The benefits of meditation are limitless and immeasurable. An important component of this practice is to have a good, unforced posture, with proper body alignment. It makes it easier to focus the mind when you are not struggling with physical discomfort.
To help maintain a comfortable posture with a straight back, use a support to help tilt your pelvis slightly forward and downward. This helps prevent the struggle to hold yourself upright and straight. The ways to do this are by sitting on a meditation cushion (Japanese: zafu; Tibetan: gomden), a bench (Japanese: seiza), or a chair with a sitting wedge or other support to help maintain the body in a slightly forward position.
There are a number of different types, shapes and sizes of supports offered. So, experiment with the different ways to sit. It is a good idea to try out several types to see what works comfortably for you.
1) Meditation Cushion/Zafu
What is important to consider is the height of the cushion and the type of filling.
Cushion heights range from about 2″ to 9″. Try out different cushions before selecting the one for you. The height can make a big difference in your sitting comfort. If your cushion is too high, you might be able to take some of the filling out. If it is too low, sometimes adding a little more filling or using a support cushion underneath may correct the problem.
The two most commonly used fillings are buckwheat hulls and kapok. The buckwheat fill is like sitting on sand. You can mold the cushion into a shape that is more comfortable for you. It can be a bit firm, but also has some give to it . Buckwheat is a little heavier than other fills.
Kapok is a natural fiber, can be a bit firm and does not conform readily to your body size/shape. Over time, it does soften and will compress a little bit and, with frequent use, might need added fill after several months or years of regular use. It might need an initial break-in period. This material works well for those who do longer sitting sessions and those needing a little extra cushion height. It is the traditional material used in sitting cushions for centuries.
For the person traveling light, a cushion with an inflatable beachball inside works okay for those with limited packing space.
The meditation cushions/zafus come in a variety of shapes including round, half-moon, wedge, or rectangular.
2) Kneeling Bench/Seiza
If you have sturdy knees and are unable to sit cross-legged, the kneeling position where you are supported by a wooden bench might work well for you. Approximate size guidelines are: small for up to 5′ 6″ tall, medium for up to 5′ 10″, and large for the rest of you that fits comfortably up to about 6′ 3″. An alternative to using a kneeling bench is to sit on the front edge of a kapok-filled cushion turned vertically.
For those with back, hip or knee problems, a chair will do. Use a wedge cushion to get the proper forward pelvic tilt for comfort, make sure you are a good chair height so that your knees are at about 90oand use a small pillow under your feet if they don’t easily reach the floor.
4) Miscellaneous Supports
If you are sitting on the floor, try using a mat, carpeted floor, or a square filled cushion (Japanese: zabuton) to help keep your legs and feet comfortable, especially to protect the knees for those using a bench.
Depending on your body type, small square cushions are available to place under your knees or on a chair for height and knee support, or in your lap to help you hold the hand position if you have short arms or stiff shoulders. A number of shapes and sizes are available to experiment with.
With time, practice, and trying out different postures and supports, your meditation can be done for longer times and with lessening discomfort.
In conclusion, your meditation support device can last for many years and is the only item you need for meditation. So, take some time to try out different cushions, heights, fill, postures – kneeling or sitting, until you find what works well for you.
You can find is a lot of information about how to select a meditation support that fits your body from an internet search. There are many online sites and some stores available to view the different types, sizes and shapes of devices to help align your posture for meditation.
Before making any purchase of a meditation support, please know that we have a wholesale pricing arrangement with Carolina Morning Designs/zafu.net on all of their items for members of the Manjushri Dharma Center. So, before you make a purchase and if you want to save some money, contact Bob Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org further information on how to place an order.