In this article we look at different ways for preparing and sitting in meditation for extended periods of time.
When we sit for meditation, we should sit with a sense of openness, of stillness, calmness and awareness.
When we sit for meditation, we should sit with a sense of kindness and friendliness.
Become the witness to the mind and the body, tap into your higher consciousness.
Everybody’s body is different. We will all have different sitting postures for meditation which we prefer and there are things we can do to make those postures we have challenges with more accessible. In this article we look at some of the most common ways to sit to still the mind, how to sit physically and prepare the mind mentally.
Different ways of sitting physically for practice.
When we sit, we should sit comfortably in a posture where we feel relaxed. Dependent on our bodies, some people prefer to kneel or to sit cross legged.
If you are not used to sitting for extended periods of time, these positions can cause pins and needles, or tingling sensations in the legs. If this is the case, simply change position, or hug the knees into the chest gently supporting the knees with the arms, until the sensation passes. It is more important to have a comfortable body, so the mind can quieten, than force yourself to sit in postures that are not comfortable anymore.
It can take decades for the body to open up enough to sit for extended periods of time. It is important to be respectful of this.
– Sitting cross legged –
Sitting cross legged for meditation requires hips to be open. However if hips are tight, you may wish to sit on blocks or folded up blankets. This ensures that the hips are higher than the knees. This takes strain off the knee and hip joints. As you progress in your practice, you will find you will be able to sit more comfortably without blocks.
You can also use a pillow or bolster to raise the hips. Even though I have quite open hips, I will choose to sit on a bolster. Imuch easier to relax into the posture for extended periods of time.
When sitting cross legged for extended periods of time, it is important to have 3 points of contact with the floor. This is usually the bottom and knees. If the knees don’t reach, even with the hips elevated, it is worth cushioning the knees or supporting them with blocks.
If this still feels uncomfortable, try practicing some hip opening exercises to loosen off the hips and come back to it. Over time, the seated posture will become an option for you.
It is a good practice to alternate the legs, so that imbalances are avoided in the body.
– Kneeling – Virasana (Hero Pose) –
Some people prefer to kneel in meditation rather than sit cross-legged. Kneeling in this way is known as Virasana, or hero pose. Sitting in this way helps to stretch out the quadriceps and ankles. This helps to keep the spine straight and is a great posture to keep the spine straight and long. This posture also helps keep the shoulders over the hips. This stops slouching and helps the body to feel more comfortable when sat for extended periods of time.
If you have a knee or ankle injury, this posture should be avoided or modifications should be made to make the pose accessible. As always, speak with your teacher or doctor before practicing postures you are unsure about.
To make the pose more accessible, you can practice this posture sitting on a block or bolster.
– Savasana (Corpse Pose) Final Relaxation –
Savasana is also known as corpse pose. It is a very restorative and relaxing posture and very accessible. It allows the body to enter a deep state of rest and relaxation.
Savasana is often practiced at the end of class to allow the practice to sink into both the muscle and mind memory. This helps to soothe the nervous system and bring calm to the mind.
As Savasana is so relaxing, sometimes it can be challenging for the mind and the body to maintain the awareness needed for meditation. It’s recommended to sit or kneel, but if this isn’t accessible this is a wonderful place to start. Its recommended to start sitting or kneeling if possible, then come down to Savasana to finish the meditation. This way, you will be able to build up your practice gradually.
Preparing for meditation and deep relaxation mentally.
– Environment –
Environment is really important for stilling and calming the mind.
I often find if I try to meditate in a cluttered, untidy space I struggle to find that quiet I am looking for. I often even hoover the floor before meditation!
Try to have a peaceful, calm relaxing and tidy space. A space with no distractions from friends, partners or family.
Prepare the area and have cushions, bolsters, mats or anything else you might feel you need.
perhaps light a candle, or burn some incense.
– Space and Time –
I always set out a block of time, where I know I won’t be disturbed. I have my phone on silent, or turned off. I give myself permission to have the space and time to practice.
‘Invite Stillness into your life’Eckhart Tolle
One great tip I was given, was to use a meditation app to time meditations. This is so our mind doesn’t get fixated on the clock, or time passing. There are many great meditation apps, but my favourite is insight timer. It is free and a great resource.
– Practice with loving kindness and friendliness-
Practice with a light smile on your face.
Invite loving kindness and friendliness into the heart and mind.
When we practice in this way, it helps us build self compassion and compassion for others.
It relaxes and soothes the nervous system and helps us soothe the heart and still the mind.
Sit with unpleasant thoughts and feelings, remember meditation is a life long process and to still the mind takes time, practice and dedication.
As days, weeks, months and years of practice go by, you will find you can drop into stilling the heart and mind more easily.