9 Best Meditation Poses: Find The Right One For You
When people think of meditation poses, they usually imagine legs folded up like contortionists and fingers in zen-like positions. But it’s not always necessary to be sitting cross-legged in every meditation.
Each meditation posture has a different mental effect. It’s important to be comfortable – but not too comfortable so as to fall asleep.
In this post, we’ll be looking at the different meditation positions, how to practice them correctly, and which meditative pose is best for you.
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Why do people use meditation poses?
Meditation positions are said to stem from the story that Buddha found enlightenment whilst meditating cross-legged. But over 2,500 years ago that’s pretty much how everybody sat.
As well as their spiritual meaning, meditation postures also have a practical benefit to the type of meditation we are practicing.
What is the goal of meditation poses?
The practice of meditation postures is to invite relaxation and mental clarity and ensures that you are able to breathe easily. It also brings awareness to the relationship you have with your body.
Establishing this mind-body connection has received scientific validation. What’s key is that you find a comfortable position where you can focus on the present.
Why does your meditation pose matter?
Meditation poses, also known as “asanas” in yoga, are important for a few reasons:
- Promoting physical comfort and stability: A comfortable and stable body position during meditation helps to reduce distractions from physical discomfort, allowing the meditator to focus their attention on the present moment.
- Supporting mental focus: A well-aligned posture helps to keep the mind alert and focused during meditation.
- Facilitating the flow of energy: According to some traditions, specific poses can help to open up and balance the flow of energy in the body, promoting greater calm, balance, and overall well-being.
- Symbolic value: In some cultures and traditions, specific poses are associated with particular qualities or states of being, and adopting these poses can help to cultivate these qualities in the meditator.
It’s worth noting, however, that there’s no one “right” meditation pose that works for everyone. Different poses may work better for different people, depending on their body type, flexibility, and other factors.
Ultimately, what’s most important is finding a pose that feels comfortable and stable for you, and that allows you to focus your attention and cultivate a sense of inner calm and stillness.
What to do if the meditation position hurts
Many people who start meditation soon realize that a sitting meditation position isn’t as easy as you first thought – especially those of us spending most of our working day glued to an office chair (that’s 100% me!) But there is a difference between noticing discomfort – and full-on pain.
One of the fascinating discoveries I made in meditation is how pain moves and sometimes disappears. If while you are meditating you feel an itch or some soreness in the back or neck, start by just observing it.
Part of mindfulness meditation is to observe these sensations in the body. Instead of immediately reacting to it, spend a moment observing this distraction and see if it changes. However, if the practice is causing so much discomfort and pain that you are not able to focus at all, then by all means try a different sitting position.
If you feel any discomfort while meditating, try not to react to it immediately. Observe it first to see if it moves or fades. If it is stopping you from finding calm and focus, then change your posture.
Tips to help with meditation posture
Before we go through the list of meditation poses, it’s important to keep in mind the following points to get the best out of your meditation:
- Allow your body to breathe easily – no matter which meditation you choose, a good posture is one that allows you to breathe easily. The key to this is a tall spine, but not a rigid spine. The best way to achieve this is to imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head. You should notice a slight curve in your lower back, your chest is raised, and your pelvis tilted slightly forward.
- Let your hands balance you – While there are traditions that suggest using special hand formations called hand Mudras, how you place your hands is completely up to you. Your hands should be in a position that does cause you to slouch or lean either forward or back. The position I use is to place one hand in another in my lap facing up.
- The chin – I have noticed that some practices require that your head faces the sky, but unless you are instructed in the practice to do otherwise, the chin should be slightly tucked with a relaxed jaw. What’s important is the tall spine.
- Shoulders – When I first started, shoulders were something that bothered me. I just didn’t know what to do with my shoulders. The answer I later learned was to just let them drop slightly backward. This encourages the chest to open so you can breathe easier.
The focus should be on having a tall spine and an open chest. Try not to be leaning either forwards or backward.
The 9 best meditation positions
1. Easy Pose
In terms of the go-to meditation pose, the Easy pose is the one that feels most natural when we begin. It is what I like to call the ‘assembly’ pose and surfaces memories of school assembles and the smell of wood varnish from the floor.
The easy pose is sitting cross-legged with our calves over each foot.
Sitting on a cushion can improve your Easy pose posture, if you sit towards the front of the cushion, this should tilt your pelvis forward, which makes it easier on the back. Avoid your knees being higher than your hips.
