Last week we touched on different postures for meditation, this week I want to focus on the most common and most popular position: sitting cross-legged on a cushion.
But, hang on a minute, do you need to have a meditation cushion?
The short answer is: no.
The longer answer is: no, but…
These days, with many of us spending eight-hours or more at a desk, very few people have the mobility to comfortably maintain any type of cross-legged position. The result of this is that, when we sit down to meditate, it can take a while to find a comfortable position and our practice is distracted, because we are constantly thinking about when we can get up again and relieve the discomfort.
The most common cause of discomfort when sitting to meditate is feeling that the back is not supported. Given that 70 – 90% of Australians will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives and 16% live with chronic back problems, this is definitely something to be addressed. Causing our bodies pain or forcing them into unnatural, uncomfortable positions for the sake of meditation is a bad idea and counter-intuitive to the practice.
And this is where a meditation cushion comes in handy.
Using a meditation cushion elevates your hips and allows them to tilt forward slightly. This supports the natural curve in your lower back and helps align your spine. Once your spine is aligned the rest of your body will follow. Ironically, despite this being a natural and safe position, it can feel uncomfortable at first as we are so used to holding ourselves in stiff, unnatural positions during the day and, as a result, our back and trunk muscles tend to be weak. As long as the discomfort does not turn into actual pain, however, continuing to maintain a sitting posture with the help of a cushion will become easier over time and your back and trunk will strengthen as well, which will result in better posture and less back pain over all.
As for what kind of cushion you should buy, it really depends on the individual. I like quite a firm cushion, but others prefer something much softer. There are many reputable online stores that sell meditation cushions (Yoga King and iYoga Props are two I would recommend) and, while many teachers recommend a round cushion, this again is a matter of personal preference: my cushion is square and I like it that way.
So, while you don’t need a meditation cushion, I would highly recommend one. Not only will it assist with posture and help to relieve back pain, it will assist with making your practice a habit. Set your cushion up each day prior to meditating and, before too long, your body will know that, when you sit down on your cushion, it’s time to unwind and turn inwards.
Of course, for those unable to sit on the floor for health or other reasons, you can still gain the benefits of meditation sitting in a chair or even lying on a firm surface. But, if you can sit on a cushion, the benefit to your practice will be well worth the temporary discomfort of adjusting to a new position.
Article by J. Byers
Note: Neither Yoga King nor iYoga Props are in anyway affiliated with Barbell Dancer and Barbell Dancer is not in anyway affiliated with Yoga King or iYoga props. These are simply two suppliers that I have used and whose products I can thoroughly recommend.