Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Meditation Posture

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Meditating while sitting cross-legged

Not everyone can meditate cross-legged — I’m one of them!

Fortunately, there’s no need to be in a cross-legged posture to meditate. In fact if you force yourself into an uncomfortable cross-legged posture then you may do long-term damage to your joints, and you certainly won’t be comfortable enough to meditate effectively.

However, if you have the flexibility then sitting cross-legged is a very stable and grounded posture. There are a number of ways of sitting with crossed legs.

Tailor Position

The first picture is the tailor position, which is the simplest cross-legged position. It’s also probably the most common cross-legged posture.

It’s very important for you to have both knees on the ground, to give you adequate support. Having three points of contact (your butt, and both knees) gives you a lot of stability. When was the last time you saw a photographer trying to keep a camera stable on a dipod?

If you can’t quite get both knees on the floor, then you can use some padding (a thin cushion or folded scarf) under your knee to keep you stable. If one, or both of your knees is more than an inch (2-3cm) off the ground, then use a chair or try sitting astride cushions or a meditation bench or stool. You can always do some yoga to loosen up your hips, and then come back and try a cross-legged posture later.

Again, if your hands don’t rest naturally on your lap, keep them supported, perhaps on a cushion or on a blanket. You might want to alternate which foot is in front from time to time. This is a good thing to do because any cross-legged posture is slightly asymmetrical. If you alternate the position of your feet, then you’ll even out the imbalances and not “build them in” to your posture.

Comments

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Comment from dibyadeep
Time: March 26, 2008, 1:12 pm

hii…i have been trying to mediate for some time, and have been trying to concentrate on my breath. I have been using the cross-legged position continuously. The problem I am facing is not of flexibility, but due to the fact that my legs become completely numb after around 20 mins. I dont feel any pain, but possibly due to blockage of some artery this sort of phenomena happens. Is it possible to circumvent this problem through some means?…thanks a lot for your reply

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 26, 2008, 1:53 pm

Hi. You didn’t mention whether the legs are going numb below the hip or the knee, and that’s an important piece of information. Usually this happens below the knee, so I’ll work on that assumption and you can correct me if that assumption is wrong.

When the legs below the knee go to sleep it is, as you suspected, due to pressure (although I think its pressure on the nerves rather than the artery). So you need to look at where the calf muscles meet the thigh and see if you can create more space there.

One way to do this is to take the calf muscle in one hand with an overhand grip and to slip the other hand under the thigh and getting a grasp of the thigh muscle with an underhand grip. Then rotate the calf muscle up and forwards and the thigh muscle down and backwards. When you let go you’ll find there’s more space.

Also make sure that you’re wearing *very* soft clothing. Jeans or any other thick material will bunch up in the popliteal region and create pressure.

Lastly it may be that you’re sitting too low and that you need a firmer and higher cushion.

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Comment from kim
Time: September 22, 2009, 10:13 pm

i can’t get my legs into the cross-legged position i’ve had knee surgery on both knees my age is 51 i’m taking a class at my gym. By the time the first class was over i was feeling sick to my stomach. Is this normal? Will it get better or is there something i can do to sit in a better position. I was getting legs cramps in legs Any help for me i really need to work on the stress and i thought yoga would help.

Thank you
Kim Baker

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 23, 2009, 8:40 am

Hi Kim,

So are you saying that you’re trying to sit cross-legged at the gym and it’s causing nausea? I’d suggest that you try sitting on a chair. It’s possible that a kneeling stool might work for you because most of the weight is on your behind, although they’re not cheap, especially if you’re not sure whether meditation is something you’re going to do long-term.

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Comment from purnima
Time: June 7, 2010, 1:44 am

Hi Kim,

its very nice to read your valuable comment.

hii…i have been just started to mediate, and have been trying to concentrate on my breath. I have been using the cross-legged position continuously. The problem I am facing is not of flexibility, but due to the fact that after around 20 mins my legs start pain,its not bearable. As pain grows ,i open my eyes ,which i don’t want to open .

i think have need of paractice of setting in that posture.can u help me .
i waiting for ue valuable comment.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 7, 2010, 8:20 am

Hi Purnima,

It may be that, as you say, you just need to keep practicing. It’s hard to say without further information and without being able to see you. Other possibilities are:

– you may in fact need to work on flexibility
– you may need to keep your legs warmer, for example covering them with a blanket
– you may need to have more padding between you and the floor
– you may need to pay more attention to the body (body scanning) as you enter meditation
– it may be that you’re tensing up at the first signs of discomfort, and so you may need to consciously relax the body in meditation

These are just guesses, of course. I hope they’re helpful.

