Meditation posture/cushion - Dhamma Wheel

Meditation posture/cushion

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Meditation posture/cushion

Postby householder » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:43 pm

Hi all,

Recently on a retreat I experimented (not always by choice) with posture, impact on mindfulness and effect of cushions.

Apart from reaching the obvious conclusions (straight back and good posture = vastly improved concentration and awareness) I found the following:

1. No cushion, just sat on floor in half-lotus = back slouches after a while
2. One cushion, sat in half-lotus = back slouches quite quickly and mind tends to wander extremely quickly
3. Two cushions (or my large zafu at home), sat in half-lotus = extremely good back support, rarely slouching or if so it's only to a small degree, and good concentration (indeed on a couple of occasions I've obtained access concentration). But on the retreat, after around 15 minutes, a very painful stretching sensation arises in the tip of the knee of the leg that is folded in half-lotus. I'm wary of many warnings regarding knee pain, and this is not knee pain borne of unfamiliarity with sitting meditation.

Given my ordination intentions, I want to obtain the benefits of 3 from sitting on the floor, as I do not often see bhikkus sitting with cushions.

My current technique of dealing with the slouching back is to note and adjust. Unfortunately when it slouches fairly quickly this can become quite irritating as it distracts (if it's a concentration practice I'm doing). I wondered whether anyone could assist with tips and ideas on how best to work to improve, and then set and maintain posture whilst sitting on the floor, stretches or exercises leading up to a sitting etc. I remember a lay meditator of some 4 years experience on my first vipassana retreat who set his position, with a ramrod straight back, and held it more or less without moving for each 45-minute sit. It was very inspiring!

Thanks all. I'm quite tired so if the post is rambling or incoherent, please advise which parts I should clarify.


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Kim OHara
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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:49 am

Him householder,
This site may help:


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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby icyteru » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:24 pm

Try no cushion. Full lotus.
It's all about custom. If you keep practicing you can do it with ease, without pain. :buddha1:
The most complete english tipitaka on the internet world.

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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby David2 » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:46 pm

Last edited by David2 on Sat Jul 02, 2011 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Spiny O'Norman
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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Jul 02, 2011 2:28 pm

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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby daverupa » Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:27 pm

In many people the hips are too narrow to make full lotus possible sans knee injury (runners are often in this category), and in some cases even the Burmese style is knee-endangering. In these cases, the best choice is a meditation bench that allows for a seiza-like posture but with the weight held by the bench rather than the legs.

Western people generally are simply unaccustomed to the lotus postures, and I think it's unhelpful to consider a seated yoga posture to be a meditation prerequisite. Having said that, however, the choice to use a chair isn't great either because the knees aren't generally below the hips, and such a posture isn't as easy to maintain over long periods due to improper maintenance of lumbar lordosis (the natural supportive curve of the spine).

So a bench strikes me as ideal for many. You can make a serviceable bench with just a couple of bricks and a board. It can be well-worth the time saved avoiding attempts to pretzel up, and the motivation to meditate becomes remarkably easier to come by when you know that the posture - in and of itself - isn't going to be an arduous test of endurance.


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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby Kenshou » Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:14 pm

Usually I sit against something, a wall, whatever, but lately I've been trying to do more without that. Better not to be dependent on something to lean on in order to meditate, right?

I've always been a pretty limber person, and my knees and hips never have any problems with the cross-legged posture. But my back gets stiff quickly when sitting unsupported, and it's much harder to get the body (and so also the mind) settled down. I suppose it's just a matter of practice. Damn western culture and it's chairs.

I find seiza to be quite comfortable, but I don't plan to switch to that unless I have to.

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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby daverupa » Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:19 pm

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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby bodom » Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:25 pm

To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo

With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

- Ud 3.5

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