Sitting Meditation: Posture


  • In meditation is it said that our posture reflects our intention and our state of mind. If we can develop a correct posture then we will find it easier for our minds to settle and calm down. We will also feel stable and comfortable enough in our bodies to maintain a meditation posture for a longer period of time.

  • We can choose to practice sitting in a chair or using one of the floor based meditation postures which are illustrated here. If you choose a chair, try one which is relatively upright and which allows you to place your feet flatly upon the floor. Try to sit a little away from the back of the chair, so your back is self-supporting. It may help to place a small cushion at the small of the back for some support.

  • If you choose to sit on the floor, it will help to have a meditation cushion or bench to raise your buttocks off the floor. It is important that the knees are close to the ground, are not higher than the buttocks and that the thighs are sloping down toward the ground. This will support your back and maintain the small hollow in the small of your back. These postures involve either crossing your legs in front of you with one heel drawn towards the body and the other leg in front of it, or kneeling using a cushion or stool with your feet behind you.

  • The most important thing is to find a posture which is comfortable and which also supports a wakeful and alert state of mind. We do not want to doze or to fall asleep. Jon Kabat-Zinn usually talks of sitting with a sense of dignity and reminds us to sit “as if our life depends upon it”. He usually adds “…and it probably does!” This reminds us again of the importance of what we are doing – learning to come home to ourselves and to witness ourselves fully, as if for the first time. So we sit, as if what we are doing is important to us, and to all of life, and to the whole Universe, if we like. So we find a posture which reflects this – upright, with the spine erect, but not rigid. Shunryu Suzuki says we should sit as if we are supporting the sky with our head. Other teachers remind us to sit as if we are a majestic mountain. We can really try to feel the grandeur and stability of the mountain in our posture. We feel our connection to the ground which supports us as we sit.

  • So, our back is upright, and we can become aware of the natural curvature of the spine and the soft arch in the lower back. The head is gently poised at the top of the spine, with our chin tucked in slightly. We relax our shoulders. We lower and soften the gaze of our eyes at about a 45 degree angle, or we gently close our eyes. The head, neck and shoulders are vertically aligned. The chest does not sink in, but gently lifts. We can imagine a golden thread pulling us up slightly from the top of our head. Our hands rest in our lap, hands down on our thighs, or facing palm upwards, cupped one inside the other.

  • If we lose our posture, it is very likely that our mind has wandered. We will have lost contact with the present moment. Correcting our posture will bring to mind back home to the body.

NHS Lothian, 2017