I'm an off-again on-again yoga practitioner. Lately I've been on again, going to a few classes here and there. Each time I feel such a sense of pleasure and accomplishment when we get to the very last part of practice: Savasana, or Corpse Pose. This is where you lay on your back and relax.
People who are familiar with yoga but not so familiar with meditation believe that Savasana is the position for meditation. In fact, in meditation it is really important to sit upright. In meditation we are withdrawing our energy from the outer (our limbs and senses), into our spine, and up our spine to our third eye. When we are lying down our energy is dispersed and it is hard to be in touch with the spine. We also have a lifetime habit of associating lying down with sleep, which is very difficult to counter when you are wanting to meditate and NOT sleep.
Although it is important to sit upright, it is not necessary to sit on the floor in the lotus position that we see advanced yogis doing, where both feet are resting on top of the opposite thighs (in fact, you don't need to sit on the floor at all - we'll get to that later). This is a really helpful position if the practitioner is flexible enough to hold the position without strain, but the reality is it is an advanced position that is not realistic for everyone (raising my hand here!). When sitting on the floor, it is fine to sit cross-legged, or with the legs crossed and one lower leg resting on the other, or with legs crossed but one lower leg is resting on the floor in front of the other. I find that although many people are not able to maintain the lotus position, they are comfortable with one lower leg resting on top of the other. I prefer to sit in this position, or with one lower leg crossed on the floor in front of the other. This position really helps to lock in my lower back and keep it from rounding, but I do switch between the 2 positions.
Whichever positions you choose, you want to keep your back nice and straight to keep that energy rising without constraint. Be sure your hips are higher than your knees. Depending on your position, you will probably require a meditation cushion, and possibly also a folded blanket under the cushion. If you are sitting crossed-legged, for instance, your knees will naturally be much higher than your hips without quite a bit of propping up. If you don't have a meditation cushion just stack some cushions, pillows, or folded blankets up until your hips are higher than your knees. Before I bought a meditation cushion I sat on 2 stacked pillows. You also want to keep your shoulders back but relaxed, to open your chest. Be conscious throughout your practice of not letting your shoulders round down over time, which will prevent you from having a straight spine. Keep your chin parallel to the ground; watch that your head doesn't draw back and throw off your straight spine. Put your hands palms up at the junction of thighs and abdomen. We are used to seeing pictures of those yogis in their lotus position with their hands resting with index finger and thumb way out on their knees. It is really hard to keep a straight spine for very long with your hands out that far, so bring them in close to your body so you can stay relaxed keeping that spine straight. Finally, you want to have your eyes closed and your gaze focused on the "point between the eyebrows." Be careful here, because this is just an expression. You don't literally want to be straining to focus physically between your eyebrows, but instead want to be gazing off into the distance at a point above the horizon. This will help keep the third-eye area of the brain activated.
If you are not comfortable on the floor, don't fear, there are other perfectly acceptable solutions! There is no excuse not to meditate even if your body doesn't want to be floor-bound! You can meditate just as effectively in a chair. Be careful to be specifically be in a firm (but not hard) chair - a dining chair could be a good solution - and sit away from the back if you can. (Don't meditate on a couch or armchair as you will just absorb into all the cushion.) If your muscles are not ready to support you sitting upright without back support you can put a folded blanket or a firm pillow between your lower back and the firm chair. The point is to stay upright in the chair without relaxing back against it and losing the straight spine you need. All the other positioning requirements are the same as on the floor - straight spine, shoulders back and relaxed, chest open, chin parallel to the ground, hands face up at the junction of thighs and abdomen, gaze lifted behind closed eyes.
There is yet another option: the meditation bench. They make these small benches specifically for meditation which are (usually) sloped downward. You sit on the bench with your knees on the ground and your lower legs underneath you and the bench. The rest of the posture is just the same as sitting in a chair or on the floor. You will want to play around with having a folded blanket or towel under your feet and/or knees to keep comfortable against the floor.
Any of these positions will work equally well for you from a meditation standpoint. It is only a matter of what you find most comfortable. Just be sure to keep that spine straight. As one of my meditation teachers was always saying: keep your energy "Inward and Upward!"
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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