Aligned and balanced posture enhances our ability to achieve stillness and practice proper breath control. To calm the activity of our thoughts it is important that we understand the benefits to the mind and body that an aligned posture brings. You will need to decide which practice position is both comfortable for you and that you will be able to maintain for increasing periods of time. Zafus are one instrument used to manipulate the body so we may achieve alignment.
Choosing the best meditation cushions for your practice involves a deeper understanding of the way your body works. Begin by standing before a mirror in the anatomical position. Your stance should be facing forward with your legs and feet together, arms hanging loosely at your sides and palms facing forward. Observe the curvature of your spine. The spine is naturally curved as a subtle S shape divided into five regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal. You want to ensure that the height of your zafus and thickness of your zabuton maintain the proper alignment of the spinal curvature.
The cervical region of the spine encompasses the head and neck. While meditating the crown of the head and neck should be vertical. The head should be tilted slightly forward while the chin is up.
The thoracic region includes the shoulders and chest. Note whether your shoulders are rounded, hunched or stiff? Any tightness in the chest? How do your arms naturally hang? These notations will be useful to determine what practice position will be comfortable and whether to chose round or crescent meditation cushions for support.
The lumbar spine includes your abdomen and lower back. In Zen, this region is the foundation of our spiritual power. Note any curvatures in your lower back. Is there an extreme concave or convex curvature? Height and fill of zafus will manipulate excess curvatures for better concentration.
The sacral and coccygeal are fused together. This region attaches the back of the pelvis to the spine. During meditation, the pelvis should be in a neutral position. The proper choice of meditation cushions will assist your pelvis from tilting forward or backward.
Lastly, what type of muscle tone do you have? Are your muscles naturally tight? If so, where? Crescent meditation cushions provide support to your thighs especially for those of us with tight hamstrings. Round or crescent meditation cushions will suit someone who has loose muscle tone, however the fill of meditation cushions may be more significant so known whether a firm of flexible fill will provide you comfort.
Once you have gathered this information, you can begin to think about which positions will allow you to maintain focus for the longest period of time and which meditation cushions will enhance your practice. Review your notes before deciding on postures and zafus. Where does your body need assistance to balance your posture and support your muscles? Meditation cushions filled with buckwheat hull easily mold to the body. Zafus filled with kapok are firm and maintain structure.