Employing a posture to meditate is not exactly some brand new meditative fashion, but, interestingly, dates back millennia. In the Indus Valley, archaeologists have discovered evidence of the use of meditative positions in wall art dating from approximately 5,000 to 3,500 BCE. Those images depict people sitting in what might be recognized today as meditation postures.
The Importance of Adopting a Meditative Pose
For centuries, monks, yogis, and meditation masters have been experimenting with meditation poses, concluding that sitting in a specific manner to meditate could have a great impact on both our body, mind, and spirit. They support that employing the right meditation pose is extremely important, as it could promote the overall quality of our practice by inducing a state of alert, concentrative calmness.
Moreover, maintaining a healthy posture during meditation will positively affect your daily overall posture as well, resulting in a number of physical and psychological benefits.
Mind and body are interconnected. Τhe relationship between our mind and body is a two-way street, meaning our mind influences the way our body reacts, but the form of our body also affects our state of mind. As Amy Cuddy supports in her awesome TEDx speech about how posture can affect our perception, “we smile when we are feeling happy, but also, when we force a smile it actually makes us feel happy”.
Many scientific studies have shown that our posture, standing or sitting can affect our emotions, thoughts, mood and even our brain chemistry and structure. Our posture is a reflection of our inner world while at the same time our inner world is a reflection of our posture, (as above so below, as bellow so above).
Some Useful Tips
There is a significant variety of meditation postures, but before I start exploring, I would like to give you some useful tips that should be applied regardless of the posture that you choose to adopt during your meditation practice:
- It is important that you select a posture that will allow you to be comfortable, calm, and alert at the same time. The feeling of discomfort will distract your mind and might even damage your body. Always comply with the needs of your body.
- Wear light and comfortable clothes, especially around the waist in order for your breathing to not be inhibited.
- Keep your spine erect and straight. This also promotes breathing.
- Push your shoulders slightly back and down. Take three deep breaths. Feel your chest expanding and relax your shoulder muscles.
- Bring your chin slightly towards your chest. Find the position where your head is balanced and all of your neck muscles are relaxed.
- Keep your eyes closed and relax all the muscles of your face. Relax your mouth, jaw, eyelids and eyebrows.
- Your tongue should be held behind your upper central teeth and touching your palate (We learned a few words here xD).
I understand that you might feel slightly overwhelmed by all those recommendations but always be aware that they are just recommendations. You don’t “have” to follow any of those practices, but if you do, eventually, all of them are going to be expressed naturally and you will most probably succeed in having a better overall meditation experience.
Diving Into the Meditation Sitting Postures
The Quarter Lotus Posture (Sukhasana – The Easy Pose)
Sukhasana literally translates to “Easy Pose” and this is because it really is one of the easiest meditation postures. Our body has a natural tendency to cross the legs this way since we were little children.
This sitting position is amazing for beginners, as well as a great way to start training our body and mind to sit a certain way during our meditation practice and for extended periods of time.
The Half Lotus Posture (Ardha Padmasana)
This posture is slightly more difficult than the quarter lotus posture. Mastering this pose will offer you the flexibility needed in order to start progressing towards employing the full lotus pose, which is considered the holy grail of meditation poses.
Try switching legs halfway through your practice or, if you don’t want to break your practice in half and get distracted, try alternating the foot which rests on the top of the thigh every other practice.
The Full Lotus Posture (Padmasana)
The full lotus pose is almost exactly like the half lotus pose, but thrice as hard. Instead of putting only one foot on the top of the opposing thigh as in the half lotus position, you have to rest both your feet respectively on the top of their opposing thigh.
As I stated before, this posture is the holy grail of postures due to the fact that it offers amazing stability and grounding.
Make sure that you can sit in a half lotus pose for at least 20 minutes in order to avoid any strains and injuries that might be caused by rushing into the full lotus posture.
The Burmese Posture (Siddhasana)
This is also called “The Perfect Pose”. It is somewhat easier than the poses described above because you don’t have to be as flexible as you need to be in order to meditate in the half or full lotus positions.
Tip: If you are about to employ one of the postures described earlier you may place a pillow, a cushion or a blanket underneath your pelvis. Lifting up your pelvis will aid you in maintaining a straighter spine more effortlessly.
Kneeling Posture (Seiza)
Kneel on the ground. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Your legs should be closed and the inner side of each of your knees almost 15cm apart. Drive your feet slightly apart. Direct your toes inward and sit on the inner side of your feet.
