A good sitting position - a guide to sitting meditation
If the body moves, so does the mind.
If the body has difficulty finding peace, so does the mind.
Therefore, it is the alpha and omega of your meditation practice to find the right position for you.
Many who try to start a meditation practice run into problems such as lower back pain, legs that fall asleep and other disturbances in the body that make it difficult to focus. We can remedy this by finding a correct posture which does not stop blood circulation and which gives the correct and natural curvature of the spine.
Under normal circumstances and when our attention is focused on the world, we can sit still in many strange positions. We can sit on the sofa for hours at a time and watch a film, supported by the sofa's soft cushions and with our mental focus on the film's content. Only when the film is finished and we stand up, can we feel that we have been sitting wrongly and badly.
But when we have to meditate, suddenly we are the focus and we don't have a soft sofa or chair to support our body and its weight. We have to take care of that ourselves.
A natural double S-shape on the spine
And although the lotus position is often referred to as the best for meditation, it is not necessarily the best for the individual. It takes many years to master such a position and flexibility. Something that we Westerners often don't have, because we grew up with chairs, tables and sofas. We are not used to sitting on the floor all the time, as the yogis in the East are. And that's totally okay.
Your meditation position can be varied - as long as you focus on having a natural double S-shape on the spine, which gives you a good balance and a good foundation. There must be alignment from crown to root and then it is important to remember that a correct position activates the deep muscles and not the superficial ones. It is the deep muscle structurers and your spine that must hold you and give you balance. Not your lower back, your legs, or your arms.
It is therefore part of your 'meditation training' to train your body to be relaxed but active.
Look at it like this
When we stand up, we use the entire body's musculature to stabilize and strengthen our upright posture. If we stand well and strong, there is a natural double S-shape in our spine. Our neck is long and our shoulders pulled back so our collarbones don't stick out. We know when we are standing 'right' and 'wrong' and this is the knowledge we must take with us into our sitting position.
When you start a meditation practice, you also start a 'sitting practice', where initially there will be a lot of focus on just sitting - stable, strong and quiet.
Instead of your feet pressing against the floor, it is now your hip bones (os coxae) or rather your seat bones (ischium) that must be in contact with the ground, the cushion or the chair. While this area is made heavy and pressed into the pillow, the crown of the head is raised towards the ceiling. In this way, the deep muscle structures are activated and you get the same good posture as when you stand up.
Over time, when you have practiced and the muscles in question have become stronger, you will be able to let go of unnecessary tension in the back, shoulders and neck. But remember that everything takes time. At some point, this opposite energy (seat legs pushed down towards the pillow and head lifted towards the ceiling) will become a natural part of your practice and you will be able to sit in a good and healthy position for as long as you wish.
Sitting on the floor
As I said, we are not used to sitting on the floor and certainly not in a tailoring position. And this is where many often start when they want to start meditating. They sit on their yoga mat or on a pillow, as they have seen in pictures of seasoned yogis. However, it often causes back and lower back pain, restlessness in the body and frustration with the new practice.
So what's the problem?
Firstly, it is necessary to have what is called an anterior pelvic tilt, in order to create the correct double S-curve on the spine. When you tilt your pelvis forward, you will sit on your sit bones, which will give you this double S shape, which will in turn support your posture and activate the deeper layers of muscles. Especially in the lower back and stomach. If these muscles are active and are based on a solid foundation, you will not have pain in either your back or lower back. Your body will rest, actively, on your spine and core muscles.
If, on the other hand, your pelvis is in what is called a posterior pelvic tilt, you will sit on your coccyx and your spine will not get the correct double S-shape. Maybe you try to sit up straight anyway, with your head stretched up towards the ceiling, which will send your lower back into overtime and quickly give you discomfort or pain.
It is therefore important to tip your pelvis correctly and absolutely beneficial to have a good 'core' musculature. Of course, it will also greatly benefit your standing posture.
Find the right position
Your knees should be lower than your forward-tilted pelvis. Your knees should rest on the ground (the cushion) and not dangle in the air.
You can sit far forward on your pillow and lean slightly forward with your entire torso to bring your knees down and rest on the pillow/floor. Make sure you are sitting on your seat legs and not on your tailbone (anterior pelvic tilt).
Focus on a long spine and stretch the crown of your head up towards the ceiling. Chin slightly lowered. Can you feel the double S-curve on your spine - that you have a slight sway in your lower back? (posterior pelvic tilt)?Adjust your posture until you sit well, calmly and actively.
Now you are ready to start your meditation. Let go of the body's senses and feel the physical body become a large, calm 'lump' under you.