Video: How to Sit Cross Legged

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Learning how to sit cross legged for meditation is only important if you really want to sit this way and have the ability to do so. It is not a requirement for meditation and the benefits of this posture are very subtle and will not be experienced by those who are not able to completely relax in this position. In other words, it’s just not for everyone.

Video Transcription:
Okay. Let’s talk about sitting on the floor. There are many different cross-legged positions. I’m not gonna go through all of those right now. The main thing is just to find one that works for you. The way I’m sitting right now is the way my body is most comfortable. And the way you get into this, this is not gonna work for everybody, but you just one thing I will say, let’s say you’re trying to move towards sitting cross legged on the floor, since some people seem to think it’s very important. I personally don’t. But this is a little stretch you can do, you can have your legs like this, in a diamond shape and see how there’s 18 inches or a couple feet from my heels to my pelvis. Don’t do anything that strains your knees but be in this position on a cushion or not and try to almost arch your back, and feel like your bringing your navel toward the floor like this is your stretch, okay? You’re not pulling, you’re not forcing, you’re just using the weight of your body.

This is stretching the muscles that need to open so you can sit cross legged. When I’m gonna sit cross legged for a while I’ll often begin with the stretch, and so I’m keeping the spine erect and the chest open so that the stretching is happen in the hips. Then if you wanted to you can relax the spine, okay. That’s the direction. So if you’re able to sit cross legged one way is to take, you could take your left foot if you like, you could use either one. See if you could lay it down like this. Then take the right, and see if you can lay it down like that. This is not a perfect yoga posture but this is how I like to meditate. Let’s say you try to do this and your knees aren’t coming to the floor. They need to be down, you need to be grounded, the knees should be below the hips.

So let’s say you end up looking like this. There’s two things you can do. You can take something to support the knees and that actually feels nice, and the other you can do is you can get either a thicker cushion or you can take something like this, you can just use a blanket or a pillow and put it underneath your cushion to get up higher. And the weird thing is just the mechanics of the situation. As you get higher it gets easier to bring the knees down, but what’s happening is you’re kind of bringing everything forward. You’re just changing the angles in the posture, okay? This is way too high for me. It doesn’t feel really comfortable for my body. But if you need to, you can experiment. I think what happened was is that wedge is making it a little bit too high. But if you just have a nice thick cushion or support your legs like this, this will take some of the weight off the ankles and stuff like that.

The hands will be facing upward, and you’ll find that when your sitting in a cross-legged position you can use where you place your arms to kind of help hold your body a little bit more forward or a little bit back, depending on what works for you. Chest open, shoulders relaxed, and the spine tall through the crown of the head. And so other positions would be like what we call a simple cross legged, like this. I don’t like this position but some people do and it might work for you. That’s one thing you can try. Another one would be something like a version of half lotus, like this. And what you’re looking for when you start moving into half lotus or full lotus when you bring the other foot over is you wanna make sure you don’t feel any instability in your knee. If you do get out of the posture..okay?

It comes from hip flexibility. You don’t want flexibility in this direction in your knees, you want it in your hips, okay? But if you’re comfortable in whatever cross-legged posture you choose, make sure that your legs are supported and they’re not hanging out in the air like this. Okay? Because when you’re meditating you forget about this, or your legs go to sleep and there’s a constant tension on the joint. So you would definitely want to have, if you don’t need a lot, even just a little support for that leg. Then as you’re meditating and you start to feel anything weird in the knees, don’t just feel it and ignore it, listen to it and get out of that position. Okay?

And so what I’ve got here is I’ve got a soft, it’s a firm blanket but it adds padding to the floor folded beneath me and I’ve got wool over it that my grandmother made, and I like to sit on that kind of thing. And so my position again is more in this direction. It’s a version of siddhasana, palms facing upward, open heart, and I’m using this crescent shaped cushion. There’s all different kinds, you can find something. Cushions that aren’t soft like this, you can get one that’s got buckwheat holes in it, and it actually adjusts to your body and you can adjust the angles in it. The only thing with those is they are a little noisy when you’re moving them around. And when you sit on them a long time they feel like cement, they’re pretty hard. But they do hold the shape that you want.

And here is a side view with a straight spine so legs are relaxed. There’s enough flexibility to allow the spine to be in this upright vertical position, and then here is a shot. It’s very similar but you’ll notice that I’m just leaning forward a little bit and this is actually more the direction that I’m sitting when I’m actually meditating. I just feel it’s a little bit easier to hold the straight spine in that position. And then here’s an image of what it would look like if your hamstrings, your hips are not flexible enough yet. Or if you’re just not having good posture, you don’t know what to do with your body yet. This is slouching and this is what you want to avoid, okay? Much better if this is what your posture is looking like from the side, then what you want to do is get on a higher pillow or use a meditation bench. Or possibly sit in a chair until you develop the ability to sit with that straight spine.

And if you really wanna sit on the floor then be doing yoga every day or at least three or four days a week when your body’s nice and warm. Or after you exercise when you’re cooling down and do hip opening exercises and things like that to teach you to lengthen your spine and keep it straight. So sitting a ball instead of a chair where you’re reclining, like a physio ball. Or sitting up straight at the dining room table when you’re eating dinner or sitting up straight in any position when you’re meditating, these things will help you develop the ability to sit with a tall spine and actually feel very good and very relaxed for long periods of time.