Saturday 6 August 2011

Are you sitting comfortably?

using a meditation strap
I have just returned from Surya Eco Yoga camp – a lovely annual event at Chyan in Cornwall.  It offers many different styles of yoga workshops, chanting, meditation and therapy.  I taught a two hour sKu-mNyé session (Tibetan Yoga), led morning meditation and offered reflexology and pulse diagnosis.

The morning meditation session was from 8 - 9.30.  Many of the attendees were clearly used to sitting and meditation, but few of them came prepared to be comfortable for an hour and a half session.  Most of them simply brought a yoga mat.  For most westerners this is insufficient comfort for sitting.  One would need to be an extremely adept yogi, able to sit for protracted periods of time in full lotus posture to be comfortable for an hour and half on a yoga mat on the hard floor of a tent.  They all managed remarkably well and I admire their commitment to practice, but a lot of them looked pretty uncomfortable after the first 20 minutes.

using a chair
Sitting comfortably is so important in meditation.  A meditation session needs to be that – rather than a period of physical discomfort and distraction.  There was a great deal of obvious discomfort and physical distraction in those morning sessions.

So how can we be comfortable when meditating?  If sitting cross-legged, the hips need to be higher than the knees.  The knees need to rest on something soft and the cushions under the sitting bones need to be sufficient to provide comfort.  The back should be erect and balanced allowing for the S-curve of the spine, and the abdomen needs to be loose and relaxed with the pelvis tilted slightly forward.  The shoulders should be in a natural position and simply suspended from the relaxed back.  The chin can be tilted down slightly to lengthen the back of the neck.

If these factors are in place it should be possible to sit for an hour and a half without experiencing discomfort, and only occasionally needing to move or adjust one's position .  Sitting in a chair is also fine as long as the chair is the right height for its occupant and supports the spine.  Some people also finding kneeling comfortable.

cross-legged on a cushion
The images are from Relaxing into Meditation where there is a whole chapter on sitting comfortably.  In the back of the book there are instructions for making meditation cushions and a sitting strap (gomtag).

Images from Surya coming soon!

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