When we think about meditation it inevitably conjures up the images of a person sitting cross-legged in a lotus position.
The lotus is a special type of cross-legged position, where each foot is resting on top of the opposite thigh. It is a more difficult version of normal cross-legged position. In normal cross-legged position, each foot is resting below the opposite thigh.
Lotus position has two variations. The full lotus and the half lotus. In full lotus, both of the feet are resting on the opposite thighs. In half lotus only one foot is resting on the opposite thigh and the other foot is under the opposite thigh.
The question is, what is the best posture for blissful meditation? If I am interested in trying out meditation, do I really have to sit cross-legged? Is that the only way to sit for meditation?
The answer is “NO”. That is not the only way you have to sit for meditation.
Let’s go back to the association, why we think that we have to sit cross-legged to begin with?
In the past media portrayed this posture with reference to the meditation. A person sitting cross-legged in full lotus position. With both feet on top of the opposite thighs.
Although it is possible that in recent times you came across images of people meditating in non full lotus positions like sitting on a chair or lying down on the floor.
But if you go a decade or earlier, it is very likely that you find people sitting in lotus position. And further back in the time you go, it is more likely that you will find images of people meditating in cross-legged full lotus positions.
Here is the reason. Meditation came from the east. It originated in India and spread to the other eastern countries, thousands of years back.
And in the east it is seen more as a spiritual practice or a religious practice. It is common knowledge that people in the east value discipline more, at least for religious or spiritual matters.
Because of this association of meditation with the spirituality or religion, people were more disciplined about the practice.
People who practiced the real meditation, the meditation experts were the monks. They practice meditation for a really long period of time. They are the ones who generally use full lotus position.
Of course, sitting cross-legged is a norm in many countries around the world. But there is a specific reason for sitting in lotus position. If you are going to sit for many hours at a stretch, you cannot sit in any other position and be comfortable enough to keep up the focus of your meditation practice.
The full lotus cross-legged posture is the most supportive posture for an extended meditation practice. It creates an interlocking structure where leg muscles support each other. And you don’t have to hold your muscles in place anymore.
Having to hold the muscles in a fixed posture could easily lead to pain and discomfort. This discomfort and pain would become a distraction for your meditation.
Also, when the meditation practice originated many hundred years ago, they didn’t have comfortable cushions and chairs available. Hence a natural posture that was supportive of long-term practice evolved.
If you just started learning you are not going to sit for many hours. You are going to start with a short duration. It is really not necessary to use the full lotus to begin with.
If you want to give it a try and if you develop the taste, you can use full lotus posture. If you can practice and become flexible enough, you are most welcome to explore various cross-legged postures.
In fact, if you are interested, it is recommended to gradually progress to full lotus posture. You start with the simple cross-legged sitting. You then move to half-lotus cross-legged and eventually to the full lotus cross-legged position.
But in all practicality it is not needed any time soon when you start your meditation practice. People in the east took up this practice with a high degree of discipline and they were very serious about the practice.
Their teachers expected them to begin their meditation with the full lotus in some sense. That is the reason in the east, if you see a person sitting in full lotus posture, you can tell that he is meditating.
It is from this observation, the media image of full lotus posture became commonplace.
In reality you can use any posture that is convenient for you. You can sit on the chair, which is completely fine. You can lie down. Or you can meditate even standing up.
As you explore meditation more you will see, it is even possible to meditate while walking. In fact, you can meditate while doing any activity. You can turn any activity into a meditation.
The eventual goal is not to restrict meditation to a formal practice. But to make the meditation part of the day-to-day activities. Although that is a long-term goal. We always start with some formal practice.
To summarize, one needs to select a posture that is least hindering to the meditation practice. This means select a posture, that won’t make you stiff nor fall asleep. As both of them would interfere with the main goal of meditation, i.e., the deepening of focus and concentration.
It is nice to begin any new practice with a sense of discipline and enthusiasm. But do something that you can sustain in the long run. Not just for sake of doing it. Good luck with your practice!
Rene Doumal is a writer with expertise in mindfulness and meditation. You can check out his latest website How to Reap Miraculous Meditation Benefits, where he provides details, guided meditations and step by step advice about how to learn meditation, how to cultivate mindfulness and how to reduce stress, anxiety, worry, depression and promote better health and well being.
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