Are you interested in meditation, but the thought of sitting cramped into a lotus position scare you off? Are you worried that you’ll never be able to sit cross-legged for an hour straight?
We’ve all been there. For most people, the thought of meditating immediately brings up ideas of toned yogic masters that can contort their bodies into all sorts of positions that – let’s face it – just aren’t natural for the rest of us.
Fortunately, your meditation posture is only one part of your practice, and is arguably the point about which you should be least concern. In this post I’m going to lay out a few guidelines and suggestions for how to sit while meditating, even if you’re not flexible, not experienced, or…you know: just a normal human being.
What Is the Best Posture for Meditation?
First of all, I want to make it clear that there are no hard and fast rules about how to meditate properly, or how you “must” sit in order to have the best experience.
Yes, it is true that certain schools of meditation, including some traditions that have been around for thousands of years, encourage you to sit cross-legged on the floor or in a lotus position, but these are by no means the only meditation poses around.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or have been practicing meditation for years, the most important meditation pose is always the one that balances your personal comfort with your ability to relax.
Above all else, sitting comfortably is the name of the game.
- When you’re comfortable will you be able to relax and have a deep meditation practice.
- When you’re comfortable will you actually be able to stay put for the duration of your practice, and remain focused on your breath.
- When you’re comfortable, your body will begin to align naturally over time, meaning that your best meditation posture may change the more you practice.
That said, once you’re comfortable, you can start to think about some other considerations. Some common rules of thumb include:
- Sit up with a straight spine.
- Align your spine over your hips, neither leaning forward nor back,
- Rest your shoulders back and down slightly, opening your chest,
- Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor,
- Place your palms open on your legs, or bind your fingers in a mudra, and
- Lift your head slightly by raising your chin.
These common practices can help to ease the flow of energy through your body, but you should only think about them after your basic seated position is comfortable. You should be able to remain in your seat without any major movements – and without undue pain or discomfort – for the entire duration of your practice.
Easy Meditation Positions for Beginners
When you’re just starting out, sitting in any one position for a long time can feel overwhelming. For many newbies, it’s easy to become fidgety during your first few (or few dozen) meditations. Suddenly, it seems, you just have to scratch your face, stretch out your neck, or move your foot to keep it from falling asleep.
When you are distracted by these movements, it is very difficult to enter into a deep meditation. If this is the case for you, practice for shorter periods of time at first, trying to sit still for just 5 minutes, and then gradually increase the amount of time you spend in that pose.
Alternatively, you might want to experiment with a few different variations. Here are 5 common meditation poses for beginners.
- Sit In a Chair. The first, and probably the easiest position for most people, is to sit upright in a chair. This is a great posture to use for two reasons. Firstly, it is fairly comfortable for most people, and you are already used to sitting in this way. Secondly, you are unlikely to fall asleep in this position, or to fidget unnecessarily. When you sit to meditate in a chair, make sure you sit with an erect spine, moving forward so your butt is only halfway into the seat. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, and use the counter-force of your feet pushing into the floor to help you lift your chest and head. Relax your shoulders, and breathe easily.
- Sit Cross-legged on a Couch. If you want to sit cross-legged, but find that it doesn’t quite work for you, experiment with sitting up off the floor. I like to sit with my legs crossed on a couch, using a pillow between my back and the back of the couch. This helps to support my back and keep it from hunching over. Sitting up on the couch (or perhaps even sitting on a pillow on the couch) will raise your tailbone, allowing your knees to drop more easily to the side. Between the extra back support and hip-relief, this is a great option for anyone with back or knee issues, or for anyone practicing to sit cross-legged for longer periods of time.
- Use a Meditation Cushion. If you’re ready to take the next step with your seated posture, but still aren’t ready to sit on the floor, try using a meditation cushion. Many people don’t realize that cushions designed for meditation are different than most pillows. They help to raise your bum, making it easier for your hips and knees to open. Additionally, they help you to keep your tailbone tucked in slightly. This, in turn, causes your spine to lengthen, and makes it less likely you’ll hunch over halfway through your practice.
- Kneel With a Meditation Stool. Another great option for many people is to kneel on the floor, using a meditation stool to support you. The kneeling position will naturally align the spine, but for many people, sitting back onto their hind is uncomfortable, and this is where the stool comes in. Place the stool between your legs and lower yourself onto it. Most meditation stools are angled forward slightly, to help support your spine and keep your back aligned over your hips. This position may feel awkward the first time you try it, but after one or two attempts, many people find it natural, light, and easy.
- Lie Down. Lastly, if none of the above postures feel right for you, you can always lie down while you meditate. Be advised, however, that many schools of meditation advise against this position. When you are lying down, you’re more likely to fall asleep, which, while relaxing, certainly defeats the purpose of sitting down to meditate in the first place.If you do decide to lie down, consider lying on the floor on a yoga mat, rather than on your bed. I encourage you to lie down in your meditation only if you are confident you’ll remain awake throughout the practice.
Finding The Right Pose For Your Body
Of course, there are as many different meditations positions as there are people meditating. No one position is the be all and end all seated postures, and no single tradition or school of meditation has “the one right way” that things “should” be done.
I encourage you to take a playful approach to your practice, including how you sit while meditating. Experiment with different postures. You may find that some days you’ll find some postures more appealing than others, and, as I mentioned earlier, it’s very common to change your posture gradually over time. Your body is immensely versatile, and with practice will open into any natural-feeling posture, allowing you to go deeper. Don’t be surprised if a pose that seemed impossible when you start becomes accessible and comfortable a few months or a year later.