As we focus this month on meditation our minds may drift to a calming visual: Seated cross legged, hands gently resting in lap, straight back, closed eyes, and a peaceful expression. For many of us, though, this seated position is not one that is comfortable, peaceful, or sustainable. As a physical therapist I’ve often heard frustration that someone cannot practice meditation because it is uncomfortable or they stop their practice due to pain. This is either due to the misconception that meditation is to be performed while seated in lotus position or an unwillingness to modify an already established seated practice.
Most of us do not have the mobility to sit on the floor with good alignment in the pelvis and spine. The resulting faulty alignment – often a slouched, hunched forward posture – stresses the lower back, upper back, neck, and shoulders. Placing a cushion under the pelvis can lift the hips allowing for a more neutral position. Think of the pelvis as a bowl that you do not want to spill forwards or backwards.
But some of us need a LOT of cushion which can get a bit wobbly. In these cases a chair may be better. Sitting on the front edge of a chair allows the muscles of the trunk to be more active as they work to maintain an upright posture. Nestling back in the chair using the back of the chair to support the body allows the muscles to be more restful. Find a position so the mind is less distracted by discomfort.
If your knees and ankles are flexible then kneeling with hips resting on the heels may be a more comfortable posture. Placing a block or cushion between the buttocks and heels allows the knees to be not as tightly bent. Placing a folded blanket under the shins decreases the stress on the ankles.
Standing and walking meditations are other options for positioning. Standing with feet rooted into the ground and allowing the body to rise up lets the body and mind both be still. A slow walking meditation lets the body move while the mind can focus.
Don’t let an aversion to sitting stop you from beginning or continuing a meditation practice. And if you find that you are limited from your practice (or any activity, really) due to pain maybe it’s time to see your physical therapist!

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