Ah, the mysterious world of meditation, where inner peace and enlightenment await…but if you’re here you might be wondering how to sit on a meditation cushion, the most valuable of meditation tools.
In this article, I’ll show you the different postures, delve into alternative seating arrangements for those with physical limitations, and even dish out some bonus tips on how to create a serene meditation space that will make your cushion proud.
So grab your favorite cushion, sit comfortably, and let’s get started.
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Understanding Meditation Cushions
Meditation cushions come in various shapes, sizes, and materials. Some popular types include zafu, zabuton, crescent, and even meditation benches. They are said to originate from China and were originally filled with reedmace down.
These cushions are often filled with materials like buckwheat hulls, cotton, or foam. The primary purpose of using a meditation cushion is to improve your meditation posture, help you sit comfortably, and maintain focus during your practice.
Why Use A Meditation Cushion?
Meditation cushions provide the necessary support to maintain proper posture during your meditation, promoting alignment and reducing physical discomfort.
This enables you to focus inward, fostering deeper concentration and relaxation, and enhancing the overall effectiveness and experience of their mindfulness practice.
Choosing the Right Meditation Cushion
When selecting a meditation cushion, consider factors like your body type, flexibility, and personal preferences. Here are some tips to help you find the right meditation pillow:
- Determine the ideal height and firmness for your body. This will help you maintain good posture and reduce discomfort during your meditation sessions.
- Try out different types of meditation pillows before making a decision. It’s essential to find the one that provides the best support and feels most comfortable to you.
How to Sit on a Meditation Cushion
Once you’ve found the right meditation cushion, it’s time to learn how to sit on a meditation cushion properly. There are a lot of meditation positions you can use on a cushion, but there are four key principles to use however you sit.
1. When sitting cross-legged, your soles should be facing up, and close to your pelvis
The ‘Easy pose’, also known as the assembly position, is the only cross-legged pose where your soles are facing out. But what you’ll soon notice with this pose is that your ankles and back will hurt with anything longer than a ten-minute meditation.
Instead poses like the Burmese are easier on the knees and help support the back.
To sit in the Burmese position follow these steps:
- First, sit down on the cushion with your back in the middle, or 2/3 forwards to allow your pelvis to tilt forwards.
- Pull one of your legs towards you with the top of your foot facing the ground and your sole facing up
- Then pull your second leg as close as you can, again with the sole facing up
2. Your knees should be close to the floor and below your hips
If you’ve tried the Burmese position above, try to push your knees as close to the ground. At first, you might find some tightness around your hips, and your knees will just float, but with time you’ll notice they’ll naturally rest on the ground.
Having your knees on the ground opens up your hips. This opening of your base gives you the right support to sit for longer periods, it also sets your back up to be in the right position which comes next.
3. A tall spine and an open chest
When I first started meditation, no matter how I sat I would get a sore back after about five minutes (perhaps something to do with sitting in an office chair all day). But after about a week of daily meditation, you should start to find it easier. Here are some tips that should help:
A neutral spine: I never understood what a ‘neutral spine’ meant. The common explanation is to imagine a string pulling you up from the crown of your head.
For me, that didn’t really work as it depended on how my head was sitting. For me what worked was imagining that there was a pendulum in the center of my body, and this pendulum should be aligned with the center of my pelvis.
Your back shouldn’t be slouched forward, or upright military style. There should be a relaxed curve to your spine.
An open chest: A common mistake I found is when we think of an open chest, we pull our shoulders back unnaturally which just adds tension to the neck.
To open your chest, imagine your neck relaxing, your shoulders falling away, and your arms should be relaxed all the way to their hands
4. Hand and head placement
If you’ve followed the last 3 steps, then you should have your hands and head in the right positions, but just in case here are the things to check:
- Where you place your hands should be led by your neck, shoulders, and arms being relaxed. There shouldn’t be any effort to hold your hands in place. Personally, I cup my right hand in my left in the center of my lap.
- Depending on the length of your arms, you may want to place your hands on your lap or your thighs, and your hands can either face up or down, whatever feels comfortable.