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Comment from purnima
Time: June 8, 2010, 1:35 am

Hi kim,

i am very grateful .You comments are always valuable. Its third day of meditation .i feel pain only in my right leg. Is their any reason for it.i am able to concentrate between my eyebrows.but when litel bit light arise their,my eyes try to open .is it normal while meditating.i asking all these to u because i don’t have any one to whom i ask.you can ask if u want some more information.

waiting for your valuable comments.

Thanks again.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 8, 2010, 8:39 am

I’m puzzled why you think you’re talking with someone called Kim.

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Comment from purnima
Time: June 8, 2010, 8:43 am

Bodhipaksa

i am sorry for mistake .it all was for Mr. Bodhipaksa .where is ur comments???

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 8, 2010, 11:50 am

Hi Purnima,

I just wanted to get the question of my identity sorted out first!

To be honest, I don’t do the kind of meditation you’re doing, so I’m not entirely clear what’s going on. Perhaps you’re getting a little excited because “something” appears to be happening (i.e. you’re seeing light)? If so, perhaps it would help to know that a perception of light in meditation is quite common, and although it’s a good sign that you’re developing concentration and stillness of mind, it’s unhelpful to get excited. I’d suggest that you just accept the appearance of the light as a normal phenomenon, and as something simply to be experienced. In order to keep your mind calm, I’d suggest that you pay attention to the movements of your breathing in the abdomen as you become aware of the light. That should help you stay “grounded” so that you don’t get excited. Assuming, of course, that that’s what’s going on.

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Comment from purnima
Time: June 9, 2010, 1:28 am

Hi Bodhipaska

Thank for Reply ,. I am sure it will help me.
:)

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Comment from Novice
Time: December 14, 2010, 11:25 am

Bodhipaksa,

I’m into my third week of meditaion, and I’ve hit a roadblock with posture. I’m probably being a bit of a perfectionist, or self-demanding. I’m not very limber, and even sitting in the tailor posture is a problem at this point. But I’m also finding that I am becoming more limber — but at the expense of sitting for twenty minutes minding my posture and not my breath. I’ve not had much success in a chair either, and the main thing is I’m constantly trying out now meditation postures and, again, am hardly meditating. What should I do?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 16, 2010, 9:23 pm

Hi, Novice.

Perfectionism is just one of those things we need to work through. It’s basically a form of anxiety and self-doubt, and those are two of the hindrances that meditation generally combats.

It’s unfortunate if you’re constantly trying out new postures. We do have to do some adjustment, especially at first, but we shouldn’t need to move unless there’s some severe pain or discomfort.

Have you tried a kneeling (seiza) bench? That’s what I use, and I find it very comfortable. I’m pretty stiff.

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Comment from Tina Nguyen
Time: January 29, 2011, 5:10 pm

Good afternoon Bodhipaksa,
How are you?
I have a question and hope that you can help me.
I am having problem with my lower back. I have been sitting a lotus and even half lotus position and it hurt my lower back badly. I have tried to you different kinds of cushion but it did not help. Would you please help me?
Thanks, I am waiting for your reply.
Tina Nguyen

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 2, 2011, 11:16 am

Hi, Tina.

It’s impossible to say, just by your description, what’s going on. You may have been sitting badly, or you may lack flexibility, or you may even have a medical condition that needs treatment. I’ve no way of knowing.

In general, though, a kneeling position on a stool is likely to be more gentle on your back.

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Pingback from Day 4: Morning has broken | 30 days of meditation
Time: February 24, 2011, 4:20 am

[…] situations later. When I did I noticed the way I was sitting all this time was wrong, according to WildMind my knees should reach the ground while I’m not nearly as flexible to allow that, he advises […]

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Comment from Megan
Time: September 26, 2013, 10:50 pm

Bodhipaksa,

First of all, thanks so much for all this great info. I’ve only just started to try meditation for about a week or two but I already find your suggestions helpful and can’t wait to read on.

My concern is with maintaining posture throughout meditation. I know that I should be able to stay still while meditating but I often find myself noticing that my posture has slumped within some time of beginning. It’s not as if I’m in any real pain or discomfort as you mentioned for reasons to adjust- in fact it’s essentially the opposite- I become slouched and therefore un-attentive to my body. Is it ok to keep having to re-adjust my posture and reminding myself to sit up straighter during meditation? I know it takes away from my concentration to consciously move, but I also feel the greatest benefits when I have the best posture.

Thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 23, 2013, 9:25 pm

Sorry for the delayed reply. A lot of comments were piling up and I lost sight of yours.

I think you answered your own question. If you’re slumping and inattentive to your body then presumably there’s not much concentration to disturb by readjusting your body. So by all means move, mindfully. But it would be best in the long term to figure out why you’re slumping. You may be sitting too low.

