Meditation Posture: A Complete Illustrated Guide

complete beginners guide to meditation posture

You’ll find mixed advice on the internet when it comes to meditation posture. Some people say that posture isn’t a huge factor and concentration of the mind is all that matters. Whereas others claim that if you want to get the most out of your practice, mastering a correct meditation posture is a must.

Here’s the thing: meditation posture is important regardless of how long you want to practice meditation. Even if you plan to meditate only 10 minutes a day, maintaining the correct posture will bring greater results.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about meditation positions and techniques. You’ll learn the importance of having a correct meditation posture, seven points of posture, and different sitting positions.

Importance of correct meditation posture

According to the Yogic system and Tibetan Buddhism, a stable meditation posture controls and channelizes the 10 vital energies of the body. This helps us go deeper into meditation and concentrate better.

Correct posture provides a stable base for meditation practice. When you sit cross-legged and keep your back straight, you’re more alert and awake. The body is relaxed in this posture, so you can sit for longer periods without getting tired. Whereas if you slouch or lie down, you may fall asleep and have difficulties concentrating.

Also, the stillness of your body directly affects the stillness of your mind. Right now, if you fix your gaze on a point on the screen and don’t move your eyeballs, you’ll notice that your thoughts have ceased. The more you’re concentrated on fixing your gaze, the less distracted your mind will be.

Just keeping the eyes fixed calms the mind immediately. What if you keep your entire body still?

If you want to read in detail how posture affects our meditation, read this article.

7 Elements of a good meditation posture

Let’s now learn how to sit during meditation. There are several meditation positions as we’ll discuss later in this article, but first let’s talk about the key elements of any meditation posture.

When talking about posture for meditation, Patanjali mentions sthira sukham āsanam in Yoga Sutra. This means you can meditate in any stable (sthira) posture (āsanam)that’s comfortable (sukham) for you.

However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the basics of posture. Any sitting position you choose should fulfill a set of conditions. Here are the seven elements of a good meditation posture:

Legs

The first thing is to cross your legs and sit on the floor. If you can’t sit on the ground because of a physical issue, then meditate on a chair. But ideally, one should sit on the ground with legs crossed.

I’ve written a full article comparing meditation cross-legged on the ground and meditation on a chair. Read it here: Meditating on the Floor vs. on a Chair — Which Is Better?

sukhasana easy pose
The easiest way to sit cross-legged is Sukhasana (Easy Pose)

In short, if you’re only meditating to feel better and stay calmer, sitting cross-legged is not an issue. But if you want serious spiritual progress, a perfect meditation posture is indispensable, and that includes crossing your legs and sitting on the ground. Again, a physical inability is an exception here.

In the beginning, you’ll have difficulties crossing your legs since you’re not used to it, but I urge you to go through the pain of training your body. It’s worth the effort. Sitting cross-legged is important because it helps you control the Apana Vayu or descending energy.

There are various ways to cross your legs. We’ll discuss all of them in the next section.

Back

Your back is crucial. It should be straight, like an arrow. Hold your spine upright, as if it were a stack of blocks in a pile.

An upright posture doesn’t mean you have to be stiff though. Your back should be straight and relaxed, but not stiff. It may take you a few hours of meditation to find the sweet spot.

A straight back helps your energy flow freely and contributes to the alertness and clarity of your mind during meditation. It also helps in channelizing the Samana Vayu and Prana Vayu, or thermal energy and vital life energy respectively.

When it comes to having a straight back, two problems arise: slumping and overarching. Slumping is when you bend forward and overarching is when you try too hard to “make” your back straight and end up with a stiff posture.

The position of your legs determines how easy or hard it is to maintain an upright posture. One thing you can do is put a cushion under your buttocks. It’ll lower your knees and make it easier to keep a straight back. Again, experiment and find your sweet spot.

We’ll talk more about using cushions in the section about training.

Arms

Keep your arms relaxed; don’t stretch them. Your shoulders should be even, not slumping forward or pulled backward. The elbows should be slightly bent, which is their natural position.