- Your head should naturally feel balanced on your spine. I find gently lowering my chin feels the most comfortable.
Meditation Cushion Sitting Positions
To get the best out of your practice and enjoy an extended period of meditation, it’s going to be key that you find a comfortable position where you can sit upright and remain in the same position.
The following meditation poses and a good meditation cushion should help you a relaxing meditation session.
This cross-legged position is beginner-friendly and ideal for those with less flexibility. To sit in the Burmese pose, place both feet flat on the floor, with your legs crossed and knees close to the ground. Use a meditation cushion to allow your hips to tilt forward slightly and maintain the natural curves of your spine.
To sit in the half lotus position, place one foot on the opposite thigh while keeping the other foot under the opposite leg. Make sure your knees are bent and rest comfortably on the floor. Use a meditation cushion to elevate your hips and keep your spine upright.
The quarter lotus pose is a variation of the half lotus and can be more comfortable for some people. To sit in the quarter lotus position, place one foot on the calf of the opposite leg, rather than on the thigh, while keeping the other foot under the opposite leg. Make sure your knees are bent and rest comfortably on the floor. Use a meditation cushion to elevate your hips and maintain proper alignment of your spine.
The lotus position requires more flexibility in the hip joints. To sit in the full lotus pose, place each foot on the opposite thigh, with the soles facing upwards. Use a meditation cushion to maintain proper alignment and avoid muscle tension.
For those who prefer not to sit cross-legged, the seiza position is an excellent alternative. Kneel on your meditation mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Use a meditation bench or a folded blanket under your buttocks to support your body weight and maintain good posture.
If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable or challenging, you can also meditate in a chair. Choose a chair with a straight back, and sit with your feet flat on the floor. Use a meditation cushion or a rolled-up blanket behind your lower back to support the lumbar curve.
Adjusting Your Meditation Cushion for Optimal Comfort
In this section, you could discuss ways to make minor adjustments to the meditation cushion for increased comfort, such as:
- Adjusting the cushion’s filling to change its height or firmness.
- Using additional props like a folded blanket or a bolster to provide extra support for the knees or ankles.
- Experiment with cushion placement to find the best position for your body.
Troubleshooting Common Issues While Sitting on a Meditation Cushion
Address some common problems people face when using a meditation cushion, such as:
Falling asleep: Offer tips to stay alert and focused during meditation, like adjusting the room temperature, sitting with the eyes slightly open, or trying walking meditation.
Leg numbness or tingling: Suggest adjusting the sitting position or taking breaks to stretch and change positions during longer meditation sessions.
Meditation Cushion Alternatives
There are some alternatives if you might not have access to a meditation cushion or prefer to use something else. Some alternatives include:
- Yoga blocks: These can be used under the buttocks or knees to provide support and stability.
- Bolsters: Larger cylindrical or rectangular cushions that can be used in place of a traditional meditation cushion.
Integrating Meditation Cushions into Your Meditation Practice
Now that you know how to sit on a meditation cushion, it’s time to incorporate it into your meditation practice. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Create a dedicated meditation space in your home, complete with your meditation cushion, meditation mat, and any other meditation tools you like to use.
Make it a habit to use your meditation cushion every time you meditate. This consistency will help you feel more comfortable and focused during your meditation sessions.
Take care of your meditation cushion by cleaning it regularly and replacing the filling as needed.
Tips for How to Sit on a Meditation Cushion
- If you find it difficult to sit unsupported, you can lean against a wall until you develop the back strength to sit independently
- If you have hard surfaces at home or need additional padding, you might want to use a large flat cushion or mat under your meditation cushion. These are also known as Zabuton cushions, but you can also use a folded blanket.
Sitting on a meditation cushion is an important part of the meditation practice. By following these steps, you can ensure that you’re sitting in a comfortable and stable posture, which will help you meditate more effectively.
Remember to take it slow and be patient with yourself. With practice, you’ll soon find that you can meditate with ease and comfort.