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Comment from Gergely
Time: December 9, 2013, 11:20 am

Hello Bodhipaksa,

I am in the middle of developing flexibility in my inner thights to be albe to sit cross-legged. it is far from ready, but I have time… I’m working on Bhadrasana at the moment. Is it helpful if I support my knees with a pillow to get relaxed? Would be great if I could leave the passive streches out of the pose so I can relax and concentrane on the prana and the Merkabah.

Thank you for you help, in advance.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 11, 2013, 1:15 pm

I wish I could help, but I think you’d be better working on your stretches with a yoga teacher. I don’t really feel qualified to teach about stretching safely — especially at a distance.

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Comment from frank
Time: December 13, 2013, 8:27 pm

Hello Bodhipaksa,
I am new to meditation and was wondering whether one should meditate with eyes open, half closed or closed completely?

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Comment from Anoop Alex
Time: December 17, 2013, 9:20 am

I am trying to learn to sit cross-legged with both knees on the ground but when I start I notice my right knee is always somewhat high. Trying to push down gives pain. Are there some exercises that I can use to make my joints more flexible? Maybe some yoga posture? I think the problem joint is either at my knee or where my leg joins the groin.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 17, 2013, 2:39 pm

There are different forms of meditation, and some work better with the eyes open, some with the eyes closed. For the meditations I teach, it’s generally best to have the eyes closed unless you’re sleepy.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 17, 2013, 2:44 pm

I’m sure yoga would help. I’m not a yoga teacher, so I don’t think I can safely give you advice on stretching, I’m afraid.

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Comment from Sitara
Time: December 21, 2013, 11:02 am

Hello Bodhipaksa,

My problem is that I can’t enter deep meditation, due to tension in my muscles: I can’t relax completely.

I think this is due to unstability in my spine: I fall to the front or to the back, so I can’t really relax my body.

I don’t have much flexibility, so lotus posture is impossible for me, and half-lotus (sailor) means 7-8 cm of air beneath one of my knees.
I have a zafu, for helping me, and my half lotus can go up to 1-2 cm from the floor, which I can overcome with some towels under it. But after some time my spine starts hurting (I guess it’s too asymetrical for me).

If I use a wall behind me, my spine starts to bother my because it starts curving and pushing to the wall (my butt goes away from the wall, creating space from the wall, and then curving the lower spine).

Maybe an important fact is that I’m a skinny person (I don’t know if this has something to do with my falling to the front or to the back, but I don’t have a lot of natural support :-) ).

I would be really thankful if you can provide me with some sort of solutionn to overcome my problem. Or, maybe to give me idea of where to seek for a solution.

Thank you.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 23, 2013, 10:13 am

Hi, Sitara.

You should try a kneeling bench. It sounds like your problem is just that you don’t have enough flexibility to sit in a cross-legged position. as long as you get a bench that’s the right height you should be able to sit upright comfortably and without any instability. To find the right height you’ll just have to play around with a variety of benches. If a bench feels like it’s the right height then give it a try for at least 10 to 15 minutes, since it can take a while for discomfort to show itself. There are some adjustable benches out there, including the Kindseat, which we sell on our store. It’s not cheap, but it’s wonderful.

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Comment from Mahesh
Time: January 14, 2014, 11:06 am

Hello Bodhipaksa,

I am in meditation for two months now. I am facing following two problems when I sit for meditation for a long time.
1. I have take support for back to sit for a longer time. Otherwise it starts paining.

2. I sit in Ardha Siddhasana, since I am not able to sit in Siddhasana. After around 45 minutes unbearable pain starts in my left inner groin.

3. Around the same time my neck also starts bending sideways, although I don’t feel any pain in the neck portion.

Please advice.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 28, 2014, 10:48 am

Sorry for the delayed reply, Mahesh. I’ve been rather busy.

I’d imagine that #1 and #3 are connected, and that there’s either some imbalance in your posture that’s causing your spine to bend, or perhaps there’s some existing curvature (scoliosis?). With these problems, and with the pain in the groin, I think you’d be best seeing a yoga teacher who has a good knowledge of anatomy and physiology. I’d be wary of any explanations involving chakras, “energies,” etc., and look instead for explanations that show how tension or misalignment are causing your discomfort,

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Comment from jigar
Time: March 9, 2014, 4:48 am

i’m anable to sit with cross legs due to my hip frecture so let me know can i do yoga by sitting on chair?? it is advisable.. please let me know..

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 10, 2014, 11:08 am

If you’re asking about whether you can meditate on a chair, the answer is yes.

