Is posture important for meditation?
You may not have known this before but the true essence of meditation is the connection between body and mind through posture. It’s through posture that the connection to your mind is made. Your posture is the foundation to all things meditation.
If your original focus isn’t establishing a posture that naturally supports and aids the meditation process you will ultimately struggle forming a habit of doing it and you will most likely give up on the practice before you ever realize its many benefits.
Will Johnson in his book The Posture For Meditation: A Practical Manual for Meditators of All Traditions…explains –
“By consciously manipulating our bodies so that we can create and project a specific self-image, we limit our range of expression, restrict the natural movement of energy within our bodies and minds, and forfeit the natural ease of balance and relaxation that is our true birthright”
By aligning the body and mind naturally you experience comfort and relaxation that reveals deeper insights into your true nature and well being.
There exist many different meditation techniques which accommodate the many varied and unique human temperaments and personalities that preaching the one technique could never ever be successfully promoted. We are all different and take to different things and different ways of doing…
However, the common theme to most meditation techniques is the sitting posture.
“techniques themselves may be necessary ways to occupy ourselves as our bodies and minds slowly learn to assume the posture of meditation.”
Thus, if good posture is the foundation of meditation practice it should also be your ultimate goal. However, the challenge comes from the teachings by many meditation practitioners of keeping a straight back whilst trying to relax, a conflict that rages unnaturally for most.
4 Methods Of Meditation Practice
According to the meditation purist there are four ways to meditate
3/ Lying; and
Remember the body and the mind are very connected and influence each other. The posture you take can either help your concentration or it can act as a distraction.
Distractions is what you want to eliminate from your practice if you are to experience the many benefits meditation has to offer.
“We tend to see body, breath, and mind separately, but in meditation they become one. The first thing to pay attention to is the body position during sitting. How you position your body has a lot to do with what happens with your mind and your breath.” The Kwan Um School of Zen
Sitting Meditation The Preferred Position By The Grand Masters
Sitting straight and sitting still takes effort and practice, something that deters many beginners from daily meditation. However, it is the most preferred position by many meditation traditions. In the sitting position you have the spine fully erected and unsupported which is not a natural position for us humans thus it takes time for your body to adjust and your back muscles to develop. Unfortunately this is more a deterrent for many beginners to meditation but I may have a solution for you a little later…
The sitting position is certainly where you want to eventually progress if meditation is something you want to take seriously and incorporate into your life. The monks and yogis have spent many, many, many moons trying different postures, and they ultimately settled for sitting because they believe it helps you focus the most.
Understanding that your mind affects your body and your body affects your mind allows you to take the position that best suits you. There is absolutely no esoteric importance to the many different positions you can partake in. What is of significance when meditating though is keeping the mind in the present and that is achieved with good posture.
Check this webpage How to Practice Sitting Meditation an excellent resource to learn more about the different types of positions.
Lying Down Meditation For The Beginner
I should note that at the beginning meditating lying down is certainly a viable proposition, especially if you are using any guided meditation scripts to assist you. It will provide you with the least resistance until you form the habit of doing…this is crucial to your success with meditation.
Forming a habit of doing…
Again, when it comes to meditating and posture you need to be relaxed and comfortable yet alert and aware. The ideal position then would be to lay down flat on the floor whilst meditating. Now this is a position that many meditation practitioners frown upon…but why?
Is it not the most relaxing and comfortable? Is it not the least damaging on your body over time?
Is it not the position offering the least distractions?
So why is laying down to meditate a bad idea?
Personally speaking meditation lying down is helpful for beginners when you feel tense, overwhelmed, emotionally sapped and running on zero energy due to the day-to-day stresses of life. The last thing you want to contemplate is sitting down to meditate thus, lying down is a perfect substitute.
What Is Walking Meditation
Walking meditation focuses on the movement of the body while at the same time being mindful of the surrounding environment. Walking meditation assists to quiet and focus the mind opening the possibility for personal insights. It also promotes balance and concentration allowing the ability to control your breathing and increase your stamina for meditation and mindfulness of body movement.
It also contributes to a sense of well-being by relaxing the body, reviving tired muscles, stimulating circulation, assisting digestion, increasing energy flow whilst reducing or minimizing sluggishness.
Walking meditation could be the answer for beginners to meditation as it is a familiar part of one’s daily experiences in life.
Standing Whilst You Meditate
Standing meditation can enhance energy flow, mental clarity and internal strength. It also improves your productivity and alertness.
Standing meditation makes use of five very specific standing postures to deeply release long held stress and tension. The legs, spine and shoulders become very strong yet relaxed. Unnecessary tension is released from the joints and muscles, making them more flexible and elastic.
Standing meditation makes use of specific relaxed abdominal breathing, use of mental imagery, and awareness of the inside of your body.
3 Primary Attributes To Meditation Posture
According to Johnson the “Posture of Meditation” depends on three primary attributes –
3/ Resilience (surrender)
One supports the other to manufacture the ideal meditation benefits. The absence of one or more and the posture loses its foundation and the condition of the mind becomes cloudy, hazy and out of focus.
