Does this situation sound familiar to you?
You’ve been meditating for a few minutes with great success. Everything is going blissfully well, until a nagging strain in your back starts to distract you from concentrating on your breathing. You sit up a little straighter, which helps. Back to breathing. A few minutes later, your neck starts to hurt. Then your shoulders. Gah- it never ends. What is going on? Staying focused during meditation is hard enough without having to endure aches from random parts of your body!
You’re not alone in suffering these frustrating distractions. Especially if you are a beginner, it can be common to cut sessions short due to simple discomfort. I was definitely prone to these aches during the first few months of daily meditation.
Luckily, the fix is very straightforward. Employing proper posture will wipe out these troubles faster than a diving falcon. By paying attention to my posture, I am able to meditate much longer and much deeper. I know this will work for you too. Let’s take a look at some time-worn tips for perfecting your mediation posture.
The Seven-Point Posture of Vairocana
Buddhist culture is known for its emphasis on mediation. Vairocana is a celestial Buddha often pictured using a simple yet specific position while meditating. Throughout the years, people have used Vairocana’s posture to enhance their own practices.
Here it is, broken down into its seven main components:
- Sit comfortably with your legs crossed.
- Rest your hands in your lap or on your knees.
- Straighten your back. Imagine your spine as a perfect stack of coins.
- Spread your shoulders, like the wings of a large bird.
- Slightly lower your chin. Make sure your neck is balanced atop your spine.
- Relax your jaw and keep the tip of your tongue lightly touching your upper palate.
- Keep your gaze slightly lowered, peering over the top of your nose.
It might be a good idea to read over these seven points at the beginning of each meditation session until you can get into this position naturally.
Where to Sit While Meditating
Where you choose to sit before you start to meditate can make a huge difference to your posture. In general, it is best to sit on the ground. Western culture isn’t accustomed to this, so it may feel a little strange the first few times you do it. A pillow or other support is vital in keeping your tailbone elevated and pelvis comfortably rotated forward.
Did you know there’s actually pillows made specifically for meditating?
These are called Zafu Cushions – and at the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic, getting one of these changed my life. Zafu Cushions are made to keep their form instead of compacting over time like the stuffing in normal pillows. The one I have is filled with buckwheat kernels, which I had never heard of before getting it. After using one of these for months, I’d call it a necessity for anyone serious about meditation.
Here’s a link to the exact cushion I ended up getting: Peace Yoga Zafu Cushion
Remember to keep your legs comfortably crossed while sitting. The key word here is comfortable. You probably have seen pictures of people in the lotus position, with their ankles on top of each opposite knee. I know I’m not flexible enough for the lotus position, but you might be. Crossing your legs normally is much easier and still acceptable.
Find Out What Works for You
In the end, meditation is always a highly personalized experience. Everyone gets something different out of it, and that goes for posture as well. Follow the guidelines above but feel free to adjust them slightly to fit your body’s own tendencies. With a little practice, you’ll be pulling hour-long sessions without so much as a ping of pain from your back!