What’s the best cushion for meditation?
The best meditation seat or cushion is the one you actually use.
You can use a chair. Just get started. You’ll figure out what you need as you go along. But if you’re going to sit with a group, or go on a formal retreat, or do more extensive practice, you’ll want to get something professionally designed and crafted.
If you haven’t ready Part 1 of this series, START HERE. Then come back!
Everyone I know sits on the floor
The chair is often overlooked as a meditation support.
Think of the chair (and even the floor or bed while prone) as an alternate to cross-legged sitting if you wish.
We once worked with a teacher who was perfectly fine with one student quietly laying down behind the group to rest a sore back. It depends on the group and the teacher, as some are much more formal than others.
We’ve also practiced at retreat centres with reclining lazy-boy chairs, gazing out at white-tailed deer and forest.
Old kitchen chairs are great for chair sitting, or even folding chairs. Park benches …
Think about posture first
Most chair seats slope backwards so you rest against the back of the chair. If you can hold your body upright, don’t lean back!
- Sit at the front of the chair, with feet flat on the floor. The upper body should be upright but not stiff. If your lower body muscles are working properly, they’ll take care of the work for you (more on that in a future article).
The correct way to sit on a round meditation cushion is to sit on the front 2/3rds of the cushion, and cross the legs in front. We see many people sitting too far back on the round cushion, with knees up in the air. That’s not going to be comfortable for very long!
Crossed legs can mean:
- one foot in front of the other, ankles crossed (with each foot under the leg)
- cross-legged with one foot on the opposite calf (or opposite thigh)
- cross-legged with both feet on the opposite thigh
- Obviously each one has its own degree of difficulty and may NOT be appropriate for you.
- If it HURTS, STOP. Pain is the body’s smoke alarm. Don’t ignore it.
Kneeling position is also called “seiza” posture, and it’s simply standing up on the knees with feet (and legs) pointing behind, approximately shoulder-width apart, then placing a cushion between the legs and sitting back on the cushion. For bench sitting, it’s the same process, but the bench legs go outside each leg, then you sit back on the bench. In this case, you can sit more fully on the cushion or bench.
In all cases, the knees form part of the posture and help stabilize the body. In a chair, the feet need to be flat on the floor (or a flat cushion, if you’re short-legged) and they help form a stable three part posture. When it comes to sitting on a cushion on the floor, consider this stable posture.
Ok, I get it now. Which style should I buy?
Our Zen-style™ zafu round cushion has side expansion pleats, so the filling expands outwards as you sit forward on it. This gives a bit more of a forward angle. It’s popular with cross-legged sitters, and definitely our more popular style.
Our Tibetan-style™ zafu meditation cushion does NOT have side expansion pleats, so it’s a more upright fixed cushion. In general, it’s about a half to an inch higher than our zen-style. Taller people seem to like this style, as well as people who sit in kneeling posture, or those who are less flexible.
We’ve been practicing and teaching meditation and yoga for a long time (even longer if you believe what some people have told us), and we have plenty of experience with how to sit and how to modify your setup.
It’s not that difficult, but it does start with letting us know more about you, how you like to sit, whether you are flexible, etc. Just a few questions will help us get to know you and serve you better. Head over to our help page to get in touch with us.
We’ll add more to this article series in the near future. Let us know if it helped!
Other articles in this series:
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