Meditation posture workshop

Woman meditatingIt can take a lot of trial and error to find an effective meditation posture. Often we have to go through periods of discomfort before we can learn to sit comfortably.

The importance of posture, however, goes well beyond finding a way to sit comfortably, because the way we hold the body has a profound effect on the emotions and mental states that we experience. Something as subtle as the angle that you hold your chin at affects how much thinking you do. Having the wrong angle of your seat can lead to interference with the way you breathe, and can lead to feelings of tiredness or even depression.

In this section we explain how to use your body effectively in meditation, so that you can relax and at the same time develop alertness. Although relaxation and alertness may appear at first to be opposites, they can in fact coexist during a meditative state, and are characteristic of a state of mindfulness.

“Wildmind: A Step-by-Step-Guide to Meditation,” by Bodhipaksa, has a complete guide to meditation techniques, including posture.

We’ll explain how it’s a myth that you need to be able to get into lotus position in order to meditate effectively. There are other ways to sit, including kneeling, and in fact you can meditate while sitting in a chair or while using a meditation bench.

It’s even possible to meditate while lying down, although the results are not usually very good for this particular posture and so it should only be used when absolutely necessary, as when there are injuries that prevent any other posture from being used.

In this posture workshop we’ll take you through the whole process of setting up your posture, including what to sit on, the importance of supporting your hands, the angle of the head, and some basic trouble-shooting tips.

We’d like to acknowledge the kindness of Windhorse Publications, who allowed us to use illustrations from Meditation: The Buddhist Way of Tranquillity and Insight, by Kamalashila (now republished as Buddhist Meditation: Tranquillity, Imagination and Insight) in this section of the site.

Use the links in the menu on the left to explore different aspects of meditation posture.

77 Comments. Leave new

Mary Pauline Herron
February 9, 2015 3:51 pm

I was wondering if you might know if the research on the positive effects of meditation apply to guided mediation or is it about following the breath only? I want to meditate but find it alot easier to do guided meditation. Recent research talks about how it can make your brain younger and even fight off alzheimer’s disease. Is guided meditation as effective for those health benefits?
Thanks, MAry


Most clinical trials have used a mixture of guided and self-directed meditations. Guided meditations can be even more effective than the self-guided ones, because there’s less opportunity for the mind to wander, and because techniques are being introduced that you probably wouldn’t think of yourself.


Hi, Bodhipaksa, didn’t want to load all my questions together so I tried to place them in the appropriate sections. I have a chronic back issue that makes sitting upright quite uncomfortable. I can sit up for maybe 15-20 minutes if my back has support, but still have to try not to think of my lower back during meditation this way. I can do it if reclined with no back discomfort. I haven’t even tried sitting upright with no back support. Should I “force” myself to sit up straight? I wonder if I’ll get used to it eventually, in the meantime, I’ll be distracted by my back. Btw, I do lots of crunches at the gym, so my core seems fairly strong. Sorry for the long letter!


Well, I’d never recommend that you “force” anything with your posture, Roland. It’s possible that with the right meditation bench you might be able to sit comfortably for longer, but without working with you on a personal level it’s impossible to say.

Last night when I was sitting I experienced lower back pain. What I did was to make the pain into the object of the meditation, noticing the various pain sensations coming and going. They very quickly ceased to feel painful, and just became sensations. Also, because I was no longer interpreting these sensations as “pain,” the whole area relaxed and softened. You might want to try that.


Thanks, I will try that.


Hi Bodhipaksa. Amazing book, wonderful experience so far.
Quick question….is it OK to combine elements of the posture to suit my needs?
I sit upright on a chair with my pelvis tilted forward as recommended (as I’m not flexible enough to sit), however, as I’m tall, I prefer to cross my feet (as one would in a sitting position, soles pointing away from each other), as I find this more comfortable. Is this in order?


Sometimes it’s necessary to sit like that, JC. The feeling of having the feet flat on the floor can be very grounding and can help stabilize the mind, which is particularly valuable on a chair, since we can feel like we’re hovering in mid air, almost. But if your lower legs are longer than the height of the chair then sitting that way just isn’t practical, and crossing the legs at the ankles is a good compromise, as if having the legs slightly tucked under the chair. Short people may need a cushion to rest the feet on.

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