I’ve been meditating for going on a decade now, and out of all my practice in various styles and traditions I’ve noticed something: meditation posture is a contentious subject.
Should I sit with a straight spine? Do I have to do full lotus? Does my right hand go on top, or is it my left?
I’ve spent years trying out all of the different approaches, and I’ve come to one main conclusion: posture doesn’t matter…sort of.
The best sitting posture for me is the one that works best for my body.
With that said, there are definitely things I’ve found over the years that help out my meditation posture, whether it’s sitting in a chair or in full lotus. Addressing your head, shoulders and spinal position can take a lot of pressure off your muscles which otherwise have to hold your body up against gravity’s will.
Here are three exercise that you can do to improve your meditation posture and allow yourself to sit more comfortably for longer.
1. Neck Rolls
Let’s start simply. Let your chin drop down to your chest, releasing the back of the neck. Slowly roll the head from side to side (ear to shoulder), turning the head up slightly towards the ceiling at the end of the roll to get a light stretch into the front of the neck. This can help release the muscles on the front and sides of the neck which are typically the cause of the head being pulled forward (other than falling asleep).
2. Shoulder Rolls
Shoulder position is a huge problem for most people, typically because they roll or slouch forward far too much. To help this, each time you sit down do a few large rolls of your shoulders, really feeling them open up in the front of the shoulders and the chest. When you finish the rolls, immediately allow them to rest in their natural position. Don’t attempt to hold them back against their will; this will probably look good, but will most likely just make you tired or sore.
3. Find Your Longest Spine
Now that your head and shoulders are relaxed, address the entire spine. Start by imagining a hook attached to the very top of your head and the bottom of your sacrum (either end of the spine). Then imagine a rope attached to either end.
While stretching up, imagine allowing the rope to pull your spine straight up towards the ceiling and straight down towards the ground at the same time. Really stretch up and allow the spine to lengthen for 2-3 seconds, then just let your spine relax on top of itself. Notice how comfortable it feels to let the weight go straight through the spinal column. This is typically the easiest way for me to find my true neutral position, and can be done no matter how the legs are positioned or what I’m sitting on.
I do this every 10-15 minutes, or whenever I feel myself slouching or getting sore.
Author: Michael Black
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Lucía Puertas/Flickr