A quick search for “meditation” will bring up photos of people meditating with straight arms and wrists resting on their knees. I’m talking about this:

wrong arms position in meditation posture
Your arms will get tired soon if you meditate like this.

This posture is only good for clicking photos. You won’t be able to hold it for hours. The elbows are not in their natural shape, and the shoulders are tense. They’ll soon get tired and start hurting.

Even if you’ll never meditate for hours at a stretch, it’s better to do it correctly. The only way to meditate is by keeping your shoulders relaxed and maintaining a near-L shape with your elbows.

Palms

Rest your hands in your lap or drop them in front of you. You can put one on top of the other or just cross them.

Put one hand over the other and rest them in your lap, palms upward. Your palms should be 2-3 inches below your navel. Ideally, the tips of your thumbs should touch lightly to form a circle or teardrop. As you lose awareness and get carried away by thoughts, this circle will collapse. So it can serve as a helpful reminder to wake up and focus on our object of meditation.

palm position in meditation posture
Two ways to rest your palms

This hand position is widely practiced in Zen. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter which hand goes on top of the other.

Alternatively, you can just cross your fingers together and drop your hands in front of you. Your fingers will be almost touching the ground in this position.

Your head and neck should be straight. Keeping your neck straight channelizes Udana Vayu and Vayana Vayu, or ascending energy and diffusive energy respectively. But a straight head doesn’t mean you have to stretch it. There’s a natural hook in your neck that should be maintained.

correct neck position in meditation posture
Just rest your neck naturally.

If you pull your head backward, you may experience mental distraction and restlessness. Whereas if you drop your head forward, it’ll lead to sleepiness or dullness.

Eyes

You can keep your eyes fully closed or slightly open. It’s easier to concentrate with eyes closed, but it can lead to daydreaming or sleepiness if you’re not alert. On the contrary, keeping your eyes slightly open helps you stay awake, but you may get distracted more easily.

If your eyes are half-open, you should direct your gaze downward, four fingers away from your nose. Don’t focus on anything in particular.

In any case, you must keep your eyeballs fixed. Whether your eyes are closed or open, a still gaze is crucial if you want to still the mind during meditation. It helps control the five secondary energies, which control bodily actions like sneezing, hiccups, burping, etc. So a still gaze aids in superior concentration by calming the mind and reducing bodily disturbances.

Again, to learn more about how our meditation posture channelizes the 10 vital energies of our body, read this article.

Jaw and mouth

Your jaw and mouth should be relaxed. Keep your teeth slightly apart and lips lightly joined. Don’t clench your teeth and don’t close your mouth tightly.

The tongue should rest lightly on the upper palate, with the tip lightly touching the back of your upper teeth. This is important since it reduces the flow of saliva and the need to swallow. Otherwise, you’ll have to swallow now and then. When you swallow, you become conscious of your body, which is a hindrance in concentration.

Best asanas (sitting positions) for meditation

Now that you know the basics of meditation posture, let’s discuss the best sitting positions for meditation. Some of these are relatively easier, while others require more flexibility.

Sukhasana (Easy Pose)

This is the easiest meditation posture if you want to meditate sitting on the ground. It’s recommended for those meditators who cannot hold the Full Lotus or Half Lotus positions properly.

Unless you’ve been practicing any other poses, I recommend this posture to begin your meditation practice. However, as you progress, you may notice that it isn’t as stable as other posture because your knees aren’t touching the ground. Still, it’s a good starting point.

sukhasana easy pose
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)

How to sit in Sukhasana (Easy Pose):

  • Sit on your mat with your legs straight.
  • Bend your left foot and place it under the right thigh.
  • Bend your right foot and place it under, or in front of, left calf on the floor.
  • interchange your legs (put your right foot where the left is and left where the right is) if it’s more comfortable.

Here’s a video tutorial:

Padmasana (Full Lotus Pose)

Lotus pose is conducive to meditation practice, but it’s not recommended for beginners. It’s an intermediate-to-advanced pose and requires some flexibility of the hips. This posture is popular in Buddhism, and you’ll often see statues of Buddha sitting in this posture. It opens up the hips, increases awareness and attentiveness, and calms the brain.

