One of the first difficulties we encounter when meditating is the posture we should adopt. Often during meditation we are so busy with how we sit that we don’t really get to the actual meditation. Therefore it is worthwhile to clear up any ambiguities in advance. This way we have one less distraction. There are a number of factors to take into account when it comes to the question how to sit properly during meditation.
As far as posture is concerned, a number of questions can arise. Is it okay to sit on a chair? May I meditate lying down? Can I lean against a wall or a chair? What do I do with my hands? Do I meditate with my eyes open or closed? Do I have to be able to do the lotus position? Etc.
There are many types of meditation: walking meditation, Qi-gong, yoga etc. In this article, however, I would like to limit myself to sitting meditation and go into more detail about posture. Other blog posts have already dealt with topics like mindfulness in general, the effects of meditation or mindful eating, so if you are interested, feel free to browse a bit!
But now back to the sitting meditation.
Staying motionless is not a must
In general, even if you decide to adopt a posture, you do not have to stay in that position. If the leg falls asleep, you can stand it, but you don’t have to endure pain. The posture should support the meditation and not distract us additionally. So should you ever need to change the position, you can of course do so. Then try to change your position slowly and carefully, especially if you are meditating together with other people who you don’t want to disturb.
As for the actual posture, it should be comfortable enough that you can be mentally relaxed, but not so comfortable that you get sleepy. Therefore, it is not recommended to meditate lying down, but sitting down. And in a sitting position it is correspondingly better not to lean.
On the chair
This means that if you are sitting on a chair and meditate, you should slide to the front edge of the chair. This makes it easier not to lean on the chair.
In addition, the pelvis tilts forward slightly, which makes it easier to straighten the spine. The same applies to sitting on the floor: it is advisable to sit on a meditation cushion, stool, block, etc., which will tilt the pelvis slightly and relieve the spine.
If you decide to sit on a chair, both feet should be parallel and completely on the floor. This way you sit stable and can keep your attention stable more easily.
Or do you prefer the floor?
When you sit on the floor, there are basically two possibilities: either you sit in a variation of the heel seat or in a cross-legged seat. In the heel seat, the upper legs rest on the lower legs, the knees point forward, the feet backward and the shins rest on the floor.
In the cross-legged seat there are many different variations (lotus seat, cross-legged seat, etc.). Here there is no right or wrong. The main thing is that your seat is stable and supports mental relaxation and concentration. It may be advisable to support your knees with pillows/blankets to protect your knees.
In both variations (heel seat or cross-legged seat) you can raise your pelvis by using cushions, blankets, etc. Here you can vary the height and thus find out your personal optimal seat height over time. Many meditation cushions therefore have the possibility to remove material in order to adapt the cushion to your own needs.
Where to put your hands?
Now that your seat is stable and as comfortable as possible and your spine is relieved and upright, the next question is about your hands. In various spiritual traditions, so-called Mudras (hand positions) are used to pursue certain goals in meditation (e.g. strengthening concentration, increasing energy, etc.).
One of the most famous is Mudra, where thumb and index finger touch each other and the other three fingers are stretched out. This is a science in itself and if you are interested, you are welcome to delve deeper into the matter (try for example this article), but in this article we would like to reduce ourselves to the mere laying of hands.
Here again, you can try out what feels good for you at the moment. Either put your hands in your lap or on your knees (palms either up or down).
What about head and face?
The head is in the extension of the spine and slightly lowered. The mouth is neither fully open nor fully closed, the jaw muscles are loose. We try to keep the face relaxed – eyebrows and forehead are relaxed.
Closed eyes during meditation
My last point is about the eyes. Again, there are two possibilities: the eyes are either closed or slightly open. Both have their good reasons. Especially beginners are easily distracted and therefore like to meditate with closed eyes. This not only reduces distraction, but also “sharpens” the other senses. For example, it is easier to perceive the breath, which is often used as an object for meditation.
Especially with a little more practice, it is advisable to meditate with your eyes slightly open. In this way, we do not draw a line between meditation and “real life”. In the long run, it is easier to “take” the benefits of meditation with you in everyday life and to adopt a more attentive posture during the day.
If you choose to meditate with your eyes slightly open, your gaze is slightly lowered. The eyes focus on nothing, but look into the empty space. Here it is important that the view is relaxed. So it’s no problem if the eyes focus on the ground in front of us. However, the attention should not be on the gaze, but still on the object of meditation, often the breath.
Unspecific but true: you can’t go wrong
As already mentioned, there is no right or wrong posture during meditation. Try out what suits you best. Often this also depends on the day – what fits on one day may not be the right position for you on another day. Most importantly, your position helps you to be relaxed and focused. So that you don’t have to worry about posture and can meditate more easily. Hopefully we were able to help answering the question on how to sit properly during meditation.
If you still find it difficult to find the right position on your own and you want a little help, have a look at our courses. If things are going well for you, you are also very welcome – we also offer advanced meditation.