Meditation positions and why your posture is important
Updated: Jan 12, 2021
“When it comes to meditation practices, the body is as important as the mind” – Will Johnson
Usually when we picture a person during their meditation session we see a yogi sitting in the full lotus pose, their legs are crossed where each foot is placed on the opposite thigh, with their fingers set in a Zen-like pose in the air. But the truth is that this is not necessary. There are many different meditation positions to try and the main objective should always be achieving the pose that allows you to stay calm and relaxed but also alert, enabling energy to flow freely. For your practice not to be difficult and cause suffering it is necessary to find the position that will allow you to spend an extended period of time in it while staying mindful and calm without the need of correcting it too often. The meditation can be done while sitting, lying, standing or walking, but it is important to note that not all meditation techniques can be applied to certain postures (e.g. walking) and depending on the goal of your meditation you may require to adjust your pose.
Using my own experience I feel that understanding ‘Seven-Point Meditation Posture’ can greatly benefit everyone who meditates or is planning to meditate, as following these simple instructions can give you a good insight of how to make your practice most effective. ‘The Seven-Point Meditation Posture’ covers seven points that should be considered when you are assessing your meditation pose. The direct instruction goes back thousands of years and comes from eastern traditions but with time it was slightly modified and consists of:
1. Sit – it is well known that sitting in the lotus position is recommended, however there isn’t many people that are able to do it and stay in this position for long; I would not discourage anyone from trying it but I truly believe that your own comfort is far more important, therefore I would recommend to sit in the easy pose with your legs crossed on a mat, floor or hard mattress, but if this isn’t comfortable - sit on a chair. I will explain it in more detail later.
2. Spine – whatever pose you are choosing it is important to note the position of your spine, it is recommended that it is straight which allows your spine to hold you up. Don’t overextend but don’t slouch either. Using cushions can contribute greatly to maintaining the correct line.
3. Hands – place your hands either by your side, on top of your knees or folded on your lap. There are many mudras available and I will write a separate post about these in the coming weeks. Do not hold your hands, let them to comfortably lie down. If not using any specific mudra, I would recommend keeping your hands upright, which symbolizes opening and readiness to receive.
4. Shoulders – the position of the shoulders should be back a little. When looking for the correct position – raise your shoulders up and then roll them back, you can repeat it until you feel that the position is comfortable and easy.
5. Chin – keeping your head straight let your chin to move downwards about 20 degrees, this will allow your neck to stay relaxed, it is important not to hold the head as it will cause your neck to fatigue.
6. Jaw – before you start meditation, move your jaw slightly, open your mouth wide and close it, repeat it few times, then gently move your jaw from side to side, then relax it, making sure that that there is no tension that can sometimes build up in the jaw areas. Let the tip of your tongue slightly touch the roof of your mouth just behind the top layer of teeth while the rest of the tongue is resting naturally.
7. Gaze – if you choose to meditate with your eyes open, find the point about one / one and a half meters in front of you; you could also use any object or a candle. Allow your gaze to rest there, do not look sharply. If you choose to meditate with eyes closed, gently soften your eye lids and try to keep your eyes closed throughout the session. You might like to check both methods to see which one sits with you better.
As mentioned before, there are many meditation positions to try, below I will describe a few:
· Sitting position – there are many variations of this position and as mentioned earlier, you could sit in full lotus position, but personally I don’t believe it is necessary, half lotus or easy pose would be my preference. These positions work best on the mat or on the floor, sitting on a bed or mattress may not be suitable as sitting on a soft base could affect your back and it will make it difficult to keep your spine straight.
If this isn’t comfortable, I highly recommend using pillows / cushions, there are many meditation cushions (zafu) on the market, you could also use any available cushion. Meditation sitting on zafu cushion is my own favorite position. Elevating your bottom slightly makes holding your spine straight much easier.
However, if sitting with legs crossed isn’t an option it is recommended to sit on a chair. In this position it is essential to keep your spine straight without fully resting against the back of a chair; and do not keep your legs crossed but place both feet firmly on the floor.
· Kneeling position – when using this position your shins should be flat on the floor with your ankles below your bottom. You can place a cushion between the bottom and heels to ease the pressure from your knees and to give you additional support.
This position could also be done on the low bench with your legs fully bent and calves under the bench seat.
· Lying down position – this position could be very useful for relaxing meditations and for yoga Nidra, also many guided meditations will require lying down position. The only issue with it is that it is more difficult to stay alert while lying down and falling asleep is very easy in this position. This is the perfect position if your goal with meditation is easing sleeping issues, but if your intentions are different, sitting pose would be advised. It is recommended to lie down on your back with your legs slightly apart, your arms resting along the body, with palms faced upwards (Savasana). For some it may appear that this position isn’t comfortable due to back problems, in which case bending the legs and placing the feet on the floor is advised.
I believe that trying different postures to find the one that suits us most is very important. The body and mind are connected and they influence each other. Good posture can help concentration while incorrect can act as a distraction. At the start I would recommend to choose whatever is comfortable yet allows you to stay mindful and as you move on with your journey there will be lots of time for experimenting. Remember, the key to the practice is to ENJOY IT…
Thank you Ellie Meade for the pictures x