Sitting Longer in Meditation


When I start meditation, I am able to sit with erect spine for 40 minutes easily. But I am unable to exceed that duration. I want to meditate for longer time, but can't do due to that reason. Please suggest how to get rid of this problem?

—Deepak, india


Dear Deepak,

An inability to sit for longer periods can have many causes and solutions. The most common cause for new meditators is a lack of practice and/or a buildup of tension in the muscles leading to fatigue and discomfort.

As when engaging in any new physical exercise one is not accustomed to, sitting still requires our muscles to adapt. The key is to keep the body balanced and still without tension. If the muscles are under stress, even a little, this will cause fatigue and muscular pain.

Check your body from time to time while meditating to ensure that you are relaxed and balanced. In time, you will be able to meditate longer and longer as your body adapts.

If you meditate while sitting on the floor with legs crossed, sit on a pillow to elevate your hips and make sure your knees are on the floor.

This will keep your spine straighter and you won’t have to use your back muscles so much to maintain a straight spine. Sitting on the ground for meditation is best done in padmasana or siddhasana, but this requires you to be limber.

The important point is to keep your knees down and not in the air. Otherwise, you must use the muscles in your back to keep your body from slumping forward.

You will not be able to maintain a straight spine for long. This is a very common problem easily solved with a pillow.

Here are a few additional tips you may find useful.

1. When the muscles in your back begin to complain, change sitting positions. If you sit on the floor, gracefully move to a chair. Another good position is vajrasana. For this, you may find a simple “kneeling bench” useful to take stress off your knees. If you normally sit in a chair, put a pillow behind your lower back to give a little support, but don’t lean back on it. You can also adjust your sitting height by adding a cushion. Any slight change will relieve built-up tension in the back.

2. Begin your meditation practice with Yogananda’s Energization Exercises. You may find it helpful to do a few hatha asanas before meditation to stretch the back muscles. If you are meditating alone and it is not disturbing to others, you can even interrupt your meditation practice with a few stretching exerices and then resume your sitting.

3. Periodically tense and relax your body as is taught for beginning your meditation.

4. Make sure to take physical exercise during the day, especially if your occupation requires you to be in an office. Keep good posture.

5. If you feel tension or muscular pain, mentally go inside that particular muscle to relax it. Try to experience the pain as merely sensation and try to let go of thoughts of discomfort. As you inhale, take in healing vitality. As you exhale, expel discomfort while you relax more deeply.

Best wishes. I hope you find these suggestions helpful