Readers have been asking me what meditation position they should adopt. However, the best way to learn how to sit for meditation is not by reading about it, so I recorded a video in which I demonstrate 4 basic meditation positions. Let me know what you think about this format. If you prefer, you can also read the content below.
The basics of meditation positions
Meditation positions aren’t as mysterious as you might think. The sole purpose of a meditation position is to allow meditation. Aim for a meditation position that’s comfortable and stable, and yet that helps you remain alert. You shouldn’t feel pain while meditating, but you shouldn’t be so comfortable that you wander off or get drowsy. Basically, you want to adopt the meditation position that makes meditating easiest.
Keeping a straight back is helpful during meditation because it promotes alertness and reduces discomfort, especially when meditating for longer periods. To keep a straight back, sit right on your sitting bones, balance your weight evenly and gently tuck your chin in.
Sitting on a meditation cushion or bench will help keep your hips above your knees. This is important since it reduces muscle strain and helps sustain the meditation position. If your knees don’t easily fall to the sides though, don’t worry. Experiment with what’s comfortable, and don’t hesitate to use a chair if required. When using a chair, make sure the sole of your feet touch the floor. You can use cushions or books if they don’t.
Resting your tongue on the top of your pallet will reduce the flow of saliva, which can be mildly annoying during meditation. Hands placement is not particularly important ; let them rest naturally on your body.
The Kneeling Position
The kneeling position is also called the “Hero Pose” in Yoga and the “Seiza Position” in Japan. For westerners, this is one of the easiest pose, especially when sitting on a meditation bench.
To do the kneeling posture, you need something to raise your buttocks. A meditation bench is the obvious choice, but if you don’t have one, you can also use books like in the video. Kneel down, rest your sitting bones on the object of your choice and bring your knees together. Then, rest your legs evenly but slightly apart, with the sole of your feet facing up. Keep your back straight and let go of unnecessary tensions.
The Burmese Position
This is the meditation position I usually meditate in. I find the Burmese position to be the most comfortable meditation position when meditating for extended periods. Unsurprisingly, this posture was taught to me when I went for a meditation retreat in Burma.
You can sit in the Burmese position with or without a cushion. Using a cushion can greatly help your legs rest evenly on the floor, which makes this posture more comfortable. Once seated, rest your legs on the floor in a parallel fashion, one in front of the other. Ideally, your knees should also be touching the floor, but don’t worry if they aren’t.
The Burmese posture requires less flexibility than the Half-Lotus and the Full Lotus postures, and it’s almost as stable.
The Half-Lotus Position
The Half-Lotus position requires more flexibility than the Burmese, and is often practiced as a means to achieve the Full Lotus position.
To do the Half-Lotus, sit with your spine erect and bring one of your feet near the other thigh. Then, take your other foot and bring it all the way up on the other thigh. For safety and comfort, make sure that your foot is not crooked. It should either be straight or at a right angle.
The Half-Lotus position is asymmetrical so if you use it, take the habit of alternating which leg your bring up.
The Full Lotus Position
The “classic” meditation position. Although the Full Lotus position is arguably overrated (you don’t need to sit in Lotus to get enlightened!), it’s an excellent posture if you can achieve it comfortably.
A cushion is a necessity for most when sitting in the full lotus position. Without one, your hips, knees and ankles are likely to get unnecessary strain. To do the full lotus, bring one of your feet up on the opposite thigh, with its sole facing up. Then, slowly lift the other foot up unto the other thigh in a symmetrical fashion. When sitting in lotus, both feet should be kept either straight or at a right angle, and should rest close to the abdomen.
Properly sitting in the lotus position requires flexibility, but when done properly, it provides unparalleled stability. The lotus position naturally keeps the spine erect and chases drowsiness.
Don’t fret too much over meditation positions, regular meditation practice is infinitely more important than a perfect posture. There’s nothing magical about difficult meditation positions. If they cause you pain or discomfort, don’t use them. What you do with your mind is more important than how you place your legs.
This article presents only 4 seated meditation positions. Plenty of other postures are suitable for meditative practice. You can meditate lying down and even while walking. If you find a certain meditation position to be comfortable, stable and to promote alertness, go for it!
If you want to learn to meditate, I recommend this extremely effective guided meditation.