Note: During your first few times, you may feel a little uncomfortable maintaining the poses described above. I recommend staying in those poses for 2-5 minutes at first and gradually increasing the amount of time as you progress.
Important note: The postures described above can be very challenging, especially the full lotus pose. You may experience stretch pain while being in one of those positions in some parts of your body like the gluteal muscles, your quadriceps, your calves and shin muscles. This is not something abnormal and with time you will get used to it, but if you aren’t able to focus on your practice you should take it easy and maybe choose a different posture.
Moreover, if you are not flexible enough, you may experience joint pain. In this case, you MUST change your posture immediately because this might result in permanent physical damage.
If you can’t distinguish between stretch and joint pain, immediately modify your posture, just to be safe.
Kneeling Posture Using a Stool (Seiza)
Whereas seiza is an awesome pose to adopt for your meditation practice, you might experience slight discomforts on your knees and feet, especially if you are a beginner. However, if you find this posture interesting and you want to give it a try for a while, you can always use a stool.
Using a stool for your kneeling meditation practice offers many advantages such as:
- Assistance in keeping your spine erect much easier while being more comfortable and alert.
- Better weight support. As a result, your legs and feet won’t fall asleep.
- Less stress on your joints (especially your knee and ankle joints).
- You don’t have to be as flexible.
- You can maintain a stable posture for a greater amount of time.
Kneeling Posture Using a Cushion (Seiza)
Sit near the front edge of the cushion and place your feet by its sides. Your inner thighs along with your shins should be parallel to each other. Find the spot on the cushion that allows you to keep your back straight almost effortlessly. Maintain this position and start your practice.
Practicing on a stool or a cushion is almost the same. The decision of which one you are going to use is entirely up to you. There is a great variety of stools and cushions, made exclusively for meditation practice, available online.
Don’t hesitate to experiment with both.
Sitting Posture Using a Chair
This pose is highly suggested for beginners.
Rest near the edge of the chair with your spine straight and erect. It is recommended that you don’t lean against the back of the chair. Your feet should be placed firmly on the ground. Keep the inner angle that your knees form between 90 and 110 degrees.
If the chair is too high and your legs are hovering, you can place a blanket, a cushion or a stool beneath them in order to stabilize them and feel more grounded. If the chair is too short, you can put a cushion, a blanket or a pillow underneath your pelvis, in order to get more elevated and be able to maintain an erect spine with more ease.
Meditation chairs specifically made for your meditation practice can be found online as well.
Lying down Posture
Lie down on your back, legs extended and straight. Your palms should be by your sides, facing upward. If you feel like it, you can support your head by placing a thin pillow underneath it. Be careful not to elevate your head too much because your breathing will be hindered. You can also set a pillow or cushion beneath the heels of your feet to help draw the tension away from your lower back, thus experiencing a greater sense of calmness and relaxation.
Note: Practicing lying down meditation may render you drowsy. You may even fall asleep. If this is your personal purpose of meditating then great!
Although, if you are frequently falling asleep and your purpose is to start experiencing a number of the benefits of meditating, you have to consider changing the posture that you apply while practicing, in order to stay awake and more alert.
Speaking from my personal point of view, supposing a specific pose during our meditation practice can have some kind of long-term impact on our mindset. and the way our life unfolds.
This impact, however small, could be of great importance in this “age of slumping over our smartphones and keyboards”. Studies have shown that chronic slouching might result in decreased energy levels, migraines, headaches, physical pain, and even depression, and in fact, the increased slouching from constantly sitting in front of our computers to looking down at our smartphones is actually directly linked to the rise of depression in recent years.
Nevertheless, always be aware that meditation is a state of mind. One could sit in a full lotus position for an hour while not meditating at all, and another could walk the dog while being in a deep meditative state, alert and present.
All I am trying to point out here is that meditation is not just about sitting in a specific place adopting a specific pose for 20 minutes long. This might be described as the practice of meditation. And the purpose of any kind of practice is to make us better in what we are practicing.
Meditation is a state of being and should be practiced regardless of time and place. And this is the purpose of practicing meditation; to help us integrate meditative states in our daily life, either while sitting, standing, or basically doing anything, and start reaping the full range of its benefits throughout our entire life.
Have you experimented with any of the poses described above? Do you have any insights or recommendations for our dear readers? Please leave a comment bellow and let us know.
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