05 Dec 6: Elements of Good Posture in Meditation
If you are serious about meditation, posture plays a significant role, and you will have to pay attention to it, sooner or later. There are eight key elements of a good meditative posture:
- Sit cross-legged. Some people may have a medical issue and hence unable to sit cross-legged. Try and do it, if you can. If you cannot, there’s not much we can do about it. You can still meditate, but sitting cross-legged helps you to control the descending energy or apana vayu in the body.
- Maintain a straight back. Your back should be straight as an arrow, not tense, but firm and relaxed.
- Keep your shoulders even.. You shouldn’t be slouching or stooping when meditating. Choose a hand posture. You can rest them on top of each other. Either rest the right hand on top of the left or vice-versa, with the tips of your thumbs touching each other and forming a small circle. This is the Zen way. Or, you can just rest your thumbs together instead of forming the circle. Another way is to simply interlace your fingers. I normally do this. It’s a matter of personal preference, an individual method. You can choose whatever you like. Always keep your hands in your lap though.
- Keep your neck straight. Your neck has a slight V hook. Ensure that you don’t overstretch it. Keep it straight with the chin tucked in.
- Maintain a straight gaze. You can keep your eyes closed or open, depending on the kind of meditation you do. In most Zen meditations, for example, the explicit instruction is to keep your eyes open. In some other kinds of meditation, the eyes are closed. You may decide based on your comfort level, because there is no hard and fast rule for this. But keep your gaze still. One of the ultimate signs of a true yogi, when they sit in meditation, is the stillness of the eyeball. You can gain stillness of posture, but stillness of the eyeball only comes with very superior concentration.
- Mind your tongue! The tongue should touch the tip of your palate, just at the front of your teeth on the inside. If the tongue doesn’t touch the palate, when you sit down to meditate, saliva will form in your mouth and you’ll have to swallow. When you swallow, it gives birth to form consciousness. You become aware of your body. Remember, ultimately, we want to go beyond the shackles of our human body.
- Bring your teeth together. The teeth should be just joined without being clenched, and lips slightly parted.
- Maintain a gentle smile. Don’t forget to smile when you meditate, because when you maintain one, it does something amazing. It calms your mind down and helps you stay in the moment. It helps you get past your negative thoughts. Meditation is not a sentence. Be happy while you meditate.
In the beginning, some of you may have trouble keeping your back straight. I did too, when I started my meditation journey more than two decades ago. But eventually, you will get used to it. Feel free to use a back support initially. Feel free to lean against the wall. Make sure, though, that you don’t fall asleep or doze off. More importantly and subtly, make sure you don’t lose the sharpness of your concentration and focus. It is good focus alone that is going to help you progress on the path of meditation.
In the beginning, it is hard to meditate with discipline, but when you do, it will lead you on the path of bliss.
Once, there was a young monk who was new to a monastery. He noticed that after every meditation, the others would pray. Puzzled, he asked his Guru, “Why do we always pray after meditation? Isn’t meditation itself a prayer?”
The Guru said, “Well, son, we do it to thank God that it’s over.”
Meditation doesn’t have to be like that. When you get into the intense path of meditation, you will come across moments when you feel very restless, lazy, or agitated, and you would just want to end your session. Hang in there. Take a deep breath, calm down, continue with your practice. Eventually, it’s the intensity of the practice that is going to bring results.
This article is part 6 of Learn to Meditate series, and is transcribed from the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d16SW7zkduo
Read Part 5: The Six Principles Of Meditation – Black Lotus , Part 7: Secret of Good Meditation – Black Lotus