Meditation is more flexible than you think

We can practice mindfulness in two different ways:

  • Informal practice – that is, during every activity we do. Simply being fully present in the moment. For example, drinking coffee carefully and feeling its taste, or listening to the birds singing while walking in the forest. No special meditation poses required.
  • Formal practice – which usually takes the form of meditation, in a place and time of our choosing. We often associate it with sitting poses, although it’s not limited to them. We can also do it standing or lying down, or even walking.
TOM02087 2 The Istana Nika Meditation Fire Stones Day (1)-min

Meditation is more flexible than you think

We can practice mindfulness in two different ways:

  • Informal practice – that is, during every activity we do. Simply being fully present in the moment. For example, drinking coffee carefully and feeling its taste, or listening to the birds singing while walking in the forest. No special meditation poses required.
  • Formal practice – which usually takes the form of meditation, in a place and time of our choosing. We often associate it with sitting poses, although it’s not limited to them. We can also do it standing or lying down, or even walking.
TOM02087 2 The Istana Nika Meditation Fire Stones Day (1)-min
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What are the best meditation positions?

The position we choose is not as important as the way we hold it. Buddhist practices recommend meditation in four postures:

  1. Seated meditation posture
  2. Standing meditation posture
  3. Walking meditation posture
  4. Laying meditation posture

Seated Position

The sitting pose is the most common one, as it allows us to focus and consciously engage in self-observation. If we sit in this position correctly and keep our spine straight, we won’t be waiting for the meditation to end.

How to sit properly? This depends on your level of flexibility or practice:

Lotus (Padmasana)

If a person has flexible hips, the most comfortable sit is the lotus. In this asana, it is easy to straighten up and sit with a prolonged spine without tiring the muscles. It is true that the legs may ache after some time, but the more the hips are stretched, the longer you will be able to sit comfortably without experiencing any discomfort in your legs.

Half-lotus (Purva Ardha Padmasana)

If the hips are not stretched enough to sit comfortably in lotus, it is best to sit in half-lotus. This position also allows you to freely keep your back straight, and your legs don’t suffer as much as in full lotus, because in this asana one leg isn’t pressed against the other.

Cross-legged Sitting (Sukhasana)

If the body does not allow you to sit in lotus or half-lotus, you can be sitting cross legged. However, in this asana, there is a tendency to tilt the back and to hunch over. Before you go into meditation, you need to observe your body for a moment and feel if you are sure you have settled into the position correctly. If you feel that your lower back is getting tired, sit on a block or a folded blanket to relieve pressure on your back and make the asana more comfortable.

Heel Sitting (Vajrasana)

Sitting on your heels is usually the least comfortable position. In this asana, the legs suffer most quickly which may interfere with the meditation. But there are people for whom this position is comfortable. Vajrasana can be further facilitated by placing a blanket between the buttocks and the heels. This helps some people to sit more comfortably because the knees are more easily bent. When using vajrasana, also pay attention to the position of the back as it tends to make push the ribs forward too much and makes a curve in the spine.

Vipassana Detail shots-14 (1)-min

Stabilizing Cushions

At the beginning of the practice, no matter what cross-legged pose you choose will be uncomfortable, to put it nicely. Even in the Japanese position, your knees may hurt. During longer meditation legs may also become numb. And then there’s the spine, and lower back. All this may lead you to give up quickly.

To reduce the discomfort, use a blanket or a pillow. Preferably a firmer one. It is best to meditate on special cushions called zafu. Zafu is usually made of natural materials like cotton or linen and filled with buckwheat or kapiok. They provide optimal support for the spine and protect from the cold ground. If you do not have such a cushion, you can use a blanket or two, so that you sit higher. This will relieve pressure on your knees and make sitting cross-legged or in seiza much more comfortable.

These cushions may tilt a bit when you sit on the edge. Some people put a smaller pillow or rolled blanket in the back to increase this tilt. This puts your hips farther forward, which prevents the sacral portion of your spine from twisting. It is easier to keep the back and shoulders in a proper, upright position. A similar effect is achieved by using an ergonomic chair called a kneeler.

If you sit on the floor with your back against the wall, it is a good idea to support the sacral part of your spine with a pillow to prevent it from twisting.

Can you meditate on a chair?

You could meditate on chairs even in the Buddha’s time. These were called the “seven-legged” chairs: four legs, one back, and two armrests. The chair should be low enough so that you can rest your feet firmly on the ground. Maintain a stable position so that you are not on the verge of falling asleep during your practice.

When seated in a chair, your breathing may be somewhat constrained due to the creation of a right angle between your torso and legs. This can be prevented by spreading the feet apart and freeing the abdomen, i.e., adopting a samurai posture.

pexels-engin-akyurt-3331574 (1)

What are the best meditation positions?

