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 on your feet comfortable and steady for the long haul.
One basic sitting position is sitting on your feet, “Japanese style.” Sitting Japanese style gives you the basic requisites for comfort with hardly any yoga practice. The important points, no matter what sitting position you chose, 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. When sitting your arms should rest effortlessly on your thighs. Use props freely at first; pillows under your seat on top of your shins to reduce the angle of the knee and the weight borne directly on the shins can be just the ticket to create a comfortable sitting position.
When sitting on your feet, come down to the floor on all fours with your feet directly behind your knees, toes pointed away from your body, but relaxed. Kneel on a blanket or thick yoga mat beneath your lower legs for a cushion, especially for your knees and the tops of your feet. Slowly and gently lower your body back until you are sitting on your feet. Sitting like this has the benefit of compressing the lower legs and releasing the muscles, but can be limited by tightness in the knees or thighs. If you get to a point in lowering to a sitting position that feels constrictive in any way - stop way before you might feel pain - stop and place a yoga block, cushion or stack of blankets on top of your heels and shins and rest your sitting bones on that support.
If your ankles are tight in this sitting position, roll a towel or use a rolled up yoga mat and place it under the front of your ankles. You can reduce the thickness of this support gradually over time as your joints become open to this movement.
Your pelvis will be supported in a neutral position in this sitting position. If you feel any sense of collapse in your low back or unease in your legs, support your posture with a blanket between your shins and thighs.
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.
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 you are in this sitting position 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.