The magic of a good sitting posture on the meditation cushion - being wide awake and alert and at the same being absolutely relaxed - appears to be a contradiction in itself. The right meditation posture also serves to some extent for sensory deprivation [stimulus reduction] in order to calm down physical processes.
We sit as motionless as possible on the meditation cushion and avoid all unnecessary movements such as scratching or fidgeting. The immobility of the body and the reduction of external stimuli helps our brain to calm down. Ultimately, the purpose of the stable, calm meditation posture is to calm the body and mind – seclusion free of distraction. Meditation is an embodied being process, not a thinking process. It is about the development of a deeper sense of a body-mind synchronization.
We wear loose, comfortable clothing, especially around the hips and pelvis. Clothing shouldn't restrict us in any way.
A correct and appropriate seat and posture are fundamental to meditation. A good meditation posture uses the balance and structure of the skeleton and does not use the muscles. We learn to find the right body balance.
The more compact, the more stable and calm we sit.
Don't try to follow this guide too rigid. Be playful, gentle and curious about the correct posture. Find out, what is good for you. Sometimes little changes have the potential to change the whole experience.
A little pain [little!] from muscle tension or numbness is usually no problem and often inevitable on the way to sitting longer sessions. Just always take care of your joints, do not overload them. Do not risk any joint problems! Pain can also be a sign of a bad posture, especially if it comes up in the back and joints.
Especially for beginner we recommend to do stretching exercises like used in Hatha Yoga before every session. Hatha Yoga even was originally developed to create flexibility and the best physical conditions for sitting meditation. It is therefore advisable to do appropriate stretching exercises before meditation.
You should try different cross-legged postures in order to find the best one for you. Please check the four main cross-legged postures which you find on the start page of the website.
How To Take Position
When you sit down to take position for your favourite posture, it is advisable to do it in the same order every time. Write yourself a short list, with the order and steps, which suit you the best. It must not be exactly the same list and order, like presented below. It is recommended that you go through and check the relevant points one after the other each time.
The main principle is to find the right overall body balance. Use the skeleton, not the muscles to do so. Find a position where your body feels naturally centered and stable. An imaginary picture that is often used is the marionette example. Imagine a string like the one used on puppets coming out of the crown of your head. If someone pulls you up slightly by the string now, it comes close to the feeling of a good posture for the head and back. Sit like a chunk of play dough, firm, stable but perfect pliable.
After sitting down you can first slip and move a little bit, grab the Snug meditation cushion at the left and right side and rock the body back and forth and side to side to adjust to the cushion and to find the correct posture. This way the Snug cushion and your body align to each other.
Next, pull on the front end of the back-support-cushion in order to tuck it close to your lower back. You can see here how to do it https://youtu.be/1DbxvjRSiWk Now, you should feel how the back-support-cushion stabilizes your lower back.
Now bring your body to rest in a sense of relaxation and comfort. Release your tension, physically and mentally. Some people consciously decide to leave their daily business and problems at the door of the room.
Raise your sternum slightly so that as you inhale you can feel the breath naturally reach your belly, which expands as you inhale and retracts as you exhale. Breathe as if you were pouring water into a vessel, filling it up from the bottom up.
The spine should be upright, with a slight natural inward curve above the waist. The back should be naturally straight and in the same time relaxed, not stiff or tense. We say, that we need to sit with a straight back but a completely straight spine is actually not what we really want. It is the balance of the natural curved spine that provides the stable, firm and flexible sitting posture.
Now, we sit with our backs straight, chest out, and we roll our shoulders back. Shoulder, neck and back muscles can release this way. The shoulders should be in line with the hip bones. Let your arms hang loosely, keep your elbows a little loose to your torso, not too close but also not protruding. The hands can rest relaxed in the lap or on the knees, without the need of any effort to keep them in this position.
We recommend to hold your hands as a mudra in your lap or on our knees. Both palms are upward and one palm is lying in the other, while the thumbs are touching lightly.
The mudra posture is beneficial because it works like a reporting system for us. When the thumb pressure eases, you find yourself sinking, losing your attention, and mind wandering. But the opposite can also happen and you notice that the thumb pressure increases. This can then be a sign of increasing tension. In this case you know it is a sign to let loose and relax again.
Another benefit of holding your hands in your lap is that it makes the posture more compact. However, if you have problems with the permanent, upright seat, you can benefit from the stability of the hands on the knees. Here it is again important to find the most suitable personal solution.
