When it comes to meditation, the posture we work with matters a great deal.
Finding and maintaining the right posture during our practice allows us to feel more comfortable during our sessions, prevent back and neck pain that comes from sitting wrong, and also helps us concentrate and remain focused throughout our practice.
Here we are going to see how to choose the right posture for our specific meditation practices and how to maintain them so that we fully benefit from the practice as a whole.
Understanding Meditation And Posture
In meditation, posture is really emphasized as that is what determines the kind of experience you have through your meditation session. A bad posture might make you feel tense, uneasy and restless, and eventually interfere with the quality of your overall experience with meditation.
On the other hand, good posture helps you feel relaxed and comfortable and optimizes your meditation experience from the beginning of your session to the end.
As an individual, you need to find the right posture that matches your meditation practice. Whether you are seated, standing, walking or you have to lay down in your meditation practice, you should find the position that works well for you.
In meditation, generally, there are certain aspects of posture that are focused on. Since most of the meditation styles involve sitting down in silence, there are 7 points of posture that have been discussed by meditation experts and teachers.
Let’s take a closer look at them.
Posture point #1. Sitting down – Generally, most meditators are used to sitting down on their chairs, couches, and beds while meditating. However, some experts recommend finding a flat ground where you can sit cross-legged during your sessions. This might require you to get a meditation cushion to ensure you are comfortable and don’t exhaust yourself and start feeling pain. You can even decide to use one of the pillows from your couch as an alternative.
Sitting cross-legged is commonly known as the lotus position, and some people find it naturally easy to do it while others struggle a bit before making it work. It’s fine. You should take your time to try out the lotus position as you adjust the pillow you are sitting on and stretch your legs a bit and strike the right balance.
There are different lotus-based sitting positions you can try which include the full lotus, the quarter lotus, and the half-lotus, as well as the Burmese position and seiza.
Posture point #2. The spine – The spine should remain upright and straight. Many people relate how to position the spine with the idea of stacking coins together. It should be straight but in a natural way. It shouldn’t feel forced. And as you sit down to meditate and notice your spine is slowly sagging or positioned the wrong way, you should gently bring it back to the right posture.
Posture point #3. The Hands – When it comes to the hands, there are 2 options to go with. You can decide to place them on your laps with the palms facing downwards. This position complements the lotus sitting position and meditation experts like Kilung Rinpoche have said that it encourages relaxation and smooth flow of energy in your body.
The second option is by placing your right palm on top of your left palm in a way that both your thumbs are touching each other gently. This is a position that comes in handy when you are feeling sleepy as it brings about heat and energy in your body.
Posture point #4. The Shoulders – The shoulders should remain relaxed and in a comfortable position by keeping them down and moving them back a little in a way that keeps your chest open. You should also check to ensure that the height of both shoulders is the same and keep checking up on them as you meditate. And when you notice the position has changed, you readjust them.
Posture point #5. The Chin – The chin is supposed to remain tucked in to help keep your face in a position of relaxation. You can raise the sides of your face slightly upward to help ease any tension your face might have. The idea here is to strike a good balance between not lowering your head too low that you can see where your belly button is located and too raised up that it keeps your head inclined upwards.
Posture point # 6. The Jaw – It is a good exercise to yawn so that you help your jaw to ease up. After that, you should try to keep the jaws open as you let your tongue rest on your mouth’s roof. Those few adjustments can help you clear up your breathing process and also reduce the speed of your swallowing process.
Posture point #7. The Gaze (eyes) – Most beginners find that closing their eyes helps to keep their attention on the practice and avoid external distractions. However, it is worth noting that it is not all people who benefit from closed eyes. Others prefer keeping their eyes half-open while maintaining a low gaze on the floor without necessarily staring at something.
In this case, there’s no better approach between the two. If you feel like keeping your eyes closed works for you, you can go with that. In the same way, if keeping your eyes open works smoothly for you, by all means, do it.
Both have advantages and disadvantages, knowing which one you handle well is the key to knowing which approach will optimize your overall performance and experience. However, make sure you choose one approach. Don’t juggle the two through your sessions. Choose one and stick to it.
How to Find the Right Meditation Posture For Your Body
Based on postures and positions, meditation can be divided into 4 categories, that is, sitting meditation, standing meditation, lying down meditation, and kneeling meditation.
Let’s have a look at each category and help you determine which meditation posture is the best one for you.
As earlier mentioned, most meditation styles such as mindfulness meditation recommend sitting as the main position. And while you are doing them, you should ideally sit with your spine straight.
If you are seated on a chair, aim to sit straight and keep your feet resting on the floor in a way that you make an angle of 90 degrees with the knees. You can let your hands hang on the side of your hips or you can rest them on your laps with the palms facing downwards.
If you feel sitting on the chair to meditate for a long time is uncomfortable for you, you can place a pillow under your hips or behind your back so that you support it.
