Posture for Meditation

Question

According to the posture technique the chest should be lifted high and shoulder blades should be drawn together. But I am confused whether to place hands on thigh first and then pull chest up, or whether to pull chest up and then place hands on thigh. Because with each technique has a tremendous impact on mind's awareness. I would be grateful if you can clarify that -- and also what should be the position of head?

—Kashyap , India

Answer

Dear Kashyap,

These points you mention — the hand position on thighs, shoulders drawn back, chest lifted high —  are all part of proper meditation position but are not the meditation technique itself. What is best is to adjust your meditation position before you start your actual meditation practice. You do not have to adjust these aspects of posture in any order. The aspects you mention are all to help open the heart center and to keep our posture relaxed and upright, not tense or slumped forward. In meditation the energy in the spine gradually rises upward to the point between the eyebrows, the seat of enlightenment. Yogananda said a bent spine is the enemy of self-realization. Slumping forward limits the rise of the astral spinal energy and encourages a consciousness that is pulled downward into matter attachment or into mental wandering. During meditation if our muscles are tense or we have pain, it is difficult to let go of body consciousness.

Let’s review meditation position. Find a comfortable sitting position either on the floor with meditation pillow or meditation bench or sit in a chair. If you sit on the floor it is important that you not have a seat which causes pain or numbness in your legs. If you cannot find a good floor sitting position you would be best meditating in a chair. In a chair your feet should be grounded on the floor, not dangling. Place a blanket or cushion under your feet if necessary. Whether you sit on the floor or chair your knees should be a little below your hips to preserve the lumbar curve of your spine. Often tilting the pelvis forward a little bit with a cushion or blanket helps with the lumbar curve. Have your shoulders comfortably back so the heart area is open but not so there is tension in the back. Feel like there is a string lifting you gently upward from the heart center. Turn the palms of your hands upward and place them at or near the junction of thighs and abdomen. Some people have long arms and if the hands are drawn all the way back to the hip there is a tight bend in the wrists which causes pain. If this is the case for you, slide your hands forward a little bit on your thighs until the wrists are comfortable. The hand position also helps to open the heart center. Your head should be centered above your shoulders and spine, not in front of the spine which might cause neck or shoulder pain. Chin should be parallel to the floor. Neck should be relaxed.

You might like to view a video from our website how to sit properly that reviews meditation position. This little video is part of our free on-line mini-course in meditation which you might be interested in taking. You will learn the Hong Sau technique of meditation. The entire course is available at meditation mini-course.

Many blessings to you on your meditation practice.

Nayaswami Mukti