We’re going to start with the easier meditation postures first.
One thing I often see in beginning meditators is a desire to contort themselves into a posture that demands more flexibility than they have. This results in discomfort, distracted meditations, and even physical damage. Be kind to yourself.
You can meditate perfectly well in an ordinary dining-room or office chair. The only thing you have to do to modify the chair is to raise its back legs by maybe an inch or so (2.0 to 2.5cm). This allows you to sit upright without having to either hold your back rigidly, or leaning against the back of the chair. Blocks of wood, or even telephone directories, can be used for this.
The meditator in this photograph probably needs to raise the back legs of his chair another half-inch or so, so that he can sit more upright. Notice how his back is rounded leaning against the chair-back.
When I use a chair to meditate I like to have only the very base of my spine touching the back of the chair. It’s best not to lean back in the chair — I think it encourages underachievement! When you’re slumping against the back of a chair then you’re not taking responsibility for your body, and this also encourages an attitude of not making an effort with the mind.
Of course there are always exceptions, and some people with back problems may need to use the seat-back as an extra support in order to be able to sit for the length of time it takes to meditate.
In this picture you’ll see an ordinary dining-room chair being used very effectively. You’ll note that the back legs of the chairs are raised on wooden blocks. This means that the meditator’s back is straight and is only touching the back of the chair at the very bottom, meaning that he’s basically self-supporting. This meditator is also quite short and his feet don’t touch the floor. He’s therefore using a folded blanket to prevent his legs from simply dangling.
One compromise I’ve found that allows for a small amount of back support from the chair-back while avoiding slumping is as follows: Sitting on a chair, bend forwards from the waist so that the belly is along the thighs. Then wiggle backwards until your derriere is lightly touching the back of the chair. Then sit up, and you should find that the very base of your spine gets a slight support from the base of the chair-back, helping you to keep your back naturally upright.
Your hands need to be supported, so rest them on your thighs, palms down. If you have a long back then you may need to have a cushion on your lap on which to rest your hands, in which case have your palms face up.
Have your feet flat on the floor if you can. If your legs are very long or very short compared to the chair, then this might not be possible. If your feet don’t reach the floor, then you can use another phone book to rest your feet on. If your legs are too long, then ideally you should find another chair, or put a cushion or folded blanket on the seat of the chair to give you a bit more height.
Some office chairs are perfect for meditating! Set the seat so that it is slightly tilted forward, and make sure that the backrest is only making very slight contact with your lower back. Adjust the height so that your feet are flat on the floor.
There are specialist meditation chairs available to help you sit comfortably in an appropriate posture. Searching on the internet is the best bet, but Zen By Design has a good, although expensive range.