There are a wide variety of postures or poses that are used for meditation. Certain forms of meditation, such as Tai Chi or Yoga, require specific poses, or a series of set poses. These poses should be learned with instruction to ensure that they are done correctly and without the risk of injury. However, if you are just starting out, meditation can be done with simpler sitting, reclining or lying poses.
When learning about these poses, it is most important that you are comfortable. If you are not comfortable, you cannot relax and you most certainly cannot reap the benefit of your meditation exercises.
In all major forms of meditation the spine is traditionally held straight while your body is relaxed. It is not always easy to achieve both at the same time, so don’t get frustrated if you have difficulty mastering the poses at first. Your body will get used to them in time.
It’s a simple fact that most of us do not have good posture. In most meditation poses the spine is put into a structurally sound line with the weight of the body distributed around it in a balanced pattern in which gravity, and not muscular tension, is the primary influence. Because most of us do not have good posture today, you may find that you experience some discomfort at first. In this case, simply modify the poses as necessary, or use pillows or blankets to help achieve comfort. You may find it helpful to sit with your back resting against a flat wall to maintain an erect pose.
If you find that sitting postures are too uncomfortable, then consider sitting in a comfortable chair or lying down. If you are meditating during the day, as opposed to during the evening as part of your bedtime routine, you should try to avoid lying down, as this is your normal sleeping position and meditating while lying down may well cause you to fall asleep.
No matter which posture you choose, make sure that your clothing is loose and comfortable and take off your shoes. Socks are fine as long as they are not tight around your ankles. Also, consider removing such things as jewelry and watches.
With that said, let’s take a look at some meditation poses or postures.
Full Lotus Posture (Padmasana)
The Lotus Pose (if you can do it comfortably) is a perfect meditation posture achieving both a straight spine and a relaxed body. This will, however, take some practice, unless you are a highly flexible person already.
Start by sitting on the floor in an easy, cross-legged pose. Clasp your left foot with both hands and bring it closer to your body, resting it high on your right thigh, near your groin. Now clasp your right leg with both hands and do the same, crossing it over your left leg and placing it high on your left thigh, again near your groin. If this is not comfortable, try reversing your legs so that your left leg is on top.
Half Lotus Pose (Ardha Padmasana)
With the Half Lotus Pose only one leg is placed high up, but this time it is pulled under the opposite thigh. The remaining leg is kept in front of the body, knee bent and the foot as close to the body as possible. This can be used as a way to warm up for full Lotus.
Start with your legs stretched out in front of you and bend your knees, pulling your feet closer in to your body. Drop your knees out and down, pressing them down to the floor as far as possible so that they are pointing out to the sides. The bottoms of your feet will now be facing each other. Pull your feet as close in towards the pelvis as is comfortable, keeping one foot slightly in front of the other. Push your buttocks out slightly so that the back straightens naturally. If necessary, use a blanket or pillow to relieve pain or pressure in the feet and ankles.
You may find in the beginning that your knees will not go down because your hamstrings and groin muscles are rather tight. If you are uncomfortable, push your feet a little farther away from your body until you find a more relaxed position.
You can also practice meditation sitting on a chair. This is called the Egyptian pose.
Find a chair that is tall enough to allow you to sit up straight and also support the back of your head. The chair seat should not be too high – you want your feet to rest flat against the floor. Use a cushion against your lower back to help keep you sitting up straight if necessary. Rest your hands on your thighs or lay them limply in your lap.
The "recliner chair" pose is a very healthy method of sitting, as it avoids blocking vital blood circulation to the legs and also retains all of the benefits of sitting on the floor in the full lotus position with your back held rigidly straight. This is a great position if you are just starting to learn the art of meditation.
Sit in the chair with the soles of your feet touching and your knees pointed outwards (rest your knees on the arms of the chair). This is similar to the Burmese pose, but here you should try to keep your feet aligned.
Recline the chair just enough to take the pressure off of your lower back, but not enough to lose the straight alignment of your spine. Lock your hands together comfortably in your lap, or rest them on top of you chest, one on top of the other.
Your aim eventually should be to meditate in the lotus position but, for most people, this will take some time and practice to achieve. The most important point to remember is that you should be comfortable, so start at the bottom of the list given here and work your way up at your own pace.
Donald Saunders is the author of a number of health-related publications discussing the problems of sleep and giving detailed advice on using such things as daily meditation to help in curing insomnia. For more information about meditation and health please visit Help-Me-To-Sleep.com