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How to sit while meditating

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woman meditating during sunriseThere is a lot of talk and many questions about how to sit while meditating.
When thinking about meditation the first thing that usually comes to one’s mind is the crossed legged position.
Well, I have to tell you that not everybody can sit in a crossed legged position and it’s not a “requirement” to meditate. There are many other ways to sit while meditating. The most important thing is to find a position where your back is straight and erect while your body is comfortable and relaxed at the same time.


The importance of a correct meditation posture

Sitting in a correct way while meditating matters for many reasons:

  • It allows the energy to flow
    Keeping your spine in alignment is important because when your back is upright you allow the energy to flow freely inside of your channels. I will explain more about the back posture below.
  • Big breathing
    Sitting up straight opens up your chest and allows you to breathe big. The importance of breathing is vital in meditation. When you’re meditating you are being aware of every moment of your excistence in the present moment, in other words, your breathing.
  • Improves your concentration
    Sitting correct and feeling comfortable in your meditation posture helps your mind achieve stillness.
    Any discomfort can distract you and not allow you to relax your body and mind.
    One good and very common example is when somebody is slumping. This leads to discomfort and additionally, it’s much easier to feel sleepy or get bored.

For some people, it’s very easy to sit in a correct posture while for others it’s very difficult, and guidance from a teacher is required.
I will try to explain as good as I can how to sit, but some of you may still need additional help from an experienced meditation teacher.


 

Important points in our body

 

  • Back 
    When sitting down, either it’s the crossed legged position, vajrasana or sitting on a chair, on a cushion or not, we have to find the point where our back is relaxed, but not slumping; and of course not overarching either. We have to feel relaxed in all our body parts but yet alert. Imagine your spine like a stretched rope, a vertical line crossing the floor/ground with a 90° angle. By this I don’t mean that your spine should be totally straight. I don’t even think thats possible. You have to keep the natural curves of your spine. You can read all about it, in this article that I found.
    Obviously, if you have been overarching (exaggerated lumbar curve) or slumping your hole life, it will be much more difficult to find the perfect position.
  • Shoulders and hands 
    Try to roll your shoulders back and down so that your chest will open. Remember not to arch your back here. It can help to open your chest more and not have tension in your shoulders if you place your hands on your lap one palm on another letting your thumbs touch each other. You can also place a small pillow on your lap to bring the hands higher and eliminate the tension more. This hand posture is called Dhyana Mudra. Dhyana Mudra hand postureAnother hand posture is Gyan Mudra,guyan mudra hand posewhere you keep your hands on your knees or thighs.
    If you feel that these mudras are uncomfortable for you, you can just keep your hands on your knees or thighs with palms looking down or up (picture below).
    There are many other ways you can keep your hands. The ones mentioned here are the most common and simple.
  • Neck and head
    Align your neck to your back with your face looking straight ahead and slightly tilted downwards.
    Although it sounds strange, the position of the head helps you quiet your mind. If your head is looking upwards it’s much more easier for your mind to drift away while when looking downwards you may feel sleepy.
  • Eyes and face
    Your eyes should be relaxed, half opened or closed. Depending on the instructions of the specific meditation or on your own preferences. Sometimes when feeling sleepy it’s a good idea to keep them open.
    Make sure that the rest of your face is also relaxed. Your tongue, your jaw, your cheeks and your forehead. Sometimes when we focus on our body, we tend to forget our face.


Ways to sit while meditating

Crossed legged

There are many ways to sit in this position
Lotus:lotus meditation pose


Half lotus:half lotus meditation pose

Don’t sit in the lotus and half-lotus position if you have pain or discomfort in your knees and/or ankles because you can cause serious damage to your joints. 
Simple:simple crossed legged positionwoman sitting in simple crossed legges position

Reasons why you may not be able to sit in this position may be that your hips are not flexible enough, you have pain in the knees or/and ankles or you cannot stay without a back support for a long time.

If you do prefer sitting in this position spend some time to find a suitable cushion that will help you sit straight up. It can be little tricky because sitting on a too high cushion will cause overarching your back but on the other hand sitting on a too low pillow may cause slumping.

Another issue is that if you sit on the back edge of your cushion you will slump and if you sit on the front edge may make you overarch. Think of all these factors when trying to find the right position

woman sitting in vajrasanaVajrasana

Vajrasana is another very common meditation posture.
Problems that may occur while sitting in this pose is pain in the knees and ankles.
This pose is a good alternative for the people that has not so flexible hips.

The same rules about the back, shoulders, hands and head applies here too.

A cushion can be used, placing it between your legs while sitting on it, to eliminate the pain in the knees and ankles.woman sitting in vajrasana with cushion support

 

There are also meditation benches where you can sit very comfortable on without any pressure on any part of your body.
Read more about meditation cushions, chairs and benches. 

On a chair

Sitting on a chair is a good solution for those who doesn’t want to sit on the floor. Same instructions for the body applies here too. Use cushions under your feet or behind your back to find your position.

Laying down

I would not recommend you laying down while meditating because it’s very easy to fall asleep during the meditation. There are some exceptions if you are doing a specific meditation that requires you to lay down or if you have back problems or anything else that restricts you.



Before applying any of the instructions described in this article please take a look at the medical disclaimer.


Thank you for reading 😉

Leave any thought or question in the comment field below ⇓


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4 thoughts on “How to sit while meditating

  1. Jose Angel Martinez

    I am glad you gave some clarity here. I am an amputee and burn survivor due to grafts, and other skin problems sitting in one position for long gets uncomfortable.

    1. Athanasia Post author

      Hello Jose Angel 🙂
      I’m happy you found my article helpful.
      You can also change your posture during meditation. If you cannot stay in the same posture for long, it’s better to change it and continue, than to end your session.

      Wish you all the best,
      Athanasia

  2. Adam L

    I really like how you demystify the rules of sitting etiquette while meditating. I do practice Vipassana meditation and find the most important thing is to stay comfortable enough to pay attention to what is going on without falling asleep. What meditation technique do you use? Best, Adam

    1. Athanasia Post author

      Hello, Adam 🙂

      Yes, of course, meditation is not about doing something that is out of our league. There are many ways somebody can sit while keeping the spine straight. Everybody has different body structure, therefore, one and only meditation posture would not be comfortable for everyone. It’s very important, as you said, to find the point where our body and mind can be relaxed, comfortable and alert at the same time.

      My practice has influences from different kind of teachings and traditions, many of which reflects Vipassana meditation.

      Best wishes,
      Athanasia

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