- Feels natural to do
- Not a lot of flexibility is required
- As the legs move freely so there is less stability
- If sitting without a raised pelvis (e.g. on a cushion) can cause backache during longer meditations.
2. Quarter Lotus
In my opinion, the quarter lotus is the minimum you should go for in a cross-legged pose. Instead of sitting with soles facing out, try to turn your feet to face the sky. Then place one of your feet on the opposite calf.
- Feels natural to do
- Not a lot of flexibility is required
- Better support of the back than the easy pose
- If sitting on a hard surface, there can be a lot of pressure on the lower foot which may cause discomfort.
3. Half Lotus
The half lotus position is the next step once you feel comfortable with the quarter lotus. It’s almost identical to the quarter lotus but you raise one of your feet and rest it on the opposite thigh.
- Give more stability to the back allowing longer meditations
- Requires more hip flexibility to avoid putting pressure on the knees
4. Full Lotus
The famous full lotus position that all beginner meditators dream of. Once you have mastered the half lotus position, the next step is trying to raise the other foot onto the thigh.
- Gives you full stability of the back and forces you to have a straight spine
- Is symmetrical to allow better mind-body connection
- Requires a lot of flexibility in the hips and knees
5. Burmese Position
The Burmese pose is my personal preference when meditating. I like to do it on my favorite meditation cushion to push my pelvis slightly forward and support my lower spine. The Burmese position is sitting cross-legged with both feet facing the ground.
- Supports the back more than just sitting with your legs crossed
- Doesn’t require as much flexibility as the full lotus position
- Leaning too far forward can risk putting too much pressure on the knees
6. Chair Meditation
Sitting in a chair is not something we think of as a meditation practice. But it is a great option when you do not have the flexibility for sitting in a lotus pose or suffer from back or knee pain.
It’s also great if you work at a desk job as you can immediately start meditation at any time. To correctly sit for meditation, make sure your spine is fully supported by the back of the chair, and your feet are flat on the floor with your knees at 90 degrees. Rest your hand on your thighs, or upright with one hand in the other’s palm.
- Doesn’t require any flexibility
- Most of us are already sitting in a chair throughout the day
- The seated position fully supports the spine
- If you are already spending too much time sitting, this may encourage you to be more sedentary instead of active
- If you are sitting too high, or too low, it can cause tightness in the hips. Make sure when you sit, your knees are at 90 degrees.
You’re most likely sitting while you are reading this, why not take one minute for a quick meditation reset?
- Make sure you are sitting in a comfortable position, with a tall spine and your knees at 90 degrees.
- Make sure your back is fully supported by the chair, and your feet are flat on the floor.
- If you like you can do this with your eyes closed, or leave them open if you prefer.
- Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and take a deep breath for a count of four.
- Then hold your breath for a count of four.
- Then breathe out for a count of four making an audible sigh
- And then hold it for four.
- Repeat this three or four times
- That’s it, you just completed a chair meditation!
7. Seiza Pose
This seated position originates from Japan and is popular in martial arts and tea ceremonies. This position is achieved by sitting with the tops of your feet facing the ground.
- Of the ways to sit on the floor, this has the least pressure on the hips and thighs
- Forces the back to be straight and upright
- This can be hard on the knees and ankles when sitting on a hard surface, a cushion or pillow is advised.
8. Standing Meditation Pose
Standing meditation is another pose that people do not regularly associate with meditation, but standing meditation is particularly effective for those that find themselves continually falling asleep. As well as standing, you could also try a walking meditaiton, but both meditations come under the same umbrella.
- Less likely to fall asleep
- Help you feel more connected to the ground
- Can be tiring on the feet and lower back when done for long periods
9. Lying Down (Corpse)Pose
The last of our eight is the lying down pose. Lying down meditation can be done on the floor or in the comfort of your bed, but it’s important to know that meditation practice is different to sleep. When lying down, keep your palms facing upwards as this opens your chest.
- Your body is fully supported
- Promotes rest leaving you relaxed
- Good to do before you sleep
- Makes it very easy to fall asleep
The key takeaway
The meditation posture you choose depends on the situation. If you are tired or prone to falling asleep, you might choose the standing meditation, or you may wish to work up to the full lotus pose.
You don’t have to keep using the same posture. I sometimes meditate while standing on the train to work, and I will have a short sitting meditation before a big meeting, and then try a lying meditation before I sleep. The important thing is that you focus on the present.
Which is your favorite meditation posture? Let me know in the comments.