The importance of meditation posture
The first thing to learn in meditation is how to sit effectively.
There are two important principles that you need to bear in mind in setting up a suitable posture for meditation.
- your posture has to allow you to relax and to be comfortable.
- your posture has to allow you to remain alert and aware.
Both of these are vitally important. If you're uncomfortable you'll not be able to meditate because of discomfort. If you can't relax then you won't be able to enjoy the meditation practice and, just as importantly, you won't be able to let go of the underlying emotional conflicts that cause your physical tension.
From reading that, you might well think that it would be best to meditate lying down. Bad idea! If you're lying down your mind will be foggy at best, and you may well even fall asleep. If you've ever been to a yoga class that ends with shavasana (the corpse pose), where people lie on the floor and relax, you'll have noticed that about a third of the class is snoring within five minutes.
Forget about meditating lying down. The best way to effectively combine relaxation AND awareness is a sitting posture. You don't have to sit cross-legged, or even sit on the floor.
We'll show you how to set up an effective posture in three positions: sitting in a chair, sitting astride a cushion or on a stool, and sitting cross-legged. All of these work: the important thing is to find one in which you will be comfortable.
Remember: you may think it looks really cool to sit cross-legged, but if you don't have the flexibility it takes to do that then you'll simply suffer! Make it easy on yourself. Choose a posture that is right for you.
Meditation Posture: Elements of Good Posture
There are many different ways to sit for meditation, including using chairs, sitting astride cushions, using a bench, and various ways of sitting cross-legged from the simple tailor position to the full lotus. I'm going to stress again that you need to find a position that is comfortable for you. Listen to your body. Discomfort will distract you from your meditation and is also your body's way of telling you that something is wrong (although you need to learn to distinguish -- perhaps you can already -- the discomfort of stretching from the discomfort of damaging pain; but we'll come to that later).
We'll look at common postural faults later, but for now, these are the things you have to bear in mind when setting up a posture that will allow you to be comfortable and to be aware:
1. Your spine should be upright, following its natural tendency to be slightly hollowed. You should neither be slumped nor have an exaggerated hollow in your lower spine.
2. Your spine should be relaxed.
3. Your shoulders should be relaxed, and slightly rolled back and down.
4. Your hands should be supported, either resting on a cushion or on your lap, so that your arms are relaxed.
5. Your head should be balanced evenly, with your chin slightly tucked in. The back of your neck should be relaxed, long, and open.
6. Your face should be relaxed, with your brow smooth, your eyes relaxed, your jaw relaxed, and your tongue relaxed and just touching the back of your teeth.
Next we'll look at the most common ways you can sit, beginning with the easiest, and then we'll look at some common faults in posture and how to correct them.