meditation sitting positions

What are the best meditation positions for beginners? And do you need to use the traditional Buddhist meditation sitting position?

Your meditation posture is incredibly important. Not just for your body, but for your mind too.

Whether you’re meditating sitting on a meditation chair, a mat, or the floor, you need to have proper meditation posture; otherwise you may experience knee and back pain.

If you have a bad body position when meditating, you will put pressure on your spine, and this could potentially lead to spinal injury

This might not be a problem if you only sit to meditate for a few minutes, but if you’re meditating for extended periods (which could be hours if you’re at a Vipassana retreat), then you need to have the right posture when meditating.

Even if you are lying down to meditate, you should ideally still adopt one of the proper meditation positions.

So, let’s take a look at the best ones.

12-01-14 How to Sit in Meditation

7 Best Meditation Positions For Beginners To Learn For Good Posture

meditation positions

These are the technical positions for meditating. Only use them if you can do so comfortably.

1: Quarter Lotus

Quarter Lotus is a position in which your legs are gently crossed with feet underneath the opposite knee.

2: Half Lotus

 Half Lotus is different to Quarter Lotus because one foot is on top of the opposite knee.

3: Full Lotus

Full lotus has both feet on the knees

seated meditation posture checklist
seated meditation posture checklist

4: Burmese Position

Burmese position is a more comfortable position than lotus. It is done sitting with both feet on the floor in front of the pelvis (not crossed).

5: Seiza

Seiza is a kneeling position, usually on a cushion.

6: Chair

Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to sit on a chair or cushion. A good chair will improve your seated meditation posture.

sitting posture checklist

7: Shavasana

Shavasana is performed lying down with the arms and hands at the side of the body, legs a little spread.

shavasana posture diagram
shavasana posture diagram

8: Standing Up

Yes, one of the best meditation positions for beginners is standing up. This is a good option, especially if you have injuries of arthritis. Standing up will help you to focus and to feel grounded when meditating

And of course, you can always do movement meditations.

The Problem With Traditional Meditation Postures 

Newsflash: No matter what any flexible yogi may try to tell you, it does not matter whether you sit with your legs crossed or uncrossed.

The traditional meditation sitting position with the legs crossed could be doing more damage than good.

Forcing yourself to sit crossed-legged could cause health problems (read this article on the BBC).

Sitting crossed-legged can:

In other words: sitting cross-legged is probably not the best meditation position for beginners.

On the other hand, sitting correctly and in a comfortable position will focus your mind, support good joint health, and help you with the proper breathing techniques.

It Poses No Issue!

If you force yourself to sit in uncomfortable meditation positions, you are going to get knee and back pain when meditating.

Forcing your legs into a position, they are not comfortable in is unsafe, especially if you have problems with your knees or other joints, or if you have a medical condition such as arthritis. Arthritic knees make it utterly impossible to sit for meditation in the lotus position.

Not only are these positions bad for your body, but they are also bad for your practice too.

Forcing yourself into uncomfortable meditation sitting positions when meditating will impede your ability to concentrate.

When you are uncomfortable, you cannot focus. If you sit in a painful way, you’ll be distracted by the pain.

That is why the right way how to sit for meditation is not in technical positions.

Yes, Buddhist monks sit with their legs cross as do yoga teachers, but only because they are trained to do so, and they find it comfortable.

If you do not find lotus position or Burmese position comfortable, don’t do it.

Discomfort

You might think, “Buddhist monks sit in the lotus position, and they are the masters, so if they sit with legs crossed, I should too.”

Fair point. Except that Buddhist monks can sit comfortably with their legs crossed. Most adults in the west cannot. Plus, sitting with your legs crossed for too long can be bad for your health.

To prove this, go ahead and sit with your legs crossed for a few minutes, and try to focus on your breath. If you are not comfortable in this position, you will find that your mind continually focuses on the discomfort in your legs, preventing you from meditating.

But then, why do Buddhists sit in lotus?

The reasons behind the Buddhist meditation sitting position

Have you ever wondered precisely why monks meditate with their legs crossed? Why is the lotus position considered the best meditation sitting position?

The reason we meditate in the lotus position is that it creates a sense of stability. And science proves this. In one scientific study, researchers found that sitting with your legs crossed increases stability in the pelvis. This stability in the pelvis supports the spine and, importantly, creates a sense of grounding in the mind. When the body is stable, and still, the mind is more likely to be so. And that is why the best way of sitting for meditation is the lotus position.

