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. The body’s role during our practice is to support our mind, freeing and positioning our body parts so we can maintain a single focal point. We begin with a posture that is stable, comfortable and pain-free. A quiet body permits a quiet mind.
There are two basic categories of postures, sitting and kneeling. It is imperative that you evaluate your posture prior to choosing both the positions and zafus best designed for your practice. Meditation cushions will be placed differently depending on your choice of position within the two basic categories. The preferred fill will also depend on your choice of posture. For information about posture, refer to my article entitled, Meditation Cushions and Posture.
Regardless of whether you decide to use seated or kneeling positions there are several ideal postural alignments. Your pelvis should be in a neutral position, not slumping forward or backward. Positioning yourself properly on your meditation cushions is important. Your spine should be erect with all its natural curves, neck and head should be in the center of your pelvic basin, and body weight needs to be distributed evenly between your sitting bones.
The seven point posture is a useful method to evaluate your alignment. Begin in front of a mirror. Your head should be tilted slightly forward by bending your neck; your gaze directed naturally toward the floor. Proper positioning of the head eliminates two types of distractions, agitation and sleepiness. If the head is positioned too high, it promotes excessive thinking; if too low it causes sleepiness. The tip of your tongue should touch the palate just behind your upper teeth reducing the amount of saliva. Your jaw should be relaxed and teeth slightly apart. Eyes may be either closed or slightly open gazing downward. An object such as a candle may be helpful for focusing. Keep your spine erect with all natural curves and let your arms hang loosely not pressed against your body. Forearms should rest on your thighs. Your right hand may sit atop the left with your palms positioned upward and fingers aligned.
The positioning of your legs will depend upon the type of posture you chose. There are numerous seated positions for which your legs and feet will be positioned differently. The most comfortable and balanced position will depend upon your muscle tone and posture. Crescent meditation cushions provide support to your thighs especially for those of us with tight hamstrings. Round meditation cushions or crescent meditation cushions will suit someone who has loose muscle tone. The fill of meditation cushions may be more significant so know whether a firm or flexible fill will provide the comfort you need. Meditation cushions filled with buckwheat hull easily mold to the body. Zafus filled with kapok are firm and maintain structure. The best shape and fill of meditation cushions for you depends upon your choice of practice position, which is the topic of my next article.