This Buddhist meditation posture can cause knee injury if you try to force the legs into a lotus position. I wouldn’t recommend this posture unless you have a teacher to guide you or you’ve already been practicing yoga for some time and are flexible.

padmasana full lotus pose
Padmasana (Full Lotus Pose)

How to sit in Padmasana (Full Lotus Pose):

  • Sit on your mat with your legs straight.
  • Bend your left leg and place the foot on top of your right thigh.
  • Similarly, take your right foot and place it on your left thigh.
  • Both your knees should touch the ground, and the body should remain upright.
  • You can also practice it the opposite way by interchanging your legs.

Here’s a video tutorial:

Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose)

Half lotus pose, as the name suggests, requires you to put only one leg on your opposite thigh instead of both as you would in full lotus pose. It strengthens the back, stretches the hips, and calms the mind.

This pose is easier than the full lotus posture and has similar benefits. Since it’s easier, it requires less flexibility, but you still shouldn’t force your legs if they’re not ready for it.

ardha padmasana half lotus pose
Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose)

How to sit in Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose):

  • Sit on your mat with your legs straight.
  • Bend your left leg and place the foot on top of your right thigh.
  • Bend your right leg and place the foot under your left leg.
  • You can also practice it by interchanging your legs.

Here’s a video tutorial:

Siddhasana (Accomplished pose)

This is an ideal pose for meditation. This pose isn’t too difficult, but if your hips and knees are not flexible enough, use props to support yourself or practice Swastikasana (Auspicious pose), which is easier.

Siddhasana promotes a straight back, stretches the hips and knees, and increases concentration and attentiveness. It directs energy upward through the spine from your lower body, channelizing your sexual energy.

siddhasana accomplished pose
Siddhasana (Accomplished Pose)

How to sit in Siddhasana (Accomplished pose):

  • Sit on your mat with your legs straight.
  • Bend your left leg and place the foot against your right thigh such that the heel touches the perineum.
  • Bend your right leg and place the heel against your pubic bone.
  • Lift your hips and adjust your posture so that both your knees are touching the ground. Hold your upper body erect.
  • Push the fingers of your right leg between your left calf and thigh.
  • You can also practice it the opposite way by interchanging your legs.

Here’s a video tutorial:

Swastikasana (Auspicious pose)

Swastikasana is an easy meditation posture for those who cannot practice the more difficult poses like Siddhasana and Padmasana.  This is the pose I meditate in. I find it convenient and stable.

swastikasana auspicious pose
Swastikasana (Auspicious Pose)

How to sit in Swastikasana (Auspicious pose):

  • Sit on your mat with your legs straight.
  • Bend your right leg and place the foot against your left thigh. The difference between Siddhasana and Swastikasana is that the former requires you to place the heel against the perineum, while the latter doesn’t. Just place the sole of your right foot against your left thigh.
  • Bend your left leg and place it on the calf of your right leg. Push the fingers between your right calf and thigh.
  • Finally, pull your right toe up from between your left calf and thigh.
  • Both your knees should touch the ground, and the body should remain upright.
  • You can also practice it the opposite way by interchanging your legs.

Here’s a video tutorial:

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt or Seiza Pose)

This is perhaps the only sitting meditation posture where you don’t cross your legs. It strengthens your thigh and calf muscles and also improves digestion.

vajrasana thunderbolt seiza pose
Vajrasana (Thunderbolt or Seiza Pose)

How to sit in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose):

  • Stand on your knees and keep your legs together. The big toes should touch each other and heels should point slightly outward.
  • Sit back between your heels. You can place a towel or a cushion on your calves
  • Make sure your back is straight. You can rest your hands on your knees.

Here’s a video tutorial:

To summarize, Easy pose, Auspicious pose, and Half lotus pose are excellent and easy positions to meditate in. I recommend starting with the Easy pose and then switching to one that allows your knees to touch the ground. When your knees are touching the ground, keeping your back straight is effortless.

But don’t keep switching. The key is to choose any one posture and master it. It won’t benefit to practice one posture for a few weeks and then switch to another.

