Finding a comfortable meditation position was my biggest challenge when I was first starting my practice. My back would ache, my knees would hurt, and my feet would fall asleep. The only advice I ever remember receiving was to sit still and ignore the discomfort. “Life is dukkha,” (life is suffering/pain) was a buddhist quote that was often paired with this instruction.
True or not true, this didn’t help me look forward to or enjoy meditation in the least.
Luckily, I was fascinated by the practice of meditation from a young age, having watched my mom sit daily. So despite the physical discomfort I experienced from my poor meditation posture, I continued to accompany my mother, grandmother and later, my teachers to meditation ashrams and classes. And while I am glad I persevered, I wish I had been taught earlier how to sit in a comfortable meditation posture.
I suspect not being able to find physical comfort can be a deterrent for many people new to meditation and since I highly recommend meditation during my 30 Day Healthy Living Program and nearly every other program I teach, allow me to offer some suggestions.
Here are several options for how to sit with ease during meditation:
Meditation Position on a Chair
For many people, sitting on the floor is either inaccessible because of injuries or physical limitations. Sometimes meditating on the ground is inconvenient, for instance, if you are meditating at the office or on the train home from work. So sitting on a chair (or exercise ball) is a great option for everyone.
- Sit on the edge of the chair with your back well aligned and away from the backrest;
- Feet should be hip-width apart and flat on the ground for stability;
- Root your sitting bones into the chair and elongate the spine;
- Lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders;
- Rest your hands in your lap & breathe.
Virasana or Hero’s pose Meditation Position
This is my favourite meditation posture. I like the symmetry of this pose and sitting on a block (or blocks) seems to help support my spine best. Plus, virasana is good for the digestive system and I find it the most sustainable posture.
- Place a folded blanket on the ground as cushioning for your ankles;
- Start in a kneeling position with feet pointing straight back;
- Before sitting back, pile as many blocks or books under your buttocks as you need in order for your knees to be comfortable*;
- Your thighs are hip-width apart;
- Root your sitting bones into the block and lengthen your spine.
*Although it may not feel like it at first, this meditation posture is fantastic for the knee joints.
Sukhasana or Easy Crossed-legged Meditation Position with Support
I wish I could remember who taught me this version of the easy crossed-legged sitting pose because it is genius. The ‘V’ shape of the blocks gives support to the sitting bones and hips without putting pressure on the tailbone and allowing it to release.
- Place a folded blanket on the ground as cushioning for your feet and ankles;
- Using two or four blocks, depending on the height of the support needed, create a ‘V’ open to the front by placing two corners together, as in the feature photo of this article;
- Sit crossed-legged on the V with your sitting bones on either block and your tailbone ‘hanging’ in the space between the blocks;
- You should feel comfortable, but you can also add another set of blocks, books or rolled towels under your knees for further support;
- Root your sitting bones into the blocks and lengthen your spine.
Once seated comfortably in a meditation posture you can sustain, I recommend setting a timer for the length of time you’d like to sit. Then close your eyes and breathe deeply. (Check out my Routines for Rebels podcast for a bunch of guided meditations and breathing exercises.)
PS Yoga is also very good for helping to strengthen and stretch your body, making the meditation posture easier and more comfortable.
(This post has been updated from its original publication in June 2018)