The position we choose is not as important as the way we hold it. Buddhist practices recommend meditation in four postures:

  1. Seated meditation posture
  2. Standing meditation posture
  3. Walking meditation posture
  4. Laying meditation posture

 

The sitting pose is the most common one, as it allows us to focus and consciously engage in self-observation. If we sit in this position correctly and keep our spine straight, we won’t be waiting for the meditation to end.

How to sit properly? This depends on your level of flexibility or practice:

Lotus (Padmasana)

If a person has flexible hips, the most comfortable sit is the lotus. In this asana, it is easy to straighten up and sit with a prolonged spine without tiring the muscles. It is true that the legs may ache after some time, but the more the hips are stretched, the longer you will be able to sit comfortably without experiencing any discomfort in your legs.

Half-lotus (Purva Ardha Padmasana)

If the hips are not stretched enough to sit comfortably in lotus, it is best to sit in half-lotus. This position also allows you to freely keep your back straight, and your legs don’t suffer as much as in full lotus, because in this asana one leg isn’t pressed against the other.

Cross-legged Sitting (Sukhasana)

If the body does not allow you to sit in lotus or half-lotus, you can be sitting cross legged. However, in this asana, there is a tendency to tilt the back and to hunch over. Before you go into meditation, you need to observe your body for a moment and feel if you are sure you have settled into the position correctly. If you feel that your lower back is getting tired, sit on a block or a folded blanket to relieve pressure on your back and make the asana more comfortable.

Heel Sitting (Vajrasana)

Sitting on your heels is usually the least comfortable position. In this asana, the legs suffer most quickly which may interfere with the meditation. But there are people for whom this position is comfortable. Vajrasana can be further facilitated by placing a blanket between the buttocks and the heels. This helps some people to sit more comfortably because the knees are more easily bent. When using vajrasana, also pay attention to the position of the back as it tends to make push the ribs forward too much and makes a curve in the spine.

Laying Position

Can you meditate lying down? Without a doubt, it is easier to concentrate when you are sitting on the floor – your mind is more alert and less likely to fall asleep. But the laying meditation pose is also recommended in certain circumstances. The laying down pose is best for people who have trouble relaxing. Some people are so tense that they cannot relax even while sitting in a chair. The best thing to do for them is to simply lie down comfortably on the floor.

The positioning of the body is a signal to the mind. In most cases, the lying down position communicates: “go to sleep”. If we can overcome this conditioning and stay alert, we will reap many benefits. You can listen to any guided meditations and simply replace the references to sitting with lying down. This is especially helpful if you have back pain, sciatica, or other physical problems that prevent you from sitting. As with sitting, we encourage you to keep your back straight as much as possible. It may take a few tries to find a posture that works for you.

Keeping your eyes open will also help prevent drowsiness. You may want to find a spot to rest your gaze on or you can simply let your gaze wander. As always, breathe naturally and use your awareness to stay present.

Savasana Posture

This is actually an asana or yoga pose that often ends a yoga session. Savasana is ironically said to be the most difficult pose as you have to maintain a deep awareness and connection with the breath and the body while being relaxed. Savasana is practiced lying flat on your back. The body is at complete rest with the arms at your sides and palms up. If it is more comfortable, a pillow or any other support can be placed under the head or under the knees.

Even if you are not practicing yoga, the meditative aspect of this pose can be very powerful because you are encouraging your usual mental activities to “play dead” as you breathe into the core and let go.

overhead-view-of-woman-lying-down-meditating-676865505-5a36a1564e46ba003697c158 (1)-min

Standing Position

Standing is both a form of meditation and a very advanced form of Qi Gong which does not use movement. The position we adopt here is the same, meaning that we stand upright and straight, but without any tension. The feet are spread out to the width of the shoulders or the hips, depending on your comfort level. The toes are parallel or slightly open. The pelvis is kept in a slightly seated and forward position. Pull the top of the head towards the sky, which will allow the neck to position itself correctly by letting the cervical vertebrae slightly emerge.

Do not raise the chin. Lower the shoulders and not bulge the chest, which will facilitate the maintenance of the thoracic vertebrae in the axis and the spine to remain straight. The belly, by the sitting position of the pelvis, will relax and facilitate abdominal breathing. The main thing here is to balance the external position of the body in the 6 directions (up/down, front/back, left/right).

pexels-marcus-aurelius-6787354 (1)

Can you meditate on a chair?

Laying Position

Can you meditate lying down? Without a doubt, it is easier to concentrate when you are sitting on the floor – your mind is more alert and less likely to fall asleep. But the laying meditation pose is also recommended in certain circumstances.

The laying down pose is best for people who have trouble relaxing. Some people are so tense that they cannot relax even while sitting in a chair. The best thing to do for them is to simply lie down comfortably on the floor.

The positioning of the body is a signal to the mind. In most cases, the lying down position communicates: “go to sleep”. If we can overcome this conditioning and stay alert, we will reap many benefits.