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Comment from Alice Mathew
Time: July 2, 2014, 1:09 pm

I am unable to sit cross legged during Yoga. I am 30 years old. Are there any simple techniques to sit cross legged?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 3, 2014, 9:37 am

It’s a question of flexibility rather than technique, so if you do want to sit cross-legged then keep going to yoga, and perhaps talk to your yoga teacher about what exercises would be most helpful. In the meantime a kneeling posture would probably be best for your meditation practice

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Comment from Jamie
Time: July 8, 2014, 12:39 pm

I am hoping you can offer some posture advice. I meditate on a firm meditation pillow/cushion (buckwheat filled). I notice I can only go about 15-20 minutes before my left leg goes numb… Knee down to foot.
It’s distracting because the tingling sets in the last 5 minutes before the bell rings. I’ve used a blanket to support that leg and have even moved it more outward…. No relief. I like sitting low to the floor with a straight back vs. in a chair.
Any suggestions on postures? I’ve never tried just sitting flat on the floor; it seems the meditation cushion helps support my back better giving me better posture.
Thanks in advance! J

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 8, 2014, 10:02 pm

You know it’s very hard to say without seeing how you’re sitting, what you’re wearing, what you have as cushioning between you and the floor, etc. You might be best finding a friendly local yoga or meditation teacher and asking if they can check you out. Sorry I can’t help more!

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Comment from Jamie
Time: July 9, 2014, 7:35 pm

I think I will do that. Thx!

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Comment from Udai Pratap singh
Time: July 10, 2014, 2:53 pm

Thanks for such valuable information

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Comment from harry
Time: August 15, 2014, 7:47 am

It’s impossible for me to sit in the tailor position because of my knee issues, but I’d like to sit cross legged in a simpler less folded position where the outside of my feet contact the mat. Is this a posture that restricts meditation. I can do this without discomfort for 20 minutes, but when I unfold my legs the knees are slightly stiff for a few minutes. Considering my old knees it’s not really painful. I know I can sit in a chair etc. but I would rather be near the floor as I feel better connected somehow.

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Comment from pradeep
Time: September 25, 2014, 10:12 am

sir try to meditate but body pain & leg Burning

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 25, 2014, 10:43 am

Hi, Pradeep.

I’m sorry to hear that you’re experiencing this problem. Unfortunately, without seeing how you sit to meditate I can’t begin to figure out what might be going on. You might want to talk to a reputable yoga teacher to find out what’s causing this problem.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Jacob
Time: September 30, 2014, 1:43 am

Hello,

I’m not quite sure who to address, but I’ve got a quick question. I’ve started doing Yoga and meditation in the mornings at home. When I meditate I sit cross legged with my back against a wall to help keep it straight. Is this okay? If I was to sit without my back to the wall how can I tell if my back is straight? An if it is not have you got any suggestions?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 30, 2014, 9:56 am

Hi, Jacob.

It’s certainly not disastrous to sit with your back supported against a wall. It can encourage a kind of mental laziness that parallels the fact that your body is leaning on something rather than doing the work of supporting itself.

If you aren’t sitting against the wall and your back isn’t straight, you’ll know. You’ll be sitting in a slumped or hunched way, and to straighten up you’ll have to use your back muscles, and that’ll become painful quite quickly.

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Comment from Jacob
Time: September 30, 2014, 11:37 am

Hi Bodhipaksa,

If I do it for a long enough period will it grow easier with time?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 30, 2014, 1:29 pm

Yes, indeed! It’s like anything else you practice at. Of course you need to use a little intelligence and have some curiosity about what works and what doesn’t.

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Comment from Jacob
Time: October 1, 2014, 1:45 am

Hello,

I have one other issue. When I sit cross legged I can’t find a comfortable position for my right leg. I have my right leg as the outter leg, but often times my ankle hurts when I try to sit. My left ankle and leg is perfectly fine, but my right ankle hurts a little. Have you got any suggestions?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 1, 2014, 8:10 am

It’s really not possible for me to say, Jacob. Maybe you need so be sitting on something softer, maybe you need to do more stretching. From here, it’s hard to know, I’m afraid.

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Comment from Arunabh
Time: November 27, 2014, 2:25 am

Hello Bodhipaksa,

Greetings!!

my legs goes numb after about 5-7 minutes when i am doing Trataka. and it really effects the concentration throughout afterwards. Generally, me legs go numb below hip region. Initially i used to experience t only in left leg but recently, I have also started experiencing in right leg too.

Also, I will be really thankful to you if you can help men on this one, in general, the left portion of my body feels much more tired and stressed in general almost all the time.From hands to limbs. all the joints in between (on the left side, ofcourse) feel weaker comapred to other joints in body. And at times i feel tingling in some parts of the body (as ifsnow flakes are hitting my skin). do you have any idea why do i feel so?

Thansk in advance.

Have a nice day. :)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 28, 2014, 10:09 am

Hi, Anurabh.

It’s hard to diagnose posture problems if I can’t see how you’re sitting. Even photographs don’t always help. It may be that you need to be sitting on something softer or thicker. But that’s just a guess.

The tingling on your body may well be what’s called priti (Sanskrit) or piti (Pali). It’s a good sign. It usually arises when the mind is becoming quieter and the body is relaxing.

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