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Sitting meditation is all about stillness. But it can be difficult to find stillness when you are uncomfortable. The best meditation position will keep your back upright while maintaining its natural arch. It will allow you to relax and be comfortable while remaining awake and alert during your practice.
A good meditation posture will aid your practice, especially if you are a beginner. And I don’t mean one that looks good. I mean one that is comfortable and helps you relax and focus. A good way to support your body is to use a meditation cushion help elevate your hips. This inclines the pelvis a little putting your hips slightly higher than your knees. It’s not necessary to sit cross-legged if you are still a beginner. Though you should try to work towards sitting in the traditional meditation posture of Buddha Vairocana.
The Best Meditation Position
Here are the most important features, or the Seven-Point Posture of Buddha Vairocana posture:
- Create a stable base by sitting in a cross-legged position, with each foot resting on top of the opposite thigh. Sitting will keep you alert and awake while allowing your body to relax and be still.
- Place your hands in your lap with palms facing up. Your right hand should rest lightly on your left hand, with the tips of your thumbs slightly touching. Holding your hands just below your navel can help develop good concentration.
- Your back should be upright but still relaxed. It should feel natural without any tension. When in the right position you should feel a slight uplifting through your spine.
- Your shoulders should be relaxed back and down, which also opens your chest area. Your elbows should be slightly away from your body to create space between your upper arms and body.
- Your head should be tipped forward a little, and your chin slightly tucked in.
- Your mouth should be closed, with your tongue touching the back of your upper teeth. This will help to prevent excess production of saliva.
- Keep your eyes half open, gazing down if you can. If your eyes are wide open, you are more likely to increase your mental stimulation making it harder to focus. If your eyes are closed completely, there is a possibility of falling asleep.
While this may be the traditional posture for meditation and it may look impressive, if you are experiencing pain or discomfort you will be distracted and it will not help your practice. If you are not completely comfortable in the Vairocana posture you can try some of these variations. Think of this as a progression of steps to work your way up to Vairocana, or full lotus position.
- Burmese style. This is a cross-legged pose where you place both feet and calves on the floor one in front of the other. This is the best meditation position for beginners.
- Quarter lotus. This is the next step up from Burmese style. One foot and calf stays on the floor and the other foot sits on the opposite calf.
- Half lotus. The next step further is where you place one foot on the thigh of the opposite leg.
- Full lotus. This is the traditional Vairocana meditation pose, where both feet are resting on the opposite thigh.
With these variations, it is important to make sure your knees are in contact with the floor or your cushion and your hips are slightly elevated. If you find yourself using the same pose, make sure you remember to alternate the placement of your legs regularly.
Alternative Meditation Poses
A sitting position such as the Vairocana posture, or its variations, isn’t the only way to meditate. If you have achy knees, pain in your back, or problem ankles, don’t be turned off just yet. There are a few other meditation postures you can try that can help you avoid pain and stay comfortable.
- The Astronaut. This position is an inverted sitting position. Instead of sitting on a chair and laying your back against it, you lie on the floor with your legs bent and resting on the chair. This is best with a small pillow or a cushion placed underneath your head for support. Your arms should be resting on your sides. This is a great position if you have hip problems or lower back pain.
- Corpse pose. This position is ideal for those with back pain and is good if you experience any pain at all while sitting. Simply lie on your back against a flat, horizontal surface, like the floor or a bed. Lay your arms by your sides slightly away from your body with palms facing up. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and allow them to fall away naturally. You can place a small pillow or cushion to support your neck. If needed, you can also place one under your knees to help maintain the natural curve of your back. You can also use a small rolled towel underneath the small of your back for support. Use whatever helps to keep you comfortable, but alert.
- Seiza pose. This is a kneeling position, but one that is more gentle to your legs and feet. You will need a kneeling bench with a padded sloping top or a high cushion placed underneath you between your feet. This will make kneeling a lot more comfortable. It will also make sure that your hips are tilting slightly forward to help maintain your back’s natural curve. This will help take the pressure off your lower back. This pose can be hard on the knees so you can support them by placing a cushion or towel between them and the floor.
- Chair sitting. Pick a chair that is high enough so that both your feet are resting flat on the floor with your knees at a 90-degree angle. If needed, use a footstool. Place a pillow or cushion behind the small of your back or underneath you. This helps to ensure you are sitting with your hips slightly higher than your knees. Your head should be slightly lifted. Your upper back and neck should be comfortable and naturally straight. Do not lean back against the chair.
- The Sleeping Buddha. This position is best suited to those who have severe back or joint problems. This is often used to improve your quality of sleep. Lie on your side, either on the floor or on a bed, so long as it is a flat surface. Use your left hand to hold your cheek if you choose to lie on your left side, and use your right hand if you choose to lie on your right side. Rest the other hand along the side of your body that is facing up. Slightly bend both legs, and put one on top of the other. Place a pillow or a cushion between your thighs or between your knees to prevent the upper leg from falling forward. Place a cushion under your head and neck as well, so that your spine remains horizontal.
- Standing pose. Stand with your feet beneath your shoulders. Place your heels slightly closer to each other than your big toes. Keep a slight bend in your knees and try to maintain an upright but relaxed spine. Roll your shoulders back and down and place your hands at your navel, right over left.
Once you have chosen the position that best suits you and is most gentle to your back or your joints, you can focus on your meditation practice. Remember to half close your eyes, keep your gaze downwards, and focus on your breathing.
Common Problems With your Meditation Posture
This is most common in the corpse or astronaut pose when you are lying down, but can happen at any time. If you are lying down, try raising your knees hip-width apart, with your feet flat. If you start to fall asleep, they will fall and wake you up. If you find yourself falling asleep too often, you may have to try a more upright sitting posture. Or change to a time of day when you are not so tired.
Legs or Feet Falling Asleep
This is most common when sitting in cross-legged poses where there is too much pressure on your legs or feet. You can try taking some of the pressure off with a high meditation cushion or crescent-shaped cushion. Or you can change to one of the other meditation postures that are on a chair or lying down. Keep in mind that with practice and time, your circulation will improve and this will become less of a problem.
Where to Place Your Hands
During seated meditation, it can be difficult to know where your hands should be. The traditional meditation pose has them in your lap, just below your navel, with palms facing up, right over left, and thumbs touching. Depending on your choice of posture, this may not be ideal or comfortable for you. You may find it more comfortable to simply rest them on your thighs or knees. Placing your palms up tends to relax the flow of energy through your body, but if you are more comfortable you can have them face down. If you are laying down, it is better to lay your arms our slightly to your sides with your palms up.
The best meditation position will be the one that allows you to be relaxed and aware at the same time. Do not try to force yourself into a position that causes you discomfort and pain just because it looks good. You will not be able to focus on your meditation and your practice will most likely become a chore that you want to avoid. Make it easy on yourself. Try out a few of these postures and find one that helps you find stillness. One that aligns your body and calms your mind.