You can listen to any guided meditations and simply replace the references to sitting with lying down. This is especially helpful if you have back pain, sciatica, or other physical problems that prevent you from sitting. As with sitting, we encourage you to keep your back straight as much as possible. It may take a few tries to find a posture that works for you.

Keeping your eyes open will also help prevent drowsiness. You may want to find a spot to rest your gaze on or you can simply let your gaze wander. As always, breathe naturally and use your awareness to stay present.

Savasana Posture

This is actually an asana or yoga pose that often ends a yoga session. Savasana is ironically said to be the most difficult pose as you have to maintain a deep awareness and connection with the breath and the body while being relaxed.

Savasana is practiced lying flat on your back. The body is at complete rest with the arms at your sides and palms up. If it is more comfortable, a pillow or any other support can be placed under the head or under the knees.

Even if you are not practicing yoga, the meditative aspect of this pose can be very powerful because you are encouraging your usual mental activities to “play dead” as you breathe into the core and let go.

Standing position

Standing is both a form of meditation and a very advanced form of Qi Gong which does not use movement.

The position we adopt here is the same, meaning that we stand upright and straight, but without any tension. The feet are spread out to the width of the shoulders or the hips, depending on your comfort level. The toes are parallel or slightly open. The pelvis is kept in a slightly seated and forward position. Pull the top of the head towards the sky, which will allow the neck to position itself correctly by letting the cervical vertebrae slightly emerge.

Do not raise the chin. Lower the shoulders and not bulge the chest, which will facilitate the maintenance of the thoracic vertebrae in the axis and the spine to remain straight. The belly, by the sitting position of the pelvis, will relax and facilitate abdominal breathing.

The main thing here is to balance the external position of the body in the 6 directions (up/down, front/back, left/right).

Walking position

Walking is an ordinary activity to which we usually pay little attention and importance. We go from one place to another, head down, our mind invaded by thousands of thoughts.

When we walk mindfully, we get out of this autopilot mode, we reconnect to our body, to the sensations that appear when we are in motion, and to this incredible experience that is walking: an alternation of balancing and propelling, of supporting and oscillating phases.

When we practice walking meditation, we have nowhere to go, and no particular goal to achieve. Our only intention is to be present to whatever unfolds in our body and mind as we put one foot in front of the other. We can even achieve a state of high relaxation both physically and mentally.

Start with a slow meditative walk

To develop our full presence in walking, it is ideal to start with slow meditative walking. And to get off to a good start, you have to hold yourself well. In other words, pay attention to your posture.

Anchor yourself in the posture

Stand in a relaxed posture with your arms at your sides. Feel your body rising vertically. Feel your weight. Feel your grounding in the soles of your feet, as if you were a tree deeply rooted in the earth.

Keep your head and neck aligned with your spine

Take a few deep breaths and use the exhalations to release any tension that may be in your jaw, shoulders or any other part of the body. If you feel that your legs are tense, unlock your knees gently.

Keep your eyes open and look ahead, but don’t focus on anything in particular. This could quickly take your mind off the exercise.

Pay attention to your feet

Now shift your weight to your left foot so that it feels like your left foot is sinking into the ground and your right leg is getting lighter. Do the same thing on the other side. Pay attention to the changing sensations in the soles of your feet.

Then begin to take your first step slowly. Lift your left foot and bring it forward and then place it on the ground. Feel the left foot on the floor, from the heel to the toes, as you become aware of your weight shifting to the left foot so that you can lift and move your right foot forward.

Be fully aware of the contact between the soles of your feet and the ground. And whenever your mind takes you out of the exercise, notice it and simply bring your attention back to the sensations unfolding in the soles of your feet.

You may encounter an imbalance the first time you practice slow walking. Don’t worry, your body knows how to walk and it will make the necessary adjustments to regain balance.

Continue by expanding your attention

Little by little, you can expand the scope of your walking experience to your entire legs and even to your entire body. Do it slowly, continually aware of all the sensations that emerge and disappear.

You can also experiment with walking to the rhythm of your breathing (or the opposite). For example, when one foot lands, you breathe in, then when the other lands you breathe out, and so on.

Continue walking like this for as long as you like. Once you have tasted and experienced the peace and serenity that comes from the practice of slow, mindful walking, you can practice meditative walking wherever you are.

Be aware of your body no matter the position you choose

The easiest way to relax is to notice the sensations currently being experienced. There can be either tension or relaxation in the body. Is the body rigid and blocked? Or is it soft, relaxed, and open? The best posture comes from within as we become more attuned to ourselves.

Beginning each meditation by examining your own posture can be very helpful. Are you comfortable? Is your posture balanced? Are you breathing freely? Probably not. Or at least not as well as you could be. That’s why it’s worth taking a minute or two to relax your whole body and get yourself ready for meditation.

pexels-marcus-aurelius-6787354 (1)

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