Guidelines for Sitting in Meditation
There is no right or wrong way to position the body for meditation. You can sit, stand, walk and lie down. In this course we will be sitting.
The most important thing is to be comfortable so that the body can remain steady, still and at ease which then allows you to focus on the practice at hand. Remember, always adjust anything that doesn’t work for you, and remember, it takes time, be kind to yourself, be patient.
Any chair that you find comfortable and that you can sit upright in, try not to slouch. Sitting towards the edge of the seat helps maintain an upright position. You can support your back with cushions to maintain being more upright if you prefer. Thighs should be parallel to the floor, so depending on the length of your legs, if necessary place some blocks or a cushion underneath the feet.
There are a variety of different stools available. It is a case of trying different options and finding the one that best works for you.
On the floor:
Any of these options you can do leaning against a wall, with or without cushions.
By raising the buttocks up on blocks/cushions/folded blankets/zafus/bolsters (or combination of both) long ways between the ankle, you can find a position where there is less pressure on the knees & ankles.
A cushion/rolled up blanket under the knees can ease the back of the legs.
Cross-legged. Various versions. (easy pose, sukasana/1/2 lotus, full lotus)
To support the back, the knees need to be lower than the hips and pelvis. Ideally knees need to be on or close to the floor. For most people, this means raising the hips and buttocks by sitting on blocks, cushions, zafus etc. (make sure its comfortable) If the knees are not on the floor, support them. This will ease any strain in the hips and thighs. Try supporting under the thighs with cushions/blocks/rolled blankets etc. Also explore supporting the back a little or leaning against a wall. Try to feel nestled, supported and safe.
You might also think about the base you’re resting on. A large meditation mat (zabuton), or a folded yoga mat or a large folded blanket all add a bit of padding under the lower body and extra comfort to your practice.
If you are new to sitting for longer periods, initially, there will need to be a lot of experimenting and exploring all the different options, and what works for you. And remember, this might change daily as our bodies are constantly changing. What works one day might be uncomfortable the next.
You might also find it useful to have a couple of blankets/shawl/etc to cover your shoulders and or legs, so you can remain warm and comfortable.
Other things to consider when sitting in meditation:
The position of the Spine
No matter how you sit, your spine should be as upright and balanced as possible. (without compromising their natural curve). If you tend to slouch forward or sway slightly backward, feel as if you are being lightly lifted by a golden thread from your crown, gently stacking each vertebra one on top of the other. Feel both sitting bones resting equally. Try Leaning forwards, back and sideways to feel when you are most centred. Keeping your spine upright will help you to stay alert and allow you to breathe more deeply and comfortably.
There might be times when you place your hands in a certain position or gesture (mudra). Otherwise, try resting your hands on your thighs with your palms facing down. If that isn’t comfortable, you could try stacking your hands in your lap with your palms facing up.
Keep your chin tucked in slightly while maintaining length in the back of your neck. Correctly positioning your chin helps you to maintain your posture. Keep your face soft.
Try to release any tension you’re holding in your jaw. It may be helpful to keep your jaw slightly open as you press your tongue against the roof of your mouth. This automatically relaxes the jaw, allows for clear breathing, and slows down the swallowing process.
You can also do a few exaggerated yawns before you meditate to stretch your jaw and release tension.
Most people find it easier to meditate with closed eyes. Avoid squeezing your eyes shut. Softly closing them will help you keep your face, eyes, and eyelids relaxed.
You can also meditate with open eyes. Maintain an unfocused gaze on the floor a few feet ahead of you. Keep your face relaxed and avoid squinting.
Choose one way and stay with it for the duration as by opening and closing the eyes can be disorienting and disrupt the flow of your practice.