Saturday, January 19, 2013

Zazen (sitting) Posture

When doing zazen there are 4 main elements of posture to pay attention to.

1) Starting with your head, I find the best approach to think of your head as a helium filled balloon trying to float lightly at the top of your spinal column.  Imagine it tugging up slightly to keep your spine straight.

2) Your spine should be straight - meaning not leaning to the left or right side.

3) Your spine should also maintain a slight curve in the lower back and your stomach should be relaxed and able push out easily on the in-breath.

4) Now we come to the legs. This is where things get tricky. Your legs provide the base for sitting. As you can imagine a good base is critical to sitting in a healthy fashion with the least discomfort. This is also where there are lots of options (and opinions.)  The main thing I suggest is experiment, experiment, experiment. Find the position that is right for your body.

The Lotus Position is the traditional position. If you are young and/or flexible this can probably work for you just fine. This position consists of resting each foot on the thigh of the opposite leg. It is a very stable position but I don't have the flexibility to do it.

The Half Lotus Position is similar. This position tucks one leg on the ground and the top leg rests the foot on the thigh of the opposite leg. I can do this position at 59 but after half an hour it becomes problematic.

You can sit with your legs resting flat on the ground and pulled close to your body. This works well for many people.

You can sit with your legs crossed; however, this tends to raise your knees off the ground which is not good for extended sitting.  You always want your knees resting on the ground or supported in some fashion.

Profile view showing correct elevation of sitting position
Click Image to enlarge
No matter what position you find most comfortable for your legs it is important to imagine a triangle that is formed from your pelvis down to each knee. The top of the triangle (your pelvis) should be elevated approximately 6.5-8.5 inches above your knees. Typically the more flexible you are the lower the required elevation. The less flexible you are the more benefit you get from additional elevation.

Elevation is typically provided by either a cushion (zafu) or a meditation bench (seiza bench.) Cushions and benches will be covered in future posts.

In addition to a cushion or bench, sitting meditation is typically done on a mat called a zabuton that provides cushioning for the legs and knees.

Friendly Bows, _/|\_

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments greatly appreciated. All are reviewed for spam prior to posting.