A Guide to Posture and Position for Meditation
You have available to you many postures, also known as positions, in meditation. You may meditate during the movements of exercises; you may do so in a number of sitting, standing, or lying positions; and you may meditate even in the midst of work or play. Many good postures are useful depending on your activity.
What good posture or position does not mean is excessive pain or strain. You should avoid activities, stances, or positions that strain or give pain to your body so much that that is all you can think about. If such pain or strain is unavoidable in regular life, then meditate upon it. But don't pursue it for the sake of meditation.
When you are sitting, lying, or exercising, you should aim, if possible, for a balance of the two sides of your body in leg, torso, hand, and head positions. Or, alternatively, if you are exercising, you may alternate your actions from one side of the body to your other so that each side of your body receives relatively equal treatment. In fact, if one side of your body is weaker or less flexible than the other, then in alternating sides while exercising, often it is helpful to first move the good side, then the side that is less so: this gives your mind an example of what feels better, so that the poorer side then can learn to emulate it.
One common meditation position is to sit cross-legged with your hands resting, palms up, in your lap or on your thighs. Two other common positions are meditating while exercising, and meditating while walking or running. In all three of these common positions, you should use good breathing (see) and, if you are active, keep a steady, comfortable pace with balanced strides.
You may position your hands and legs in whatever is a balanced and comfortable way for meditation. You do not have to have your hands in any specific place, nor do you have to use some specialized yoga position to meditate. Comfort and balance are most important. Whatever helps you breathe deeply and stay awake is best. You may use a comfortable chair, instead. If you find yourself becoming sleepy, you may stand or even move around your room, go for a walk, or exercise.
Hand position is important in some meditation and yoga systems. This is because, like the body’s meditation energy centers along the spine, the center of each hand has an energy center. In some meditation systems, the hands-up position with hands relaxed is said to open the hands’ energy centers to energy coming from above. And the hands-down position, with your hands gently and comfortably sitting palm down on your legs, is said to redirect their energy back into your body.
In prayer (see), if your hands are held together and pointing up, it is said that this contains your energy and directs it to contact with above with a higher power. Similarly in prayer, if your palms face upward, this is said to be asking for the deity’s help and energy from above. If your hands are held on your knees when you are bend forward in supplication, this is said to aid you in surrendering your energy to the deity. One famous Buddhist pose for a monk in prayer, for example, recommends that the monk curl up into a small ball.
In a like manner, your legs do not need to be exactly positioned for meditation. They should be simply balanced, comfortable, and mindful. Both floor and chair positions are fine for your legs, as are both walking and running. In fact, the traditional yoga sitting position of each foot tucked under the opposite thigh is a position more appropriate for some Eastern physical bodies, and is difficult and uncomfortable for the bodies of many other people. In addition, if one has some kind of injury that requires sitting sideways, this is acceptable, too.
If you like meditating to help you sleep, or before you sleep, you can place yourself in a good, balanced position for meditation; meditate; and then place yourself in your usual sleep position. Alternatively, if you like to fall asleep while meditating, then place yourself in a good position for sleeping; then meditate and drift off to sleep. Falling asleep while meditating has its advantages: it can help you find sleep, and it trains your mind and body to become used to meditating even for a few minutes after you fall asleep. In addition, it gradually can train your mind to become more aware and conscious in your dreams.
In summary, you may meditate during any activity in any position. However, positions in which your body is balanced, awake, and breathing deeply are best. When meditation is used for sleep, the best position is what helps you fall asleep.
If you are required for whatever reason to use poor posture while you meditate, then go ahead. It is far better to do that than to not meditate at all.
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Most recent content revision 19 Jan. 2022
Text © 2017-2020 by Richard Jewell
Images © 1994-2018 by Gabriel R. Jewell
First edition: 1 Sept. 2018. Second edition: 1 Sept. 2019. Free Use Policy
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