If you’ve experienced the benefits of meditation, you’ll probably want to increase your sitting time. While sitting for a few minutes brings you mental calm, longer meditation sessions can take you to higher levels of awareness. So it is important to gradually increase the period of your practice.
To sit longer in meditation, sit in a stable posture with a straight back, and use meditation cushions to support your back & knees. Stretch regularly to increase your hip flexibility. Lastly, meditating daily despite the numbness and discomfort is the best way to lengthen your meditation sessions.
But what are the seven points of posture and what stretches should you perform? Why is it better to meditate in brief sessions in the beginning? Let’s discuss the tips in detail to answer these questions.
1. Sit properly
You can sit still for an hour or two only when your posture allows it. So the first thing to do is to make sure you’re sitting correctly. There are seven points you need to follow to ensure your posture contributes to your spiritual growth.
Here, I’m only outlining these points. For a more detailed explanation with pictures, read this article: Meditation Posture: Complete Beginners Guide (With Pictures)
- Cross your legs. Ideally, you should sit on the ground and cross your legs. But if you can’t do that for some reason, sit on a chair and follow the next six guidelines. You can adopt any of these postures when crossing your legs: Sukhasana (Easy Pose), Siddhasana (Adept Pose), Swastikasana (Auspicious Pose), Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose), or Padmasana (Full Lotus Pose). Again, refer to the full article for detailed explanation.
- Keep your back straight. The above postures will make sure your knees are on the ground. If your knees are touching the floor, it is much easier to maintain a straight back.
- Relax your arms and shoulders. Don’t keep your arms straight. Your elbows have a natural bend which must be maintained. Your shoulders should be relaxed and even—neither slumped forward nor pulled backward.
- Rest your palm in your lap. You can place your palm one over the other, facing upward. Ideally, the tips of your thumbs should meet to form a teardrop or circle. You can also just cross your fingers and drop the hands in front of you.
- Keep your head straight. Your spine and head should be in a straight line. But there’s also a natural hook in your neck, which should be maintained. Rest your head naturally and don’t bend it forward or pull it backward.
- Relax your jaw and touch the palate with your tongue. Touching your palate with your tongue will reduce the flow of saliva. Your teeth should be slightly apart, not clenched. Lips should be closed lightly.
- Close your eyes or keep them slightly open. Fully closing your eyes will help in concentration, but it can also lead to dullness. On the contrary, you’ll be more alert if you keep the eyes slightly open to admit some light, but it could lead to distraction. Experiment and see what works for you.
2. Use a meditation cushion
Settling into your meditation posture requires flexibility, which many of us lack. A meditation cushion can help us achieve the proper pose for meditation, even if we aren’t that flexible. Sitting flat on the ground in a cross-legged posture can be too much for the lower back, especially when the knees are in the air.
The easiest way to find out if your body is flexible enough or not is to check your knees. If your knees are touching the ground, it means your hips are open enough, and you can meditate in this posture. But if one or both of your knees are off the ground, consider placing a cushion or towel under your buttocks.
Sitting on the edge of a cushion will help you rest your knees on the ground. Once your knees are touching the floor, your back will be straight, and it’ll become easier to maintain the posture.
Some people also advise to place blocks under your knees. I won’t recommend that for two reasons:
- It usually brings your knees higher than your hips, which we don’t want.
- If you’re using blocks, the edges will hurt after some time.
Ideally, the body should be flexible enough to allow you to meditate without needing props. But since that’s not the case for most of us, using a cushion or a towel under the buttocks is fine. We’ll talk about increasing your flexibility in a moment.
3. Do short sessions
In the beginning, learning the proper technique is more important than just sitting for hours. It’s not useful if you sit for an hour fighting with the pain. The pain and discomfort of your body will keep distracting you. Also, unless you’ve been meditating for some time, your mind won’t be prepared to concentrate for 60 minutes straight.
Instead, you should sit diligently for 15 minutes, take a short break, and then perhaps meditate for 15 minutes again. It will benefit you much more. A small, rigorous session will bring results more quickly than a long, restless one.
These short, crisp sessions will not only help your posture but also enhance your concentration. You want to maintain the quality of your practice while gradually increasing the length or quantity.
For example, you can meditate for 30 minutes and take a walk for 15 minutes. After that, you may get back to another half-an-hour sitting session. As you progress, you’ll be able to maintain your mindfulness and concentration even during the break.
4. Stretch regularly
The flexibility of our body also plays a role in the beginning. It helps reduce back and leg pain that keeps you from meditating for over 20-30 minutes. Sitting cross-legged for long periods requires open hips and healthy knees.
While stretching, remember not to overdo it. Every person’s body is unique, and we all have different levels of flexibility. Listen to your body, know your current limits, and progress slowly.
Here are some stretches you can do to help you sit longer in meditation:
5. Work on your mind
As you begin to practice meditation, you’ll find that if your mind is calm, the body is also able to sit. The stillness of the mind affects the stillness of the body, and vice versa. So the calmer and more focused you are, the easier it’ll be for your body to sit without moving.
By working on your mind, I mean controlling and directing your life off the meditation cushion. If you’re serious about progressing, you need to direct your entire day toward it. Just sitting for a few minutes a day and mindlessly spending the rest of your time won’t do.
However, it also doesn’t mean you need to meditate all day. When you read scriptures, contemplate, and live according to your set of principles, the mind becomes calm and composed. Practicing virtues like compassion, forbearance, and forgiveness directly affects your meditation experience.
This is a whole topic in itself, so I’ll just leave you with the idea that if you do an hour of meditation daily, your progress still largely depends on how you spend those other 23 hours.
6. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Stretching can help you in the beginning, but ultimately, the only way to master a meditation posture is to practice it daily. That means gradually increasing the duration of your session while maintaining its quality. You will have to go through the pain to be able to sit in the same posture for hours.
One thing you can do is sit in your posture while doing other things, eating or watching TV, for example. You can also do some of your work on a desk or table that allows you to sit cross-legged. It’s a wonderful way to build tolerance, and you’ll be surprised at how easy your posture suddenly becomes after a few weeks.
I write all of my blog posts while sitting in Swastikasana, and it has helped me in my meditation as well.
Also, consult a teacher before you try to sit in Full Lotus or Half Lotus Pose for long periods. You could damage your knees permanently, so I wouldn’t recommend these postures if you want to meditate for hours at a stretch. However, if you really want to do it, make sure to consult a meditation or Yoga teacher first.
Posture plays an important role in our meditation. A still and stable posture contributes to serenity and superior concentration. Stretching, regular sitting, proper posture, and living our day mindfully can help us meditate for a longer duration.
I hope this article gave you some practical ways to increase your meditation duration. Good luck and happy meditating! 😊