On Meditation Positions and Posture

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On Meditation Positions and Posture

THC Editorial Team July 16, 2021
Anka Valenty on Shutterstock (article on meditation positions)
Anka Valenty on Shutterstock

Contents

To meditate is to bring awareness to the physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts one is experiencing.1 The purpose of meditation is to achieve an emotionally calm and stable state, mental clarity, and focus by using various physical and mental techniques, including engaging in particular postures. Meditation and mindfulness are closely related, as mindfulness is the state of having heightened awareness of the present moment.2 Practicing mindfulness every day can increase positive affect and reduce symptoms of depression.3

A notable study conducted in 2011 revealed that mindfulness meditation could reduce mind wandering in the brain network known as the default mode network (DMN).4 Studies have also confirmed that when someone’s mind wanders and ruminates on past or future events, the person tends to experience some level of unhappiness.5

Many research studies have found that meditation reduces signs of depression, along with anxiety and pain.6 Research has also revealed that meditation programs such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) have reduced anxiety in participants for years after the course was taken.7

Eileen Luders and Florian Kurth of the UCLA Department of Neurology and Nicolas Cherbuin of the Centre for Research on Ageing, Health, and Wellbeing at Australian National University used brain scans to examine the brain matter density of 100 subjects. Half of the study participants had been practicing meditation for at least 4 years. Brain matter density generally declines with age, but this study revealed that those who meditated experienced a slower decline in gray matter density with age than those who did not meditate.8

Another study revealed that mindfulness training, of which meditation is a major component, can improve cognitive performance and reduce mind wandering, regardless of which meditation posture is used in the practice.9 Maintaining good posture is important in meditation—having a straight spine keeps the body engaged while still promoting relaxation—but the benefits of meditation will occur regardless of which of the meditation positions one chooses.9,10 It’s not easy to pick just one meditation position that’s right for every individual. Sitting often offers a good balance between focus and relaxation. However, other important mindfulness techniques include a range of meditation poses, such as standing, lying down, kneeling, and walking. When choosing a posture, consider which one is most comfortable for your body, allows you to maintain a straight spine, and helps you avoid pain during your meditation session.

In this article, we’ll take a look at several common meditation postures and how they can benefit your mental health.

Why Proper Meditation Posture Matters

Different postures in meditation allow people to experience different levels of comfort and focus in their practice. For instance, a particular posture may enable you to relinquish attention to external distractions more easily, while another may help you better cultivate calmness and wakefulness. Yet others may allow you to think more clearly about your intentions for the day.11 To find out what works best for you, experiment with each posture during your meditation sessions. Keep in mind that what is comfortable one day may feel different on another; if a meditation pose is uncomfortable at any time, try another.

Major Meditation Positions

There are numerous meditation postures that you can use to have a comfortable and enjoyable practice. The most common ones are seated postures, but here are some that you can try to get started:10

Chair Sitting Meditation

If you choose to meditate on a chair, you can do so by sitting cross-legged in a full lotus position or simply letting your feet touch the floor. Your arms should rest in your lap, and you should sit straight with proper alignment to ensure a comfortable seated position.12

Standing Meditation

Standing meditation posture is ideal for people who spend too much time sitting. To get the most benefits out of your standing position, you should place your feet firmly on the floor and shoulder-width apart, parallel to each other, and slightly bend your knees. Lift your arms so that they are 8 to 10 inches in front of your abdomen, and turn your hands so that your palms face your stomach.13 As you breathe in and out, pay attention to your posture and ensure it remains the same.

Kneeling Meditation

The kneeling posture may benefit those who have trouble keeping their back straight. To try this position, kneel on the ground with your knees together while your heels or bottom touch a cushion. Kneeling meditation can also be done on a meditation bench.

Lying Meditation

Meditating while lying flat on the floor before sleep may help you achieve a good night’s rest and is commonly practiced by Son Buddhists, disciples of the most venerated Korean Buddhist master, Son Master Songdam.14 Those who experience discomfort while seated may prefer this position.15 To lie in a correct pose, you should have your arms extended alongside your body, palms facing up. Keep your legs hip-width apart and your whole body as relaxed as possible. You may also protect your lower back by putting a pillow underneath your knees.

Walking Meditation

Walking while meditating may seem counterintuitive, as meditation is a way to rest, but studies have shown that walking and meditating can significantly improve your mood.16 To get the most benefits out of your walking meditation practice, you should pick a slow pace and focus on your senses and taking in your environment while breathing deeply and slowly. Many find that it’s easier to quiet the mind when the body is occupied.15

Seven-Point Meditation Posture

Meditation experts rely on the concept of the seven-point posture to connect every part of their body during meditation practice. While this posture is more commonly used in the traditional sitting position, it can be used across all positions discussed above. The seven-point meditation posture focuses on specific parts of your body:

1. Legs

Sit on your meditation bench or the floor or a cushion with your legs crossed in a lotus position and the tops of your feet resting on your thighs. If this is difficult, try half lotus, with only one foot resting atop the opposite thigh, or a simple cross-legged position.17

2. Arms

Your arms and hands should be relaxed. Place them cupped together with palms facing up on your lap or on either knee, palms facing down.17

 Source: The Good Brigade via Getty Images

3. Back

Your back is the most important part of your body when it comes to your meditation practice. Maintain an upright posture, with a straight spine, and in a relaxed position.

4. Eyes

Often, when meditating for the first time, it is easier to concentrate with eyes fully closed. As you advance, try to meditate with your eyes slightly open and your gaze pointing downward.

5. Jaw

As you practice, pay attention to your face and lower jaw. Make sure your facial muscles are relaxed and your lips are gently touching.

6. Tongue

Your tongue should touch the upper palate to reduce the flow of saliva produced during meditation. The goal should be to minimize the swallowing process to have an uninterrupted session.

7. Head

Slightly bend your neck to allow for a natural gaze downward. Dropping it too low could encourage drowsiness while holding your head too high encourages your mind to wander.

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways

You can develop a good meditation practice at any point during your life, but choosing the right meditation posture may take time. Although sitting in a chair or sitting cross-legged is common, experiment with other positions to find out which ones are most comfortable for you. Always ensure your meditation positions are relaxed, and try to maintain stillness and good posture. Remember to breathe slowly and relax your mind.