One of the biggest challenges many meditators face revolves around their posture. We tend to have an image of the Buddha sitting in a perfect lotus position, and yet the reality for many of us is that cross-legged postures can be extremely uncomfortable, or even painful.
This leads a lot of people to ask an important question. Can you meditate lying down? There are some pros and cons to a reclining posture, so here are a few points to consider.
Pros and Cons of a Reclined Meditation Posture
The Benefits of Lying Down in Meditation
First, let’s take a look at the upside.
For most people, lying down during meditation is attractive primarily because it is far more comfortable than sitting on the floor in a seated posture.
A higher level of comfort means that you’ll be able to relax more completely, and are more likely to enter into a deep state of meditation, in which your mind releases its grip on your thoughts.
After all, it’s hard to focus on your breath when your sitting in a posture that causes you pain after 5 minutes. For many people, sitting cross-legged will, (at a minimum) cause your leg to fall asleep, and probably cause your back to hunch. That means you’ll be more likely to fidget during your meditation, breaking the stillness you’ve been working hard to develop.
Therefore, lying down seems like a great option, right? Not so fast…
The Disadvantages of Reclining During Meditation
As with everything, the good also brings with it the bad.
In the case of reclining meditation postures, the number 1 downside is that you might become too relaxed and fall asleep.
Sometimes, this is ok. For example, yoga nidra sessions often encourage you to enter a sleeping state, and a lot of people like to meditate for a few minutes before bed, and are ok with their meditation allowing them to drift off to asleep. If you struggle to fall asleep at night, this posture could even be seen as a major benefit.
However, it’s important not to overlook the point that most of the time meditation is about focus through relaxation, not sleeping, and a number of common meditation practices, such as Vipassana, expressly forbid lying down while meditation.
When you fall asleep, you’ve effectively nullified the gains of your practice. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, it just, well, isn’t meditation.
To avoid falling asleep, you can try several different options. The first is to lie down on the floor or on a yoga mat, rather than on a couch or in bed. This will make your meditation akin to a shavasana, and you’ll be less likely to fall asleep.
Another point to consider is the time of day. If you’re meditating after exercise, or in the morning, you’re unlikely to fall asleep, whereas after a big meal or in the evening before bed time makes nodding off more likely.
Alternative Lying Meditation Postures
If you want the comfort of lying down during meditation without the risk of accidentally taking a nap, there are several alternative postures you can consider.
The first is to plant your feet firmly on the floor with your knees raised. The very slight effort you exert keeping your knees lifted will allow you to stay more focused, and having your feet flat on the floor can be a good posture for grounding through your lower chakras.
Another great choice is to lie on a hard floor or yoga mat, and to allow the soles of your feet to come together, dropping your knees to either side. This pose is known as Supta Baddha Konasana, or reclined cobbler’s or reclining bound angle posture.
Lastly, another option is to lift your head and upper back slightly. Once again, this slight lift will make you less likely to fall asleep, while still retaining the benefits of a comfortable reclined posture.
Your Meditation Posture Is Your Choice
All things considered, your meditation posture is always your choice. There’s no single right or wrong way to meditate, as long as you’re aware of the pluses and minuses of each posture.
We outline a number of easy meditation postures in this post, so I encourage you to read further if you’re simply looking for a comfortable, simple position.
You might also want to check out these tips for meditating properly to help you choose the right pose for you.