How to use a meditation bench.
Learn how to adjust your meditation bench and how to sit comfortably for longer periods of time. Meditation on a bench is often easier than sitting directly on the floor. Here are some tips on how to use a meditation bench so you’ll be able to sit for longer periods in comfort, and meditate more deeply.
These instructions are focused on using a meditation bench, but kneeling in vajrasana without a bench is a good meditation posture too and what follows applies to both ways of sitting. For most people kneeling without the aid of a meditation bench is not realistic after 10 or 15 minutes. Either way, always “listen” to your body. Do not force it into any position or ignore any signs of pain in your knees, ankles or hips.
Begin by kneeling on a folded blanket, (soft wool is good). Lean forward and place the meditation bench on your bottom and hold it in position as you sit down. This is a good way to start and usually sets up the bench perfectly. If needed you can also adjust the angle of your bench until you feel that your lower spine is in a neutral position. This means your navel is not spilling forward from an excessively curved lower back, and you are not rolling your weight rearward onto your tailbone causing your spine to become rounded. Work between these two extremes to see what feels best, and remember that it’s ok to adjust the bench angle as needed. Smaller adjustments are usually better than large ones. Learning exactly how to use a meditation bench for your own body takes a little time. Be patient and tune in to what your body is telling you.
Now imagine that your spine is like a straight rod supporting your upper body from within. Allow your outer muscles to relax. Good posture comes from within, and with daily practice will become very comfortable over a period of months (not days, sorry) if you are not used to sitting upright already. Lengthening the spine vertically is key to success in any meditation posture, but you must also use some energy to feel that you are “relaxing upward from within.” Try to strike a balance between effort and relaxation.
Meditate with a feeling of “lightness in the spine.” A feeling of heaviness suggests that you are becoming too passive. A feeling of tension suggests you are not relaxed enough.
If kneeling on a meditation bench you’ll need a place to rest your hands that supports the weight of your arms. I use a blanket that is wrapped around the lower portion of my body and make a pouch to place my hands in with my palms facing upward. Adjust the blanket so that your arms are near your hips and are supported well enough that you don’t feel their weight pulling down on your shoulders –at all. Or try putting your hands inside of a sweater, or in the pockets of a “hoody” type pull-over. Whatever you use, it should fully support the weight of your arms while you relax in your meditation posture.
Having the hands separated helps to open the chest by pointing the elbows rearward slightly. This helps to reduce the tendency to slouch forward while stimulating the energy of the heart chakra. A small amount of tension between the shoulder blades is good and also helps to slightly open the chest. Do not arch the spine, but feel inwardly that your heart area wants to naturally rise upward.
Most of us need to slide the head rearward to bring the head over the shoulders. Keep your chin level with the floor. You might want to have a friend look at your posture from the side and ask them to see if your head is centered over the shoulders and that your shoulders are centered over your hips.
Don’t use what “feels comfortable or natural” as your only guide. People often feel awkward when the spine is in alignment because they are used to having poor posture. Have a friend compare your posture to the images on our website and explain to you what they see. This will help you learn how to feel your way into good alignment on your own. The meditation posture you choose and the way you approach it will have a strong influence on your actual practice of meditation.
Learning how to use your meditation bench is just as important has having the right one.
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