Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Meditation Posture

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Finding the right height of seat

To avoid either slumping or overarching in meditation, you need to get the height of your stool or cushion right.

But how do you know when you’ve found the correct height for you? There is no one right height that suits everyone.

Your own body height and flexibility will have a big effect on the height that is right for you.

The best way to find the right height is having an experienced person on hand to adjust your posture and give you feedback. It’s very hard to judge from the inside whether your posture needs to be changed. But here are some checks you can carry out yourself to see whether you are sitting too high or too low:

  • Set up your posture, and make sure you are comfortable and relaxed.
  • Make sure you aren’t holding yourself forcibly in what you think is a “good” posture.
  • How does it feel?
  • When you relax, do you find that you slump?
  • Take your hands round to the back of your lumbar spine.
  • Is the lordotic curve exaggerated (over-arching)?
  • Or is your lower back flattened or even convex (slumping)?
  • Or do you have a normal lordotic curve when in a relaxed position (good posture)?

If you find you’re slumping when you relax then you may need to add some height to your seat or to increase its forward tilt.

If you’re using cushions, make sure you’re sitting towards the front of the cushions. If you sit towards the back then the cushions will provide a backward tilt, which causes slumping.

If you’re kneeling astride cushions and you find you’re slumping, try moving your knees slightly further apart. This alters the tilt of your pelvis and can correct a mild slump.

Comments

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Comment from M
Time: April 6, 2012, 8:42 am

The problem I am having is that the sitting posture with no back support gives me some trouble. I feel the muscle in the back–more or less where the rib cage starts–tensing just from the strain of keeping my body upright. If I dont make the effort to keep it upright I tend to slump. Today being my first day of this I tried to raise by an inch or so the back of the chair and after I realized I was trying to get out of that position i just put my back against the back of the chair. Any recommendations?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 8, 2012, 3:43 pm

So you’re sitting on a regular chair?

You would find that you’d slump unless the back legs of the chair are raised. So I’d suggest playing around with that.

I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean when you say “Today being my first day of this” (what is “this”?) or “I realized I was trying to get out of that position.”

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Comment from M
Time: April 9, 2012, 8:27 am

Sorry. two days ago was my first day meditating. It was a rather remarkable experience. I was rather skeptical but it was quite great. The issue I was having is that with the back of the chair raised about an inch I sit more straight but within a minute or two my back starts to strain. I am making quite a bit of effort to stay in that position without slumping. What is the detriment of getting back support?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 9, 2012, 8:43 am

Thanks, I understand now.

Unless you have some kind of serious back problem, back support shouldn’t be necessary. What you’re doing when you’re resting your back on the back of a chair is setting up a bad meditation posture, and then using the chair to stop it from getting worse. The chair is only ever going to limit your slumping — it’s never going to keep you upright. Why? Because if you had an erect spine your back wouldn’t touch the back of the chair. Leaning against the back of the chair you’re still slumping — just not as badly as if the chair-back wasn’t there. And so you’re still going to get some of the detrimental effects of slumping: you’re not going to breathe as effectively, your mind isn’t going to be as clear, you’ll be more likely to “coast” through your meditation sessions.

So what’s best is if you set up the chair so that it holds your posture naturally upright, which is why you need to play around with the angle of the seat. An inch is probably too low. I’d try more like 1.5 to 1.75 inches.

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Comment from Eugen
Time: May 1, 2012, 2:18 am

Hi, I have a question. I am recently getting into meditation but I am having trouble with my back. Is the small of the back supposed to have a slight arch to it? When I lean my pelvis forward in my cushion to accomplish this this I find that within a minute or two I start getting an uncomfortable knot in my back. However, if I don’t lean forward I feel as though I am slouching though this might just be in my head. Any thoughts on what I might be doing wrong?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 1, 2012, 1:14 pm

It’s really hard to tell without seeing you, but it sounds like you’re sitting too low. That’s why you’re having to lean your pelvis forward, and also you’re getting knots (between the shoulder-blades and the spine?) because you’re having to haul your shoulders back from slumping forward. Try sitting an inch (or more) higher. You might also need to have your arms supported just above belly-button, using a scarf or a blanket.

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