ways to Sit for Meditation

In all of these variations, make sure your head is directly over your heart, and your heart is right over your hips, so your vertebrae are stacked. I recommend that you sit on the front edge of a rolled-up blanket, pillow, or cushion; this supports proper alignment—bringing the hips slightly above the knees and allowing the pelvis to tilt forward. Positioning in this way will emphasize the natural curvature in your lumbar spine, bringing stability to support a straight spine for extended periods. Plus, cushions also make your seat more comfortable, which is the #1 rule.

In a Chair

Chairs make it easier for most people to sit still for longer periods of time, especially those with knee issues who have trouble in some of the floor-bound postures. If you choose to sit in a chair, make sure both feet are firmly on the floor. If your feet don’t reach the floor, you can use a blanket or blocks under the feet, so they feel supported. You can either sit up straight toward the edge of your seat, or use the back of your chair for support if you need it. In either case, pay attention to the alignment of your spine, and note that it can be easier to sit up straight without using the back of your chair. A cushion or pillow under you may provide more comfort, and will bring your hips slightly over the knees so you’re well-stacked and support

Against a Wall

You can use the wall or a piece of sturdy furniture to help you sit up straight. Cross your legs or extend them out in front of you, whatever feels most comfortable. A cushion (zafu) or blanket under you works well here, too.

Kneeling with Support Between Knees

While you don’t need to use a prop between your knees when you’re kneeling, it takes the pressure off your knees and ankles, and is quite comfortable. You can use a pillow, a zafu cushion turned on its side, a rolled-up blanket, or a yoga block, and place it right between the knees and under your buttocks.

*For the following cross-legged variations, I’ll use references to “right foot” and “left foot,” to make instructions easy to understand. Feel free to swap right and left in any cases to meet your optimal comfort level.

Easy Pose

Easy pose is a simple cross-legged position, where your knees are wide, your shins are crossed, and each of your feet is below the opposite knee. You probably loved this pose when you were a kid. I don’t recommend easy pose for meditations over a few minutes, it isn’t an incredibly stable seat, and it can be easier to round the spine in this position. Plus, I’ve found that my feet tend to fall asleep faster in easy pose than any other meditation posture.

If you want to try it out for shorter meditations, it’s great for stretching the knees and ankles, and opening the hips. Make sure to use a prop under you to elevate the hips.

Burmese Position

This is a variation of sitting cross-legged. If you’re just starting out, use a meditation cushion or pillow. Sit on the front half of the cushion or pillow, bend your knees in front of you, then rotate your knees out to either side, sitting in a cross-legged position. Bring your left heel to the inside of your right thigh, and your right heel to lightly touch the top of your left foot, ankle, or calf, so it sits slightly in front of you. The sides of your knees may touch the ground and if they don’t, you can use pillows or blankets under your knees for extra support.

Quarter Lotus Pose

Use a zafu or pillow here as well, and set yourself up in the same way as described for Burmese position, sitting on the front edge of your cushion, allowing your hips to open and legs to cross in front of you. Keep your left foot on the floor to the inside or below your right thigh, and your right foot to rest on the calf of the left leg.

Half Lotus Pose

Same position as quarter lotus, except you place your right foot to rest on the top of the left thigh instead of calf.

Full Lotus Pose

Full lotus is the most stable and symmetrical of meditation postures, but only if you’re flexible and it feels comfortable for you. If you force yourself into full lotus, you can injure your knees. To come into full lotus, begin in the same way you set up for quarter or half lotus, but this time you’ll bring your left foot to rest on your right thigh and your right foot to rest on your left thigh.

If you meditate in half or full lotus, make sure you’re able to sit with a straight spine and with your knees close to the floor. If that isn’t the case, take a modified meditation seat until you’re open enough to maintain proper alignment in lotus. I also recommend alternating legs, from day to day or half-way through your meditations—so that the bottom foot spends some time on top—to create an even stretch and weight distribution.

How to Sit When Learning Meditation

Give the meditation steps and basic skills outlined below a try for one week. Consider it a one-week meditation experiment. Make a commitment to follow these simple steps every day of the week.

What You’ll Do

Sitting is the best position for beginning meditation. If you lie down, especially in the beginning, you risk losing awareness and falling asleep. Sitting in an alert position keeps you awake and focused, but frees your mind from having to process information (like where to put your feet). While you are sitting, you will practice focusing on something. It could be an image, a word, or your breath.Basic Meditation for Stress Management

How It Works

Meditation is about making the mind still while keeping the body awake, but relaxed. In order for mental stillness to happen, you must first make your body still. To do that, you will sit. While you are sitting, your mind will want to roam everywhere from your to-do lists to your worries or event to where you want to go on vacation.

To help make the mind still, you will focus on a single thing. This gives your mind something to do but does not generate new thoughts. Like a cat twitching its tail, repeating a word or counting your breaths helps you release mental energy that would otherwise be used to create new thoughts.

Get Motivated for Week 1

Meditation is not about making your brain stop thinking — that is impossible. Your brain doesn’t stop generating thoughts even when you’re asleep. Meditation is really about not nurturing the thoughts that come. By developing your skill of “letting go” of thoughts, feelings, and ideas that spontaneously occur, you’ll be able to experience the calming benefits of meditation, which include: relaxation, stress reduction, more accurate perspective on your problems, enhanced creativity, and increased energy. But it all starts with learning how to sit for meditation.

The Steps: Schedule, Sit, and Focus

  1. Schedule: You are going to need to schedule five minutes each day this week to simply sit and focus. To build a sustainable routine, these five minutes should be the same time every day. Make sure that you will not be interrupted by anything during this time (e.g., no phones and no knocks on the door).
  2. Sit: Learning how to sit while meditating is one of the first challenges for most beginner mediators.First, sit comfortably in an alert position. You can sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor or on a cushion placed on the floor with legs crossed—it does not matter. Sit up tall with your back as straight as possible relaxing your shoulders down and back, broadening your chest. Keep your head level, and look slightly downward. Pick one spot on the wall and stare at it. Your intention is only to sit and be still—so, no looking around the room. To help avoid distractions, you may also close your eyes. Keep your hands anywhere that is still and comfortable; they can be in your lap or with palms face up or down on your knees or thighs.
  3. Focus: Choose one of the following to focus on:
  • Pick a word that has some meaning to you like “peace,” “quiet,” or “calm.” Repeat that word or short mantra softly aloud or in your mind as you sit.
  • Count your breaths. Every time you exhale, count to four. Then count to four against on your inhale. This will bring your attention to your breath while also encouraging deeper, controlled breathing.

The best meditation positions

Whether you’re new to meditation or you’ve been meditating for a while, the first step in setting yourself up to practice is finding a comfortable position. This makes perfect sense: if the goal of meditation is to guide your mind toward increased focus, awareness, and compassion for yourself and others, your body positioning should reflect that. You don’t want to feel fidgety or uncomfortable or in any pain.

As with most things in life, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the best meditation position. From a purist’s perspective, a mindfulness practice can be done in one of four postures: sitting, standing, lying down, and walking. Many teachers (including Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe) believe that sitting is the optimal position as it provides a balance of focus and relaxation. When the body is upright, both the body and mind tend to be alert and attentive. At the same time, when we’re seated there’s a degree of letting go and relaxation that takes place.

In order to make meditation as available and accessible to everyone, we encourage you to explore the options, especially if you’re just beginning a meditation practice or you have any limitations or restrictions, to find what feels best for you. Here are 4 positions to try, along with the proper meditation posture for each one.Try for free

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