But: This is only true if you can sit comfortably with your legs crossed

zen monk sitting lotus position
Just because Zen monks sit in lotus position doesn’t mean you have to.

An alternative to sitting in lotus to meditate

If you cannot sit with your legs crossed and meditate comfortably, what are you supposed to do?

Actually, you have a lot of options. And I suggest you try out a few different sitting positions when meditating. That way, you can find the position that is best for you both in terms of comfort and in terms of finding the stability that you need to concentrate.

However you choose to sit. I recommend that you follow the three steps below.

Finding your best positions

1: Good posture

Do you do yoga or tai chi? If so, you will know the feeling of intentionally adopting a pose.

For instance, when you are in Warrior Position, you are in an energised, intentional, consciously aware position.

There is a level of intent in the way you are holding your body. And that same intent must be present when you are meditating.

It doesn’t matter precisely which position you are in. But when you meditate, sit with intent.

2: Check For Stability

The primary reason Buddhist monks sit in the lotus position is that it creates a sense of stability in the pelvis and the spine.

You can get that same level of stability in other positions. Whether you’re in a chair, cushion or pillow, you can feel that level of stability when you sit correctly.

When sitting to meditate, ask yourself: Do you feel stable? It should be a kind of grounding stability that creates solidity in your body.

3: Tune-In To Your Mind

If you have followed steps one and two, you should feel a sense of focus and stability in your mind.

This is the final test and the most significant one. If you have a good meditation sitting position, you will feel focused in your mind.

If your current sitting position is not meeting the criteria above, change position and run through those same three steps.

sitting posture checklist

An Alternative Pose

In some instances, you will still struggle to sit comfortably for meditation.

If that’s you, the good news is this: There are still ways you can meditate. One of the most straightforward solutions is to get a high-quality meditation chair,  meditation cushion or mat.

Another option is to do a more active form of meditation.

Some meditations are not done sitting. For instance, Osho dynamic meditations offer a way to meditate while moving. These are perfect when you can’t sit comfortably for long periods.

There many different ways how to sit for meditation and lots of techniques do not require you to sit at all. Therefore, if you’ve been finding your practice uncomfortable, try a different pose or technique.

Summary

Ultimately, it’s up to you what meditation position you select. That said, remember to ask yourself the following questions:

Are you comfortable?

You will know that you have a lousy meditation posture if you are uncomfortable.

Is it healthy?

It can be hard to know if you’re sitting with perfect posture when meditating. But you can quickly get a sense of whether your spine is in alignment or not. If you think you have bad posture, you probably do, so move.

Are you fidgeting?

One way to know if you have good meditation posture is to notice whether you’re fidgeting.

Meditation is about focusing. When we focus, we do not fidget. So, if your meditation posture is making you fidget, it’s probably wrong.

Are you trying to look cool?

If I had a dollar for every person who tried to do full lotus just because it looks cool… well, I’d probably donate it all to OXFAM. The point is: It doesn’t matter if you look good when you meditate. That’s not what the practice is about. All that matter is that you’re comfortable and not putting any strain on your body.

Wrong meditation positions cause pain

When you finish your session, do you have any muscle tension, numbness, or soreness? If so, it’s a sign you’re in the wrong position.

Do you have a health condition?

If you have a known medical condition which is interfering with your practice, ask a professional for advice. Your physiotherapist will be able to suggest the best meditation posture for you.

Would a meditation chair / mat / cushion help?

A high-quality seat will provide support for your spine and sitting muscles

Are you forcing yourself to stay in one meditation position for too long?

The best meditation position for beginners might be a combination of different postures.

Normally when practising, we do not move. We’re supposed to be still like a heron. But if you are genuinely uncomfortable, it is far better to get up and move for a few minutes than to continue and risk injuring yourself.

Take it easy

Remember, the practice is mostly for the mind, not the body. While you might push yourself physically when you exercise, you shouldn’t push yourself when you meditate. Chill. Go easy. Use the meditation posture that feels best for you.

There is no one best meditation position for beginners. It is entirely up to you and your body.

With these tips, you can find the best meditation position for you. This will help you to stay comfortable and safe when meditating.

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