By Julie Jarvis
Posted in REALthings Meditation Blog, on September 25, 2014
Everyone's body is unique, so you’ll want to choose a posture and cushion that suits your body and meditation style.
What Type of Meditator Are You?
Here’s a look at various meditation styles and how to choose the one that works best for your body.
Seated Meditation - How to Sit Comfortably on the Floor
In many traditions (especially Buddhist), meditators sit on the floor (referred to as “zazen” meaning seated or sitting meditation). Increasingly modern meditators are choosing to use cushions. Why? Because our lifestyle has made us less flexible so sitting directly on the floor is very difficult for most people. Meditation cushions are designed to help you sit straight and comfortably when you are sitting on the floor or a chair.
If you have the right position and cushions for your body type, sitting crossed-legged on the floor can be grounding, stable and deeply relaxing.
There are three main ways to sit on the floor:
- With legs crossed and ankles parallel or crossed
- With legs crossed in a lotus or semi-lotus position
- With knees bent, using a cushion between the legs or a meditation bench
In certain traditions, the ideal position is the lotus or semi-lotus, but this is very difficult for most people to achieve. More commonly people sit with their ankles crossed or parallel, or their knees bent.
To sit with a straight, relaxed spine, it’s best to position your hips higher than your knees and tip your pelvis forward slightly so that the spine is free to flow upward. To achieve that position, you’ll want to choose a cushion shape and height that will allow your your knees to lower to the ground comfortably. This will depend on your body type and flexibility. For some people, having a cushion or prop under the needs helps support posture and stability
Choosing a Sitting Meditation Cushion
The most common and popular sitting cushion is the zafu. The name zafu comes from Japan and means sewn seat or sit cushion. In Japan the zafu is placed on top of a large square floor cushion called a zabuton. Together, they create an ideal sitting space, providing warmth and cushioning for the hips, seat, knees and ankles.
The zafu can also be used on a carpet or mat. Position yourself at the front edge of a round cushion, so that the pelvis can roll forward and the knees can lower toward the ground.
Traditionally, zafus were stuffed with a natural fibre called kapok, but now the most popular ones are filled with buckwheat hulls, which are more malleable. Our buckwheat hull zafus are available in several heights to support different body types. We do make kapok zafus, but only on special order. Contact us if that’s what you’re looking for.
Getting the Right Zafu for You
While our regular 8” cushion is the most popular, it is always best to try different heights. Our 9” zafu is often better for tall people with long legs, less flexibility or leg injuries.
For those who are comfortable sitting cross-legged and who are not exceptionally tall, the 7” zafu may be ideal. Our 6” mini zafu is designed for travel - great for yoga class and easy to fit into a suitcase - but not as good for long sittings.
Do your hips or knees hurt when you sit cross-legged on a cushion or does your foot/leg fall asleep?
If your knees can’t touch the ground or only lower a little bit, you can use a prop to lift up one or both of your knees. This will take the stress off the knees and hips and keep the feet and legs from feeling pain or falling asleep.
Our unique triangular knee cushions offer comfort and ease for knees and hips in a seated position. They serve to lift the knees up from the floor equally to eliminate strain and pain, which often causes the legs to fall asleep. The triangle shape disappears under the knee -- a discreet support that replaces folded blankets, cushions and towels.
Our Triangle Knee Cushions come in two styles. Our Triangle Knee Cushion with a strap, features silk-cotton fabric and cotton stuffing, and the cushions are joined with a silk strap to make it easy to place and carry.
The other style of Triangle knee cushions is made with twill cotton and stuffed with organic buckwheat hulls. Each cushion has its own handles so they're easy to carry. These cushions come with a removable cover so they cam be washed. They can also be used as head and knee support during yoga practice. All of our knee cushions are also available in custom sizing.
Oblong-shaped cushions, also known as bolsters, offer an alternative for people who prefer more width and firm support under the hips. These are perfect for people who also want to use their cushion as a bolster for yoga postures.
While the oblong cushions are long and not too wide (about 8-10”), their height and density can vary, so make sure you try a few before making a selection.
Are your shoulders tight when you sit? Do you feel your shoulders pulling your body forward? You may want to consider a hand cushion - a small, soft, thin cushion you can place in your lap. It lifts and supports the hands, relieving pressure in the shoulders.
Meditation Benches - Sitting Alternatives If You Can’t Cross Your Legs
If sitting cross-legged is simply not possible, a meditation bench is a good alternative. Benches come in different heights and widths and may be covered or have a cushion.
Our meditation bench is designed for comfort, stability and style. It has a foam seat with a silk-cotton corduroy cover. It is solid, light and spacious. Designed for the home or office, it fits easily into most environments, and is best used with a zabuton or Dolma Studio cushion.
Meditating in a Chair - Finding the Right Sitting Posture
Meditating in a chair is becoming an increasingly popular posture for those who aren’t inclined to sit on the floor. Chair meditation is easy and accessible, though finding a supportive posture can be challenging. You want to avoid having your pelvis tip backward causing your lower back to slump in the chair.
Cushions for Chair Meditators
The Runa is an oval-shaped folding cushion that sits on the back of a chair. The Runa lifts the hips up over the knees and allows the pelvis to tilt forward so that the back straightens naturally without any strain or forcing.
Our most versatile cushion, the Runa is also used to sit on the floor (open or folded) and as a head and knee cushion. A great lower back support, it is also used by craftspeople and professionals in their work chairs.