Many of my meditation students have been asking me how to meditate lying down. And whether it’s a good idea to do so.
Firstly, let me say that meditating lying down in not optimal.
The traditional positions for meditation are sitting, standing, and various active meditations such as tai chi, qigong, and Kinhin (Zen Walking).
So, lying down to meditate is not traditional. However, there’s one exception. In Son Buddhist monasteries, monks are taught to meditate lying down before bed. However, these are highly trained monks.
For most people, meditating lying down is not the best option. But I will explain how to do it properly anyway.
Right Way To Meditate Lying Down
Much like there are proper sitting meditation positions, there is a right way to lie down too.
- Clear out distractions. Whatever you can do to get rid of the distractions, do it. Send that last email. Do the dishes. You know the drill. Get it done. It will be worth it.
- Get in bed, close the bedroom door, create a silent atmosphere. And if you can’t have silence because of the kids or the TV in the background, just put some relaxing music on.
- Take a few moments to stretch and relax. I like to do some basic yoga or tai-chi before bed to relax my body. You probably already know this, but a relaxed body does help to create a relaxed mind. If you’re pushed for time, just make sure you get nice and comfy in bed.
- Take five or ten minutes just to focus on your breathing
- Now, once your mind feels calm and still, bring your focus to your body. Tune in to your body and focus your mind on your entire physical being. Body scan meditation is suitable for this. Mainly, you want to feel as though your mind and body are one. It’s as though your mind is balancing on your body, while your body is completely relaxed on the bed.
- Finally, imagine stepping back in your mind. You’re focusing on you, but you take a little step back. You want your mind to be focusing on your entire body.
Best positions when meditating lying down
The two best positions for mediating lying down are Savasana and the Alexander position.
1: Savasana (Corpse Posture)
1: Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms resting at your side.
2: Your hands should be approximately six inches from your body and your palms should face the ceiling.
3: Let your body feel heavy on the floor
4: Release your entire body, face, and eyes.
2: Alexander Technique Position
3: Lying on your side
Buddhist teacher Bodhipaksa on WildMind suggests lying on your side.
“Oddly, very few people seem to try meditating lying on their side, even though images of the Buddha doing this are abundant,” says Bodhipaksa. “This is actually quite a comfortable posture to meditate in. I’ve used this when I’ve been sick, or when I’ve wanted to meditate at the end of the day and have felt physically exhausted. “
SHOULD You Meditate Lying Down?
Obviously, if you are meditating to get to sleep at night, it’s a no-brainer that you might like to be reclined when you do it unless you enjoy sleeping while sitting up.
But what about at other times? Is it okay to abandon the proper seated method and switch to something like Shavasana instead?
Well, let me ask you a question. Why do you want to meditate lying down in bed? Do you just want to lie down because it’s easier and requires less energy? If so, bear in mind that meditation is supposed to take some energy. If your entire plan is not to bother putting in any effort, you really are not going to get a lot out of your practice.
You wouldn’t go to the gym and not bother, because you wouldn’t lose weight. And if your attitude going into mindfulness is not to bother then you won’t get much out of it either.
So, the first thing to ask yourself is: If you want to practice meditation lying down in bed, is it just because it takes less effort? If so, consider what you might get out of your sessions if you tried a little harder. Also, consider the problems with lying down and meditating.
Reclining impedes focus
There is a reason some meditation techniques specifically ask you to sit up.
For instance, in Zen meditation, you must sit properly, in the lotus position. This isn’t about stretching your thighs. It’s about the fact that when your body is properly balanced, you will focus better .
- Sit down
- Close your eyes
- Take ten breaths while focusing on your breath
- Now lie down.
- Try to focus your mind as much while lying down as you did when sitting down.
- Were you able to focus equally? For most people, the answer will be no.
It’s fine after yoga
Funny thing is, even though lying down to meditate is often not ideal, there are some specific meditation techniques that specifically ask you to do it.
For instance, it is traditional to end yoga practice with a period of resting (usually an Emptiness practice). This is generally done in Corpse Pose (Savasana).
However, this is a lot different to simply lying down to meditate. When we do this after yogic practice, we’ve already warmed up the body (which also warms up the mind), and we are focused and energized from the exercise. That’s totally different to merely crashing out on your mattress.
If you have warmed up your body (and thereby your mind) and you are able to lie down in Shavasana then yes, by all means, meditate lying down.
But I suspect this is not the case for most people.
It’s fine if you have an injury
What if you need to lie down while meditating because you are too ill or injured to sit for extended periods? In this case, you could always try using a proper seat.
However, if sitting is just not an option, then yes, by all means, lie down.
My mother-in-law is currently unable to sit up because of a severe health condition. She has no choice but to meditate lying down. If you’re in a similar position, then yes of course you may meditate lying down.
The Health Benefits Of Meditating Lying Down
Even if your primary meditation should not be done lying down, you should still be mindful when you are lying down.
Mindfully relaxing the body with good posture while breathing diaphragmatically helps us to get a restful night’s sleep.
Compared to lying down with bad posture, lying down mindfully with good posture will:
- Improve circulation
- Reduce the chance of injury (for instance, waking up with a sore back in the morning)
- Help if you have asthma or another breathing problem
- Create a deeper state of relaxation
- Makes you feel great when you wake up in the morning.
Meditating lying down in bed is not ideal. But I get it. You’ve had a long day. You want to practice, but you also want to relax. Go ahead and meditate lying down.
It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot better than not practising, and you will still benefit from it.
And as well as doing this before bed you can also lie down for your morning meditation practice.