Physical posture plays as big a role in your meditation practice as does your mental state. A quiet mind goes a long way toward peace but so does an aligned, quiet body. When your body is aligned through proper posture your energy increases. With more energy comes a better mood, a spring in your step and a more positive outlook on life. When your spine is straighter your heart chakra is also open to receiving. When you trust the world you enable more love for yourself.
A quiet body means unrestricted breathing, regular heartbeat, strong circulation and balanced body temperature, also known as Water Up, Fire Down. When you are balanced in your body systems your head is cool and your belly is warm, fueling your digestive tract and circulating cooling water up from your kidneys and drawing heat away from your head down to your belly in a constant, free flowing energy circuit.
It’s no coincidence that the great seers and meditators throughout history sit in the postures that they do. From kneeling Pharaohs to crossed-legged Buddhas, the great meditators have perfected the posture for maximum comfort in the quest for minimal head noise. One thing all these postures have in common is the pelvic tilt, accentuating the natural curvature of the lower back.
Meditation postures stabilize and support your physical body to withstand prolonged periods of stillness without putting undue stress on joints. When you sit or stand up straight, just as in mountain pose or tree pose, your are rooting your feet to the earth and your head to the sky, acting as a link between heaven and earth — your physical body and spiritual mind.
The following poses are classic meditation positions that have been most popular throughout history, from easiest to most challenging.
Sitting in a chair: When sitting for long periods, positioning your buttocks higher than your knees will tilt your pelvis forward and help keep your back straight. Wooden chairs, believe it or not, work better than upholstered seats because they offer better support. Sitting up straight allows for better breathing, relieves lumbar stress and stretches your spine.
Kneeling (with or without a bench): Kneeling is an ancient practice that can start out being very comfortable. Kneeling stimulates the instep, flexes the hips, relaxes the pelvic floor, massages the toes which stimulates the pressure points for sinus and eyes, and tones the sciatic nerve. Emotionally, kneeling poses help to release fear. Kneeling can also be very hard on your knees, so be sure you have proper cushioning. Place a cushion under your buttocks and between your knees — or use a specially designed meditation bench.
Easy pose: This position is also called Tailor’s position as many tailors, especially in Southeast Asia, favor this position when doing their sewing work. Not recommended for extended periods of sitting because it's not very stable and doesn't support a straight spine. Simply sit on your cushion with your legs crossed in front of you. Let your knees drop to the floor. It’s okay if they don’t touch the floor, but do keep your back as straight as you can. This is a great hip flexing and pelvic opening position. People with knee problems may want to place another pillow under the knee for extra comfort.
Burmese position: This is a good pose for beginners. You simply place both calves and feet on the floor one in front of the other. This pose is less stabilizing than the body lock offered by the lotus position, but, it's very easy, puts almost zero stress on your joints, and you don’t have to think about it, freeing your thoughts away from your body and ‘doing it right.’
Half Lotus: Half Lotus is easier to execute than Full Lotus, and almost as stable. Seated on a cushion, place one foot on the opposite thigh and the other foot on the floor beneath the opposite thigh. Be sure that both knees touch the floor and your spine doesn't tilt to one side. Although this pose puts less pressure on your joints, some people still need cushioning for their ankles. You may want to alternate legs from time to time, switching from left leg on the thigh, right on the floor, then left on the floor and right on the thigh.
Full Lotus: Full lotus is the most stable of all the poses but is also the most advanced and should not be attempted unless you are very flexible. Sit on a cushion, cross your left foot over your right thigh and your right foot over your left thigh. You may want to alternate legs periodically to distribute pressure evenly. If you can comfortably withstand it, Full Lotus offers a deep, very satisfying hip, thigh and ankle stretch. Also, the foot positions in cross-legged poses put gentle pressure on the inner thighs, offering a lymphatic massage.
Note: With all the cross-legged poses, to avoid injury to your knee, begin by bending your leg at the knee, in line with your thigh, then rotate your thigh to the side, keeping in the direction that your knee joint is built to flex.