The head is straight to slightly inclined. In other words, tuck the chin in order to give it a smooth but stable posture. But do not tend to go too far forward and don’t drop it too much. Balance your head in line with gravity, it needs to sit in a natural hold, soft and open. You can also imagen you are a marionette and a string is attached to the crown of your head and someone is pulling at the string. The result is the optimal head posture.
Relax your face, eyebrows, cheeks and jaw. In order to largely exclude the distraction caused by visual impressions, the eyes are kept closed (Vipassana) but do not squeeze them. In other traditions the eyes are kept open. However, especially for beginners closed eyes can lead to drowsiness and impair our proprioception, the feeling for the posture in the room. Therefore, in the beginning it is better to have the eyelids a bit open in order to let some shines coming through. As the practice progresses, you can also experiment with the closed variant.
The tongue touches the roof of the mouth and the tip of the tongue touches the gum line of the upper teeth. This allows the saliva to collect under the tongue and to reduce it anyway. In the Asian traditions there are all kinds of energy and chakra theories for this as well.
When sitting, the pelvis is the central support of the body. For a correct seat, the lower back must neither be rounded in the front position nor form a hollow back in the back position.
The posterior pelvic tilt
Many meditators sit with their pelvis in a position called a posterior pelvic tilt. The front of the basin is slightly raised and the back drops off a little. The pelvis is now "rolled backwards". This leads to a multitude of posture failures.
If we sit too high on the pillow, a hollow back often arises. The upper pelvic bone then moves forward and the tailbone moves back. The buttocks protrude slightly backwards and you form a hollow back. That in turn puts a strain on the back. In this case, decrease some filling pressure out of the back-support-cushion.
Neutral to slightly anterior pelvic tilt
Ideally, the seat surface is completely straight or inclined slightly forward. It is called an anterior pelvic tilt when the front of the pelvis is balanced evenly or slightly sloping in relation to the back. The pelvis is now in a neutral position or slightly "rolled forward". The chest and abdomen can now open and breathing can flow freely and carefree.
If we sit too low on the pillow, however, the typical hunchback usually arises. The pelvis tilts backwards, the spine loses its natural alignment, falls into a limp and leaned forward sitting posture. The objective is to establish an even distribution of weight on the sit bones. We are now sitting like a lump of modeling clay, firm, stable but perfectly supple. Most pain is related to muscle tension as a result of poor posture.
Hips above the knees – knees on the floor
The idea is to have your hips a little above your knees. Such a posture supports good blood circulation in the legs. While the meditation cushion arms prevent ligament stretching and knee twisting.
Cross-legged beginners usually have their knees higher because the hips cannot open that far. In this case, you increase the filling pressure in the chambers and you can put up your knees higher on the leg extension. If not in the beginning, maybe later your knees can gradually come lower and lower to the floor. This, in turn, is beneficial for blood circulation.
Advanced meditators with greater flexibility in the hips fill the leg extension chambers only about halfway. In this way, the knees can be placed on the floor and the body weight is evenly distributed. There are no local pressure points, as with conventional meditation cushions.
In Case of Slumping Do This
Some common problems are slumping (hunchback) after some time. In this case, you can straighten up slightly and slowly in order not to disturb your session.
But it can also be a sign for sitting too low. In this case you need more filling pressure in the central-seat-chamber. You can also mold the Snug cushion with your hands the way, that more spelt husks support your crotch. Now pull again on the front end of the back-support-cushion. In the result, you have more support in the crotch zone as well as in the lower back. You are literally molded-in.
Small changes – big effect
Often small changes such as a slightly changed angle of the pelvis or a changed alignment of the head can already make us feel more comfortable and relaxed with the posture.
Sit snug-fit & enjoy your meditation journey!
Take Position Check List
1. Sit down, slip & move, adjust to meditation cushion.
2. When using a SNUG meditation cushion, pull on the front end of the back support cushion to tuck it to your lower back for more posture stability.
3. Release overall body tension physically & mentally.
4. Raise sternum slightly.
5. Roll back shoulders.
6. Check straight spine being natural curved.
7. Let arms hang loosely, hands in lap or on knees.
8. Head slightly inclined.
9. Relax all muscles in face.
10. Tongue touches the roof & front teeth.
11. Eyes closed or slightly open.