Meditation Lying Down: What You Need To Know

how to lie down in bed mindfully

Some of my mediation students have asked me whether it is okay to practice meditation lying down. 

Honestly, recently I have been meditating laying down. Why? Simply because it is easy and relaxing. Sometimes, after a hard day’s work, I just want to lie down.  

However, it is perhaps not ideal. And it is not traditional.

The two traditional positions for meditation are sitting, and various active meditations such as tai chi, qigong, and Kinhin (Zen Walking).

So generally speaking, 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.  

Buddha did also make reference to meditating while lying down. The Satipatthana Sutta [1] says, “And further, monks, a monk knows, when he is going, “I am going”; he knows, when he is standing, “I am standing”; he knows, when he is sitting, “I am sitting”; he knows, when he is lying down, “I am lying down”; or just as his body is disposed so he knows it.” 

However, for most people. meditation lying down is not ideal.

Should you practice meditation 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 [1]

Try this:

  1. Sit down
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Take ten breaths while focusing on your breath
  4. Now lie down.
  5. Try to focus your mind as much while lying down as you did when sitting down.
  6. Were you able to focus equally? For most people, the answer will be no.

After yoga (Shavasana)

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 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.

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. To meditate, she literally 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:

  1. Improve circulation
  2. Reduce the chance of injury (for instance, waking up with a sore back in the morning)
  3. Help if you have asthma or another breathing problem
  4. Create a deeper state of relaxation
  5. Makes you feel great when you wake up in the morning. 

How To Meditate While Lying Down In Bed Properly

Much like there are right ways to sit , there is a right way to lie down too.

  1. Clear out the 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 to get nice and comfy in bed.
  4. Take five or ten minutes just to focus on your breathing
  5. 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.
  6. 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 Lying Down Meditation Positions

The two best positions for mediating lying down re Savasana and the Alexander position.

Savasana (Corpse Posture)

how to do shavasana

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

alexander technique semi supine position diagram
alexander technique semi supine position diagram
Alexander Technique Lie Down

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. “

 

The Right Way And The Wrong Way To Meditate Lying Down In Bed 

There is a right way to meditate lying down in bed and a wrong way.

Lying down in bed the wrong way:

You feel like relaxing, so you take yourself off to your room, away from the kids, away from the dog / cat, away from everything.

You lie down. But in your mind, you’re still thinking about the kids, the mortgage, work; it’s like you carried all those things into the bedroom with you. They’re stuck on your mind the same way a bunch of cockle-burs get stuck on your clothing. And you don’t know how to stop thinking.

I’ll be honest, I’ve often done this when I’m tired and I don’t feel like meditating. But it isn’t very helpful.

Doing it the right (mindful) way:  

The mindful way of lying down in bed is like this.

You feel like relaxing so you take yourself off to your room, away from the kids, away from the dog / cat, away from work, away from everything.

You lie down. And in your mind you are doing absolutely nothing except lying down. The kids, the housework, your job, they’re gone. It’s just you and your bed, your lovely, lovely bed.

You’re lying down in bed in body. And you’re lying down in bed in mind too. That’s the difference. Your mind is lying down too. This is now my personal favourite way to lie down because it relaxes my mind and my body at the same time. 

When you need to relax in bed, it’s not just your body that needs to lie down. Sure, after the vacuuming, the cooking, your work, looking after the kids and everything else, you are physically tired. But you’re mentally tired too.

That’s why you need to relax both your body and your mind. That’s why when your body does nothing but lie down on the bed, your mind should do nothing but lie down on the bed too.

Conclusion 

Listen:

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 practice to wake up.

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.