A Comfortable Seat: Sitting Cross Legged

         

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If you’re considering seated meditation, you’ll want to know how to create the most comfortable sitting position you possibly can. Westerners are not adapted to sitting on the floor, and yoga is excellent at making the joints and muscles strong and pliable enough to accommodate a sitting position, but there are several tips that will make sitting cross legged comfortable and steady for the long haul.

One basic sitting position is called “Easy Seat,” or sitting cross legged.. The lotus pose, an advanced posture often pictured with meditation, is a variation on sitting cross legged, but with the legs intertwined and more deeply bent. Sitting cross legged gives you the basic requisites for a comfortable sitting position after just a little bit of practice. The important points, no matter what sitting position you choose, is that your pelvis is neutral, your spine is naturally stacked preserving its natural curves and your head is balanced without requiring effort or tension in the neck, throat and shoulders. Your arms should rest effortlessly on your thighs when your in this sitting position.

When sitting cross legged, elevate your hips on a blanket or firm pillow. Are your knees gently resting on the ground? If not, elevate your seat even more, perhaps with a yoga blanket or a yoga block. Alternatively, you can support your knees on a yoga blanket or yoga block. By supporting your knees in your sitting position, you’ll allow the body to release and the mind to settle and focus on your breath. By supporting your seat, you will assure that your sitting bones - the two bones that form the “feet of your pelvis” - are pointing down and that you’re not collapsing in the low back with the pelvis tilted back. Spend whatever time you need to explore these sitting variables and create your optimal sitting position. As you practice sitting cross legged regularly, you’ll notice more ease and mobility. For now, support your body exactly as you are.

Sitting with your hips elevated and your knees supported, draw one heel toward your body and allow the outside of your shin to rest along the floor. The other heel rests right in front of it, with the other shin resting on the floor as well. When sitting cross legged, your knees and pelvis should form a stable triangular base for your spine and torso.

Bring your thumbs to your low rib cage on the sides, and rest your fingers on your hipbones. Lift your ribcage evenly up from your pelvis. Feel how this engages the front and sides of your abdominal wall, supporting your low back. Place your fingers on the center of your chest, over your breastbone and lift your chest into your fingers. Allow your shoulders to fall gently down your back, away from your ears. Release any sense of gripping while maintaining the feeling of lightness in your chest as your sitting cross legged.  

To bring your head into neutral alignment over your spine, place a hand at the base of your skull and press the back of your head into your hand gently. Drop your chin  slightly. Allow your tongue to rest on the bottom of your mouth, and allow your gaze to fall on the floor about 4 feet in front of you. Consciously unfocus your gaze by relaxing the muscles around your eyes, forehead and scalp, looking not at one thing, but taking in the scene before you.

From your relaxed shoulders, allow your hands to rest comfortably anywhere along your thighs or knees, with your elbows relaxed. Your fingers can be relaxed and soft. Turn your palms up to encourage wakefulness and attention, or down to encourage your mind inward and invite rest.

If your sitting cross legged for any extended time, for breath practice or meditation perhaps, you might notice tingling in your legs, like they’re “falling asleep.” The time you’re able to sit before this happens will gradually and naturally lengthen, so don’t force yourself to be uncomfortable. At the first signs of the feeling, you might decide to stay for a moment or two, simply observing the sensation and your reaction to it. Notice any other muscles that tense or contract in reaction to the feeling and try softening them and relaxing into the feeling for just a moment or two before re-arranging your posture to support you more comfortably.


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