When the three are align naturally the healing energies of the mind and body are in total sync able to perform wonders we only dream of…
A transformation process begins towards are healthy, stress free and happy existence fulfilling your needs and desires.
The more you connect with your body and mind the more you enhance the flow of energy relieving the build of tension and stress that causes all sorts of illnesses and pain emotionally, physically and mentally.
Alignment The Gateway To A Healthier YOU
Alignment Johnson states creates the conduit between the physical, emotional and spiritual.
Without the body and mind alignment you are out of touch and out of sync with your natural well being, thus the importance of practicing meditation using a posture that naturally suits you.
A body that’s not aligned creates a great deal of tension and unwanted pain. Tension in the body translates itself to tension in the mind.
An unbalanced body forces muscles to work against the force of gravity. Gravity provides support to any structure that is vertically aligned with the Earth’s force of gravity and anything that’s out of whack with this force struggles to remain erect blocking the free flow of energy.
Thus, the ultimate goal is to bring the your body into a state of alignment, relaxation and resilience.
“The beliefs you hold about yourself and the world, your emotions, your memories, and your habits all can influence mental and physical health.” Jennifer Weinberg – Mind Body Connection Understanding The Psycho Emotional Roots of Disease
The imbalance between body and mind and the harmful effects this imbalance has on your health and well-being is very real.
Jennifer continues “The mind-body connection happens on both a physical and chemical level.”
“Different mental states can positively or negatively affect biological functioning.”
“This occurs since the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems share a common chemical language, which allows constant communication between the mind and body through messengers like hormones and neurotransmitters.”
A very interesting article that is certainly worth a read…
Again, your goal through meditation should be to calm the mind and align the body…
So let’s delve deeper into the benefits of a balanced posture.
When the body is aligned it creates a natural environment of awareness, it releases unwanted tension in the muscles and joints, creating stress which decreases your focus and alertness.
When the body is vertically aligned and upright it is working with the force of gravity and not against it allowing for a greater flow of energy maximizing its effect on you
Relax And Let The Tension Flow
Relaxation is a function of the body’s ability to surrender its weight to the force of gravity. Alignment without relaxation creates tension and stiffness blocking the flow of energy and your decreases awareness of being in the moment the ultimate goal of all forms of meditative practice.
As you relax and the tension within your body subsides your level of awareness deepens allowing greater connection to the universal energy. The energy field of the body merges with the gravitational energy field of the earth. Relaxation gives you a grounding a foundation to build on. Thus, relaxing is key to meditation but can only be maintained with alignment and resilience.
Resilience, Surrender, Let Go
Resilience or surrender balances the stillness and movement of the meditative posture. You cannot meditate if you are constantly fidgeting and distracted nor can you achieve a state of awareness if you are stiff and rigid.
Johnson states “The result of this physical holding and hardening is a mind filled with involuntary thoughts of attack and judgement, fear, desires, and fantasies”
Stillness is the mollifying and quieting of the body and mind, minus the stiffness and rigidity. Allowing you to accept and yield to the forces of nature and to the earth’s gravitational pull, as well as to the sensations of the body and the keeping in sync with the movement of breath.
It’s impossible to relax without resilience, you cannot surrender your weight to gravity and constantly tense your muscle in order to hold yourself still and accountable.
Posture Is Everything…
Rounded shoulders, slouching and your head flopping forwards causes muscles around the chest to tighten limiting the ability of the rib cage to expand reducing the length and fullness of breaths. Thus restricting the flow of oxygen and blood throughout your body, creating sluggish energy opposed to a vibrant, healthy existence.
Breathing long and full helps regulate your heart rate and blood pressure amongst other things (more on the benefits of proper breathing at a later date). For our discussion today breathing can reinforce proper body mechanics and functionality putting less stress on your body overall.
Posture can also be an emotional reflection of your state of being at any given time. Thus, practicing and maintaining good posture whilst meditating breeds better and healthier habits.
“Reaction, clinging, and aversion are physical actions that the body performs and that, no matter how subtle, create muscular tension through the repeated motions of either “pulling toward” (desire) or “pushing away” (aversion). Repeat anything often enough, and you create holding patterns in the body that predispose you to continue doing that action. Sitting practices that focus on relaxing the underlying tensions and holdings you feel in your body, as well as restrictions to the breath, help you mitigate the legacy and habit patterns of reacting, clinging, and aversion.”
Conclusion…Importance Of Posture And Meditation
You now understand the importance of posture when meditating so please do give it the thought it deserves. Whether you sit in a chair, kneel on the floor, sit cross legged, exercise walking meditation, lay flat on the floor, or walk through the tulips understanding the significance of posture to your meditation is just as important as the type of meditation you choose to learn.
A balanced posture allows your whole body to fall into balance allowing your mind to follow suite.
The body and mind are intertwined one relies on the other for a healthier, more vibrant existence. Clarity and alertness relies on the alignment of body and mind that comes from relaxing the body and the resilience against tension and stress.
Choosing the perfect position is a personal thing that produces the best results for you mentally and physically. Do remember that distractions is what you seek to avoid so choose wisely and develop your tolerance over time the benefits are worth the persistence.