Video: How to Use a Chair for Meditation

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Learning how to use a chair for meditation is important. Even if you like sitting in other positions, you’ll always find moments during your day where you are in a chair and can squeeze in a quick meditation. Not all chairs are perfect. Look for a chair that has a straight back and is rather firm.  Chairs that are very soft make it difficult to sit with correct posture. In most homes the best chair for meditation is in the dining room. Dining room chairs often have the best construction and geometry for meditation.

Video Transcription:
Okay. Let’s talk about chair sitting. I’m really just going to focus here on the mechanics of sitting in a chair. So, first thing is chair that you pick, if you look at this chair, it’s got a pretty flat seat, it’s got a nice straight back and it’s solid. It’s just like a dining room chair. It’s got some padding which is great. It’s a pretty standard chair. It’s nothing special. When you’re looking for a chair, look for one that has a straight back like this, because usually a straight back chair will have a flatter seat. One that has the back reclined, usually the seat has this angle and that angle will actually go against you in meditation. Because it makes you want to slouch and fall back into the chair.

So when we’re meditating we need to get that chair to be the right height. You don’t have to go buy 50 chairs and find one that fits your body perfectly, you can just adjust it make it fit you. Right now this chair seems to fit me okay, but I like to be a little bit higher when I’m meditating. And so the easiest way to do that is to take something like…this is just your basic kind of a Mexican yoga blanket deal. So I can get probably an extra inch right there and that helps a lot. And you notice when I’m meditating I’m sitting like this, something like this. We’ll talk more about it later. I’m up on the sit bones, my spine is erect and my shoulders are relaxed, and I try to keep the head from coming forward like this, which is a habitual thing that we do. But you want to kind of have the head back and feel tall through the crown of the head, even if it feels a little unnatural at first, it takes less effort to sit with a tall spine, when everything’s kind of balanced as opposed to curved.

And so when you’re making this chair fit you, let’s say you have short legs and a tall chair, and your heels don’t reach the floor. That’s a bad sign because it’s going to make the chair put extra pressure on the back of your legs, they’ll fall asleep and stuff like that and it just becomes distracting. So same thing, you can just take a blanket and you can fold it to the height that you need and just place it beneath your feet like this. That’s not going to work for me, but if you’re a smaller person that would really help. It helps ground you and it helps you feel more connected if you can get your knees in the right position. What you’re looking for is to have the knees about the same level, the knee joints pretty even with the hip joints. And right now my knees feel high, and so I would probably stay with the blanket like this and that would be a good start.

And when you’re holding this position, arms are resting in your lap, and now the other thing is that for most of us it’s not easy to hold an erect spine. It’s not the way you normally sit. And so the first thing that happens is the lower back goes like this, and so what’s happening is I’m rolling on my tailbone and I feel the weight shifting back towards the tailbone like this and so you’re shrinking, and this is not good. So, one thing to do is just train your body to sit up by doing short sessions of meditation or short parts of your meditation where you’re sitting with a straight spine, because that will give you the chance to develop the musculature to support posture. But the other thing you can do is use tricks like taking the blanket and folding it, kind of bunching it up a little bit under the rear part of your bottom, get the soft part of your buttock back so that you feel connected on the sit bones and then you just kind of puff it up in back a little bit. So it’s actually almost like making a wedge to help resist the tendency to do this, it feels like you have more support to sit tall. Okay?

And you’re just going to have to experiment with these things. The other thing you can do, well, if you have the good fortune to have one of these, I men, there’s dog hair on it, but if you have a good fortune to have something like this, this is something that I make and we sell it at, and so that’s a pretty shameless plug. But this is not a normal sitting wedge that you can see that you can but for 20 bucks that has foam in it. This costs a lot more. And it costs a lot more because it’s better. And the reason it’s better is because it has different densities of foam so that the bottom stays a wedge shape, and then it just has a cushion on the top and it’s really just made for meditation, but dog hair sticks to it. And so when I’m sitting on this wedge, if I move forward, I’m in a lower position but I still have the wedge support, and if I move back, I’m in a higher position but I still have that wedge feeling and I can get the height that I like. Okay?

And so this is how I sit. And it kind of makes it . . . it would not be comfortable to sit like this all the time, but for meditation, it almost makes you feel like you’re tumbling forward a little bit and that keeps you from slouching. It actually feels difficult to slouch now, so the tendency is to be like this. It takes a while to find your balance, and to find your place and you just close your eyes, lift your gaze and you kind of rock a little bit forward, a little bit back, a little bit left, a little bit right. And so for my body today, right about here feels right. Okay.

And so you might need more support than you can get from something like that wedge, if you’re not used to sitting with a tall posture. Another thing you can do to get more support, this is a crescent shaped meditation cushion. You can use any pillow but these seem to work best if you have one around. And you kind of just push it in that gap and you adjust the height until you feel like you’re getting the right amount of support. I really like to have it for my body down pretty low. It’s more effective than the wedge, it’s more effective than what I did on the blanket and it really just gives you more support so you can sit tall and you feel like it’s not as physical, it’s more relaxing to sit tall. And you just have to experiment, to find the right pillow and the right situation for you.

The only other thing I can think of is that with your hands, usually when you’re sitting in a chair it’s pretty easy just to get the hands and just rest them on the thighs in a way that feels comfortable and you’re just relaxing the muscles up here, you’re relaxing the arms and feeling like everything’s heavy and you’re arms are being supported by your legs, they’re in a natural position for you. Yogis recommend the hands be close to the thigh and hip connection here and for me that’s a little close, but what I do, I don’t have the right shirt, but if I had a big sweatshirt I’d actually kind of go like this, and put my hands inside of the shirt. That works really well. Actually that’s really comfortable and if I was going to meditate right now, this would feel pretty good.

And now I’m going to show you, kind of like the finished thing, and I’m going to put the layer of silk and wool, the layer of silk underneath me, so you can see what that looks like. So, in your meditation area you want to have all the props, you want to have the right chair. If you need ear muffs to protect you from sound distractions, a cup of water. All these things would be in your meditation space. But experiment and find the right chair and play with it, and sitting in a chair is definitely one of the best ways to meditate.