My knees say “no” to lotus, and this used to make me feel bad when it came to meditating.
I wondered, can I really get my energy to flow properly if I can’t sit ‘properly’?
Am I doing it right?
Is it effective if I can’t sit in lotus?
Well, during my many years of meditation practice, I have learned that your sitting position does matter to some extent, but there is no need to make yourself uncomfortable and certainly you do not ever have to feel pain.
Here are some great meditation positions to use, whether you’re a beginner or experienced.
1. Think “comfort first”. When you imagine yourself sitting still for 30 minutes, how would you like to be sitting? On a chair, sitting tall with your back upright? On a sofa, comfortably propped up by pillows? Against a tree in the garden? Cross-legged with a meditation cushion under your bottom?
If you’re uncomfortable during meditation it will be very difficult to focus your mind on anything but your discomfort. Focusing on your discomfort can be a brilliant advanced meditation technique, but for most people, it’s important that comfort is their first priority so that they can more easily settle into a relaxed meditative state.
So think about how you would like to sit for the next 15-30 minutes. You can certainly experiment with various sitting positions. Your body, your physical limitations and your own perception of comfort are yours alone so go with what feels best!
2. Sitting cross-legged. This is as close to full lotus as many people would like to get, and that’s fine. The point of sitting in lotus, or the modified cross-legged position, is that you are firmly grounded to the earth and you give your spine a chance to be fully erect to encourage the free flow of energy.
Not only does this position encourage energy flow, it gives your organs a chance to ‘breathe’ - or not be smushed by sitting hunched over like we tend to do at our desks.
Tips: No matter the surface you’re sitting on and whether you’re in full lotus or sitting cross-legged on the ground, grass, sand or sofa… keep your back upright, chin up, chest open and allow your hands to rest lightly on your thighs or knees.
There is no need, unless you feel it’s important, to put your hands in any specific “mudra” or position.
If sitting in a normal cross-legged position is difficult, you can use a meditation cushion or firm pillow to modify the position. Slide forward on the cushion so that your crossed knees and ankles are touching the ground - this will relieve some pressure on the knees and encourage a natural and comfortable tall sitting position.
3. Sitting on a chair. Many people like to sit on a hard chair to meditate. The position is simple: feet flat on the ground, knees comfortably apart, hands resting on your thighs.
Slide forward slightly so that your back is NOT touching the backrest. Lengthen your spine. Feel an invisible rope pulling you more upright as you lift your chin and allow your shoulders to drop and move backward to open your chest.
4. Sitting on the sofa. You can sit normally, or if your sofa is particularly deep, cross-legged. Use pillows to prop your hips. If you want to fully relax, lean back into the sofa so that your back is supported (this is optional - you can also sit with your back unsupported).
5. Sitting outdoors. If you like, you can meditate outdoors. You may or may not find a comfortable place to sit, so bring a yoga mat or a meditation cushion along. Sitting up against a tree is great because then you benefit from the vital life energy flowing through the tree. If you’re outdoors, and you don’t have a bench, rock or chair to sit on, make sure you’re comfortable enough sitting cross-legged.
Note: in all of the sitting positions… Once you’re comfortably seated, lengthen your spine. Feel an invisible rope pulling you more upright. Lift your chin and allow your shoulders to drop and move backward to open your chest. Make sure you’re not sitting rigidly, but simply “taller”.
6. Lying down. Yes, you can lie down to meditate! The only time I would discourage this, is if meditation becomes a nap and that bothers you. While it’s fine to fall asleep during meditation, if you really want to be fully present and aware, avoid being so comfortable that you doze off quickly!
As you can see, there are many varied meditation positions. The most important thing is to be comfortable so that you aren’t distracted; the second is to allow your organs to ‘breathe’ - to be open enough to allow the free flow of life energy, and on a physical level, allow for the free flow of lymphatic fluid through the body (this is vital for the body’s natural healing mechanisms).
Don’t worry if you can’t “pretzel” yourself into full lotus. It doesn’t mean that your meditation isn’t effective, if you can’t sit like someone who’s limber and been sitting this way all their life! It’s your body… your practice… and I really want you to think of meditation as something purely enjoyable and not at all painful or uncomfortable!
Honor what your body is telling you when you’re choosing how to sit during meditation!