Friday, January 25, 2013

Review of My Meditation Bench

For the first 2 years of meditation I only used a cushion.

I tried a bench once and instantly got cramps in my feet.

Intense back pain was my motivation to give benches another shot and I'm really glad I did.  Now I prefer benches to cushions; however, I use both to shift the stresses more evenly across my body.

Top View of Meditation Bench
Top View of Meditation Bench
I discovered the foot cramps disappeared relatively quickly and the bench back support was superior to cushions.  Many people also find the bench easier on your knees.  My knees share minor screams of discomfort at about the 30 minute point whether I'm using a bench or a cushion.  Thank goodness for the bell and walking meditation time!

I did the standard internet research on benches and chose the "Deluxe Bamboo Meditation & Yoga Bench" sold through Amazon by Bean Products.

This bench is a folding style bench with rounded feet and flat seat.  I chose a folding model to make it easy to take with me to sangha sits or sesshins.  It is also a lot easier to store in my home study after my morning sit and I loved the bamboo.

Folding Meditation Bench Feet and Legs
Folding Meditation Bench Feet
The legs are approximately 6.25 inches tall and the seat is .75 inches thick so that the sitting height is approximately 7 inches.  This varies slightly based on the angle you choose.

I also put an incredibly tacky orange cushion on top of the bench that probably adds another 2 inches after compression.  I found this pillow at Goodwill and have been using it pretty much from the start of my Zen practice so it has some sentimental value (attachment?).  My dogs have a similar feeling based on their desire to chew and drool on it.  I have been designing a custom cushion that I plan to make at some point that will replace the pillow.

Tacky Orange Pillow
Tacky Orange Pillow
On opening the package I loved the bamboo was simple and beautiful.  However, assembly details and general workmanship were poor.  One of the legs came with a lot of dark scuffing and the feet weren't positioned symmetrically on the bottom (see photo.)

Poor leg alignment
The first time I took the bench to a sangha sit both of the hinge pins fell out.

However, sitting on this bench was a pleasure.  I quickly learned how to adjust the angle so that I can sit incredibly comfortably for an hour.  

  1. I kneel on the zabuton with my feet just over the edge so that the top of my foot is touching the edge of the zabuton 
  2. Then I place the bench over my legs extending and spreading the feet  
  3. Next I grab my tacky orange pillow and place it on top of the bench aligning the front of the pillow with the front of the bench  
  4. Then I grab each side of the bench with my hands and tilt it forward so that the front of the foot is tilted to the maximum forward position
  5. Finally I place my weight (bum) on the cushion and settle back to a comfortable angle
This has definitely been the most comfortable sitting position I have found.
Front Meditation Bench View
Front Meditation Bench View
Back Meditation Bench View
Back Meditation Bench View
Profile Meditation Bench View
Profile Meditation Bench View
To fix the hinge pins I went to my local hardware store and bought the cheapest beeswax toilet seal ring they sold.  Then I took some beeswax and crammed it into the hinges and replaced the hinge pins.  The beeswax provides the perfect amount of friction to keep the hinge pins in place and also lubricates the hinges.

The other modification I made was the addition of a felt to the end of each leg so that it didn't create a loud clap when the legs closed.

I would definitely buy this bench again, even with the required changes/modifications.  I have tried a lot of different benches at our sangha and a monastery and this bench proved the most comfortable for my needs and shape.

Friendly bows, _/|\_

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