We thought we’d go back to the basics and share a series of sitting tips. Whether you are completely new to meditation or are an old master, it can be helpful to revisit the foundations of the practice.
In order to sit comfortably and deeply in meditation, your posture is ideally relaxed and attentive. Finding a position that works well for you is important. You may feel as rooted as the tree above sitting anywhere, but most of us need the help of a few cushions, or even a nice stiff chair. Your body will thank you for taking the time to find a supportive sitting position.
A Strong Meditation Foundation
Creating a good foundation is the first step. When sitting in meditation, it is recommended to make a tripod with your knees and bottom. This tripod allows you to sit upright while at the same time being relaxed and stable. If possible you want your knees to make contact with your zabuton or the floor. If you are just starting out, or not accustomed to sitting in this way, this may be tricky at first. This is where support cushions can come in handy. Most people find that it works best to sit on the front half of their cushion or zafu. This helps the knees touch and the pelvis to tilt forward.
The goal is to keep your back from slumping forward. If you cannot get your knees down to the ground, try raising your bottom higher with a support cushion or two under your zafu – that will roll you forward so that your knees are closer to the zabuton or ground.
If that doesn’t work, try putting a support cushion under one or both knees so that your knees have something to push against.
Another option is to try a kneeling position or seiza. You can do this with a cushion or zafu (or two) between your legs. Many people need more height and using two zafus on top of each other can be a great solution for this. Of course a chair can also work well. Try putting a zafu or support cushon on the chair with your feet rooted to the ground. You will still have the three points of your tripod – 2 feet and bottom.
The easiest way for a beginner to sit on meditation cushions may be in the Burmese position.
In this posture your legs are folded in front of you without crossing. It doesn’t matter which leg is in front as long as you are comfortable. As with all postures, if you sit for an extended time, it is best to occasionally switch which leg is in front.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the Burmese position, you may want to try moving towards other more advanced postures. Quarter Lotus, is where either the left or right foot is off the floor and tucked into the bend of either knee.
Next comes Half Lotus, in which one or the other foot is brought up to the opposite thigh. Finally there is Full Lotus. This is the most stable and symmetrical of the lotus postures. The leg that is down in Half Lotus now comes up to the opposite thigh, and you are fully pretzelled. As you graduate up the scale toward Full Lotus you may find that you can sit lower, with your bottom closer to the ground. You may want to take away your support cushion or sit further toward the edge of your zafu.
The video below is a step by step guide to setting up your foundation and meditation practice. It is a great place to start.
These sitting tips might also be helpful if you’re new to meditation or to refresh your practice.
As always, please let us know how your sitting is coming along. We are happy to answer questions as they arise.