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Taking Your Seat

white and black square ottomanIn choosing a shape for a seated meditation* I always begin with the same question: what will support my body, in this practice, to be both comfortable and wakeful? For most of us, that is going to involve props.

I encourage you to listen to your body as you experiment with different set-ups. That may mean a different shape on different days, or at different times of the day.

Sitting on the Floor

  • Create a soft base: rug, carpet, folded blanket or grass.
  • Choose your shape:
    • Cross-Legged: stack one or two cushions, bolsters or pillows on your base. Position your body so you’re sitting towards the front edge of stack, allowing pelvis to tip slightly forward (hips above knees supports circulation.) If strain in back arises, positioning cushions against a wall or sofa base may help.
    • Hero’s Pose: alternatively you can turn your cushion on its side (so height is greater than width.) With one knee on each side, sit down on the cushion (the cushion will be between your legs.) Some people find this more comfortable for their knees than cross-legged. It tends to be easier with firmer cushions.
    • Kneeling/Meditation Benches: meditation benches can make kneeling quite comfortable by minimizing actual weight on knees. They can vary in both forward tilt and height to support different ergonomic experiences; taller benches can often be kinder on knees. Some come with a cushion. Sit on the base, knees gently resting on ground (you’ll want the bench holding most of your weight), calves and feet tucked underneath. With lower benches it’s often easiest to stand up on knees, place the bench over calves, then gently sit down and adjust position as helpful.
  • Rest hands comfortably on top of thighs, or in one another.
  • Imagine a string gently pulling upward from the top of your head to support natural elongation in the spine, stacking head above hips.
  • Roll shoulders up, back and down to release tension broaden across heart region.
  • Relax jaw, slightly tuck chin.
  • Once you feel steady, soften or close eyes.

Sitting in a Chair

  • You’ll want both feet to rest comfortably on the ground. Add a pillow, block or cushion under feet if needed.
  • Rather than leaning into the back of the chair, scoot forward an inch or two. This supports wakefulness. If you  notice back strain or discomfort, try placing a small pillow between your back and the back of the chair.
  • Rest hands comfortably on top of thighs, or in one another.
  • Imagine a string gently pulling upward from the top of your head to support natural elongation in the spine, stacking head above hips.
  • Roll shoulders up, back and down to release tension broaden across heart region.
  • Relax jaw, slightly tuck chin.
  • Once you feel steady, soften or close eyes.

*It’s Not All About the Seat

Although the media primarily depicts meditation with images of people cross-legged on the floor,  meditation is not simply a seated practice. Other formal forms of mediation include standing, supine and walking. More on walking meditations coming soon. See below for suggestions on standing and supine shapes.

  • Standing: If sitting doesn’t feel comfortable in your body, or if you find yourself nodding off in your seat, try standing. Eyes open and/or  hands placed on the back of a chair or sofa can facilitate stability and balance. Allow for a micro bend in knees to support circulation.
  • Supine: While laying down for some people can often lead to drowsiness and reduced capacity for concentration, for others it can be a skillful shape. Supine shapes can give our muscles a shape and help distribute our weight throughout whole body. If extending legs, a pillow or bolster under knees may help lower back to more deeply relax. You can also bend knees, position feet about a yoga mat width distance apart and allow knees to fall inward, resting into one another (also known as “constructive rest”.)  A cushion underhead can also be nice if meditating for an extended period of time. If you become drowsy, or attention becomes dull, consider practicing with eyes open and/or with upper arms on the ground at your sides, bend arms at elbows to lift hands in the air (like a goal post.)

Head to CLASSES for the full schedule of meditation offerings. Want more of an immersion? Come on RETREAT with us!

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