If you are seated on a cushion on the floor or on your bed, you can choose to sit in any of the mentioned lotus positions or with your legs straight. Your hands can rest on your laps or you can make the hand gestures or mudras such as Dhyana, Vitarka, Dharmachakra, and Abhaya. Your spine should also be in an upright position.
Here, you can consider looking for a place that’s comfortable and private enough for you to kneel. You can choose to kneel on a mat or on a smooth floor or a flat comfy surface that won’t get you feeling pain after a while.
The best part about kneeling is that you don’t have to struggle to keep your spine upright.
The best way to kneel is by resting your shin on the flat surface and getting in a bent-knees position. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your heels facing upwards. Try to balance your weight on your hips so that your knees are not uncomfortable with the weight.
Your hands can be close to your chest with the right thumb touching the left thumb, like in a praying position.
Unlike the normal standing posture, if you prefer standing while meditating, here is how you should position yourself for maximum comfort and relaxation.
First, stand straight and keep your feet slightly apart. Maintain the same distance with your feet as the distance from each shoulder. Then bend your knees just slightly and keep your toes pointing slightly away from each other.
The backside of your leg, that is the heels, should be pushed inwards a bit so that the toes are able to face away from each other well.
Keep your hands on your stomach and make sure you feel every inhale and exhale from your body and how air moves in and out of your body passing through different organs.
Meditating while lying down helps to give your entire body support, and often in this position, you are more relaxed and at ease.
To maintain a good posture while lying down, make sure you lie down looking upwards. Keep your hands resting beside your hips. Each of your feet should be aligned to each side of your hips and the toes can face away from each other just a bit.
If you have problems with maintaining this posture for a long time, you can consider putting a pillow below your legs so as to support your knees or you can get your feet placed on the floor with your knees bent.
Please feel free to take your time to consider and try out all the meditation postures we have mentioned and settle on the one you feel most comfortable with that is also based on your meditation style.
How to Maintain Your Chosen Posture
After picking your preferred posture, you need to work to maintain it and make it your second nature so that it is seamless as you meditate. Here are some tips and techniques to help you get used to the posture faster and perfect it in a much shorter time than you normally would.
- Try different sitting options. As you work to get the ideal meditating position for yourself, especially with sitting forms of meditation, feel free to give all the sitting options you have a go. If you prefer sitting on something, go ahead and try out meditation benches, round meditation cushions, rectangular cushions, and any other seat you feel might be good for you.
- Try to have your butt on the center of the cushion, chair, or bench. With sitting meditation, it is easy to feel uncomfortable after a few minutes of meditation. And beginning to change your position while in your session, can affect the quality of your meditation experience. To avoid that, you can aim to place your butt in the center of the seat you are on as that will help you maintain a good balance that won’t get you exhausted over time. Estimate where the center could possibly be and sit there, and when you start feeling tired, adjust around that position and you will find your “bullseye”.
- Start with shorter practices and sessions and advance slowly. Meditation is not about the length of your sessions, it’s about the quality. This means that it is better to meditate for 2 to 5 minutes and do it well than to spend hours doing it and feel restless, bored, and waiting to get out of it. It is even more important that, as you are seeking to find the right meditation posture, you experiment with shorter meditation sessions. Do it for a few minutes and gauge how you feel afterward. When you get the one you feel might be it, try longer sessions and determine if it is really it.
- Be closely aware of your breathing process. Being aware of how the air goes into your body and out, as you meditate, really grounds you in the present moment and it can help you notice when your posture is slagging or the first feeling of discomfort or pain, which can then help you readjust fast before things get worse.
- Redirect your attention and readjust when your mind wanders. The nature of the mind is to constantly process different thoughts and it is going to wander quite often. And soon enough, you are going to find yourself thinking about things that are not related to meditation at all, and your posture may have changed too. Whenever you become aware that your mind has drifted, gently redirect your attention to your practice, and if your posture has changed, readjust it as well. Constantly seek to do this as it is how you are going to get better over time.
- Put on loose clothes. One of the things that make you uncomfortable and even makes it harder for you to assume the posture you are supposed to when meditating, is the type of clothes you wear. Aim to wear loose clothing that won’t make you feel uneasy when you sit down or kneel or even stand or lie down.
It is now time for you to look through the posture options we have covered and determine which one is the best for you.
Getting the ideal posture might take some time and may involve playing around and testing different positions and seeing how you feel about them. We encourage you not to be afraid of testing them out and letting go of the ones you feel are making you uncomfortable.
At the end of the day, it is all about finding a position that makes YOU feel at ease when you are meditating so that you get to enjoy the whole experience and benefit from it in the long term.
And after you have picked your preferred meditation position, you can begin working with it right away in all your upcoming meditation sessions.
Going forward, every time before you begin your sessions, it is advisable to close your eyes and visualize yourself in the position you chose and see yourself meditating in that position. And then you ahead and do that. This visualization technique makes the position stick in your mind and allows you to remember to use the correct posture every time.