So choose any stable posture that suits you the most and stick to it. Mastery of your meditation posture is essential to experience deeper states of consciousness.

How to sit longer in meditation

Sitting cross-legged with no movement requires our muscles to adapt. So don’t expect to master a posture in only a few weeks or months. Perfecting a posture takes time, and patience is required.

With that said, here are a few things you can do to ensure your progress:

Never force a pose

We all have different levels of flexibility. Some of us may be able to sit in Siddhasana or Padmasana without any issues, while others may have difficulties even crossing their legs.

Start where you feel comfortable and don’t force yourself into any posture. If you try to force a pose, you won’t achieve it in its natural state. Holding a pose wrongly for long periods can lead to knee or ankle injury. So take your time, use props (see below), and gradually increase the length of your sessions.

Use meditation cushion

It’s very common for the knees to not touch the ground. When it happens, you’ll have problems keeping your back straight. Having your knee(s) in the air also makes the posture unstable.

To combat this, you can use a meditation cushion under our buttocks. After settling into your posture, raise your buttocks, and slide the cushion beneath them. Make sure you’re sitting on the edge of the cushion.

Using a cushion will raise your buttocks, making it easier to maintain a straight back. Your knees will also touch the ground, and your pose will be firm and stable. If you don’t want to buy a cushion, you can also use a towel or a soft pillow.

Stretch

Stretching your hips and hamstrings will help you sit more comfortably and for longer periods. If you practice the stretches listed here daily, you’ll see improvements within the first week.

Keep in mind that each person’s body is unique. Stay with your body, know your current limits, and don’t overdo it. Since I’m no yoga expert, I suggest you follow your own body’s wisdom while stretching. I’m only sharing, as a friend, the stretches I found useful.

The name of every stretch links to a YouTube video explaining it.

  1. Butterfly stretch
  2. Squat Pose
  3. Downward facing pose
  4. Seated forward bend
  5. Seated staff pose

Do short sessions

It might sound counterintuitive. If you want to be able to sit for longer periods, why should you do shorter sessions?

Well, the idea is to start on the right foot. You want to sit still like a rock for the whole session, however short it may be. If your legs and back start hurting after 15 minutes, there’s no point fighting your body for another 45 minutes just to hit that 1-hour mark.

Sitting still for 15 minutes twice a day is better than sitting for 60 minutes struggling with posture. Make it a point to maintain a rock-solid posture throughout your session.

Start with 10-15 minutes. You can do it multiple times a day. Then, increase the duration by two to five minutes every few days or weeks. Within a few months, you’ll be able to hold your chosen posture for 30-60 minutes provided you stay regular with your practice and stretching.

Meditate regularly

Stretching and using a cushion will help, but ultimately, you will have to go through some pain if you’re serious about meditation. Your leg muscles may hurt for the first few days or weeks, but over time, your body will naturally get used to it.

Even if you don’t stretch, regular meditation practice will improve your posture. So sit without moving and stick to your practice.

Takeaway

If you’re serious about walking the path of meditation, correct posture is critical. I hope this article taught you the fundamentals of meditation posture and the variations of sitting positions.

To summarize, a good meditation posture is when you:

  1. Cross your legs,
  2. Keep your back straight,
  3. Relax your arms and shoulders,
  4. Put your hands in your lap or drop them in front of you,
  5. Keep your head and neck straight,
  6. Relax your jaw and touch the palate with your tongue,
  7. Keep your teeth slightly parted and lips softly together,
  8. Fully close your eyes or keep them slightly open, maintaining a fixed gaze.

You can start with Sukhasana (Easy Pose) and move on to Swastikasana (Auspicious Pose) or Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose) as you become more flexible. I wouldn’t recommend going for Padmasana (Full Lotus Pose) or Siddhasana (Accomplished Pose) unless you already have some experience with them.

Good luck and happy meditating! 🙂

About the author

I was introduced to spiritual practice at the age of 12. I didn't find it intriguing back then, but my curiosity about life has brought me to spirituality again, and I've been reading others' insights and learning from life for over three years. You can read more about me here.

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