Meditation Posture - Is There a Better Way of Sitting?

How important is your meditation posture? If you want to get the best results out of your practice - very!

Posture has a direct influence on our ability to focus.  Mind and body are more connected than most people seem to realise. We know that exercise fuels our brain, but our brain also fuels the quality of our exercise. 

To supercharge your meditation, your body needs to be in optimum position to let your energy flow freely and uninterrupted. Is there a correct meditation posture? "Correct" is a term that I might use in this article, however just like with most things in life, "correct" is what gives you the best results. My advice here might seem quite stiff and not particularly flexible, but this is only because I honestly feel it gave me a huge boost as a beginner meditator, and I would highly recommend using the advice provided in this article first, before experimenting with something different. Why?

When we first start with meditation, our bodies are so to say, dumb. You may often hear people say "listen to your body," but how often do you actually understand what your body is asking of you? I often thought I did, but it was never quite truthful. 

I found, that starting out in a fairly traditional manner, made me understand my own body a lot more than I ever thought possible. One peculiar thing I found, is that my body loves good symmetry... once I go deeper into meditation, my chin wants to align itself to an absolute middle of my body. How does it know where it is? I'm not sure, but can feel with absolute certainty, that "it" knows!

Posture

It's best to wear loose, comfortable clothing. No restriction of movement or tension around any area of your body should be felt while sitting in your preferred meditation position. This is not essential, as you can still meditate in not-so-comfy work clothing in your job environment. However, comfortable clothing is highly beneficial to your practice, and your health in general. 

Leg position

Full lotus is traditionally known as the best meditation position. This is due to incredible stability it provides to the whole of your body. However, while there aren't many people who can safely get into this awesome posture, there are even fewer people who can sustain it for as long as half an hour. If you are fluent in full lotus and can maintain this posture for the whole length of your meditation practice - have a go at meditating in it.

If you are reasonably flexible, half lotus, quarter lotus or easy pose (see pictures) will work well. These are relatively easy positions to get into and keep your spine stable. 

If you have problematic knees and prefer to be seated on a chair, a simple seated position is also a good option. Place both feet firmly on the ground, and if you're using a chair with a backrest, try not to lean on it to keep your spine strong and healthy.

All meditation poses: full lotus, half lotus, quarter lotus and easy poseMeditation posture: Half Lotus (Ardha Padmasana), Full Lotus (Padmasana), Easy Pose (Sukhasana) and Quarter Lotus

Spine

Erect, straight spine is the most important part of your posture - it should be straight, and not lean forward. People who sit through their entire meditation with their back leaning forward, often experience tiredness after practice. To avoid this, for full lotus, half and quarter lotus, and easy pose, it's useful to have a reasonably firm cushion right under your bum - it helps to keeps your spine straight up. Whichever posture you decide to use, be aware and monitor the position of your spine the whole time. With practice, it becomes instinctive. It also helps build healthy spine and develop better back muscles.

While it's important to keep your back straight, your spine should only be tense enough to be able to hold the rest of your relaxed body weight in a straight upright position without crouching. 

It is possible to meditate while laying down, but if you tend to fall asleep quickly, avoid any positions where your spine is not erect. Laying meditation is useful in certain situations: such as body relaxation and quick stress relief. Like relaxing your muscles before yoga practice, or preparing your body for sleep. This is not necessarily the best method if you want a quick stress relief at work unless it's practiced after you've accomplished all of your tasks. The reason for this is that laying down often impairs your mental alertness, so it's harder to immediately switch back to work mode. 

There is, however, another side to laying meditation. If your mind is alert enough to sustain it, there are other situations where it can be even more useful than sitting meditation. When laying, you have an opportunity for a complete muscle relaxation, which allows us to forget about our body altogether. This is particularly useful if you're combining meditation with recapitulation: this position could give you an additional feeling of security and courage to go on where you might otherwise not dare to wonder. Some people often find it more useful when going into deeper stages of meditation, because of the ability to disconnect their mind from the body.

Head

While keeping your neck and the rest of your back straight, you can let your head relax and comfortably slump slightly forward. This head position also helps with keeping your jaw relaxed.

When you get every part of your posture right, all different parts of your body seem to help each other out and correct themselves without you having to think about it. It takes practice, and after a while, you will be able to feel the exact posture that your body recognises as just right for your meditation practice - this helps you to hop your mind into a meditative state even more efficiently.

Shoulders

To achieve the best results, your shoulders should be completely relaxed while meditating. Just like your face, your shoulder tension should be monitored throughout your practice. If I don't do a mini yoga session, I find it very helpful to do a few little twists, and upper body stretches before meditating. This helps to keep my shoulders relatively loose throughout most of my mediation. 

Hands

I highly recommend starting your meditation practice with simply placing your right hand on top of your left just below your navel. Palms upwards, with the tips of the thumbs slightly raised and gently touching. 

This is called Dhyana mudra (mudra means seal or gesture in Sanskrit) and is said to aid on your path of self-realization, also generates concentration and cleansing.

You may often see pictures where someone's wrists are placed on their knees, and each thumb is connected with an index finger. If the fingertips face down, it's known as Chin or Gyan Mudra whereas if the fingertips face upwards, it's called Jnana Mudra. It is said to generate knowledge, wisdom, and receptivity. There are many mudras for various different purposes: each finger, hand, wrist placement in those mudras are said to generate various different qualities for your meditation. 

If you're a beginner meditator, start with one of these mudras. Keep a strong focus on your practice. Later on, when your practice is stable enough, you can experiment with other mudras and see which ones you like better and if they have any particular effect on your practice. 

Relaxation

Relax your jaw

Relaxing your face is important for a good quality meditation practice. From the very beginning, you should try to keep this in mind and correct your face while meditating. Incorporating "face monitoring" early on will prove to be beneficial later in your practice. 

Depending on your current abilities of facial relaxation (some people's faces are naturally more "stressed" than others), this part may prove to be a challenge. Continually remembering to relax your face will slowly but surely improve your progress.

Start from your jaw. Once you sit down to meditate, drop your jaw to a relaxed, natural position. Completely relaxed jaw position is usually when your mouth is open, but you don't want to go to those lengths as it will dry your mouth. Ideally, your jaw should be relaxed just the right amount to be able to keep your tong pressed in a relaxed, natural position against your front teeth. 

Some meditation guides may advise to let your tongue drop completely, without touching the upper part of your mouth. However, I find this may lead to dry throat and distracting coughs. Best to find the way that is most comfortable and least distracting for you, as long as your top and bottom teeth are not touching and your jaw feels nice and loose.

Relax your eyes and forehead

The upper part of my face is something I'm still working on myself, as I wasn't aware how much effect it had on my practice. 

I often used to notice extreme tension around my eyes and forehead; sometimes it seemed that this tension intensifies my meditations. Once I started intentionally practicing relaxation of my whole face, I realized I was wrong. Tension around the eyes intensified something; I'm not sure what, but it was more of a distraction from my mindfulness than anything else.

Relaxing your forehead will make your mind move into the state of silence quicker. You may also find yourself really noticing that shift, which happens once you move from non-meditative to a meditative state. Make sure to take a mental note of this shift, how it feels, and where it brings you - don't analyze it, just remember the sensation. Once you master this, silence comes quick and with ease. 

You may also start noticing little episodes of this sensation happening throughout your day, every time you relax. Embrace it, make it your extra minute of practice. You may be surprised to learn this, but these episodes are particularly useful when working on important, stressful projects.

You may notice, that completely relaxing your eyes makes them slightly open. This is the "correct" way of keeping your eyes while meditating: eyes half closed, lightly gazing forward. I personally find it far less distracting to close my eyes completely (while still keeping them relaxed) or put something over my eyes so if they are slightly open, I only see darkness. 

Meditation Pains, Aches and Discomforts

Numbness - the fun part

Every time after I finish with my meditation practice, I seem to have at least one foot or a whole leg that becomes completely numb. If you're meditating on a chair this shouldn't be a problem, but I find it a lot more comfortable if my feet are on the same level with my bottom. I even like to write like this. 

The only numbness remedy I found helpful, was instead of sitting in half lotus, use easy pose. I use these two interchangeably each different practice. Once you get used to keeping your body still, and not get distracted by every little itch, the onset of this troublesome meditation feature becomes completely unnoticeable, and rarely interrupts your practice. However, dealing with pins and needles after each meditation can be a little irritating. What do I do? I make it into a game of "find the best way to get rid of pins and needles fast!". I know, it sounds totally ridiculous. 

After trying out a few methods, I found that kneeling down and putting my body weight on top of the affected leg is most acceptable to me. My previous method included standing on unaffected leg and shaking the affected one to death until pins and needles go away. I prefer my current kneeling method because that unpleasant feeling of your blood rushing back is not as noticeable if you keep still.

Some people might not get affected as much as others. I guess I just learned to live with it from time to time. 

Meditation bum

If you like to meditate for long periods of time, often more than an hour, you might be familiar with "meditation bum." No joke, I have actually read accomplished yogi's advice of addressing this issue by shifting some of your body weight from one bum cheek to another from time to time during your meditation practice.

Most of my meditations don't go much over half an hour, but I can most certainly feel what these guys are talking about!  The problem is, when you have a good session and want to continue past your usual meditation time, this is quite often the one thing that breaks your focus. In some ways, it's worse than numb legs! Numbness is easier to ignore than a flattened bottom...

Bottom line - if you happen to plan a long meditation session or such prolonged practice is part of your routine, get a memory foam meditation cushion and put a nice imprint to suit your particular shape. I haven't actually tried this myself, simply because this is the first time I have ever thought about it! I now am seriously considering this option, as it might also help with numb legs. I'll let you know the result's if I ever try this.

If memory foam doesn't help, remember to shift your weight slightly from one cheek to another from time to time :)

Best meditation posture is the one that makes your body feel good

It's always good to try a different position from what you are used to from time to time. You might find a posture that is better suited for your meditation. We're all different. If sitting cross-legged in not your thing, I would encourage you to try it first. If you still maintain animosity towards these postures, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a chair. 

You might even discover some weird posture that has a very positive effect on your meditation practice, yet you are not certain if you should continue with it, as it's not mentioned in any "meditation posture advice." Listen to your body. If it feels absolutely right (you have to be sure about it!), then it is right! 

I personally find it very relaxing to hang on a bar holding my whole body weight. I'd love to try meditation in this position, but unfortunately, I don't have such bar in my house (I live in a house built in 1730), and practically no way of fixing such thing in with most ceilings being significantly lower than average... 

Looking for ways of establishing a regular meditation routine? In this article, I share a few tricks that helped me get past my undisciplined mind, in turn not only establishing a regular practice, but also developing stronger discipline.

If you find this article helpful, share it around with your fellow meditation lovers. If you have any questions or want to share your experience, drop me an email thesenseofjourney@gmail.com

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Vinga

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