Meditation Posture 101 Guide (+ Supporting Equipment)

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Buddha in Full Lotus

When most people picture a meditation posture what usually comes to mind first is the lotus posture that the Buddha is typically shown in.

Crossed legged on the floor with each foot on top of the opposite thigh.

In reality, the majority of meditators do not sit in full lotus posture because they don’t have the natural flexibility to sit in this position for an extended period of time.

Not to mention, if you don’t have the natural flexibility, you may end up causing harm to your knees and legs if you try too hard to force this position.

If someone is an advanced meditator, a monk, or has excellent flexibility they may be able to work up to the full lotus position, but for most people, it just isn’t possible.

The good news is that there are many different styles of meditation posture and as long as you find a position that is comfortable and allows you to maintain wakefulness, you should be able to meditate comfortably.

In this guide, I’ll go over important physical considerations, the main postures, how to choose which posture is best, the equipment that can support your practice, and pitfalls to avoid.

Main Considerations With Any Meditation Posture

There are a few physical considerations that should ideally be met in any sitting meditation posture you take.

1. Spine Is Lengthened & Balanced

Ideally, the spine should be erect, straight, and balanced evenly. The shoulders should be able to relax back and down. When the spine is lengthened it activates alertness in the brain and the mind wakes up.

A lengthened spine literally helps the body to be more alert.

2. Hips Are Higher Than The Knees

When the hips are higher than the knees it allows for the pelvis to naturally position itself to support a lengthened spine.

If the knees are higher than the hips (sitting on the floor without a cushion or slouched in a low chair) the pelvis tilts back and you can’t maintain a lengthened spine.

When the hips are higher than the knees it should create a slight tilt in the pelvis and allow the spine to align in a more steady upright position.

If you sit in a chair you will probably need to add a cushion for more height or get a chair that extends higher up vertically to allow your knees more space.

If this is challenging try experimenting with raising the hips up even higher.

3. The Whole Body Is Able To Relax Into The Posture Without Holding

The goal with any meditation posture is to get the hips higher than the knees, achieve a straight spine that promotes alertness, and have the ability to let go and relax into your posture.

If you have to use any physical effort to maintain your posture and you can’t fully relax this will take away from your meditation.

For example, in photos you often see models sitting in a cross-legged position without a cushion and if their knees are higher than their hips they will have to use a lot of conscious effort to hold their body up in that posture. This is not ideal for meditating because the body is not able to relax and focus on concentration techniques or awareness.

Ideally, once you are established in your posture you should be able to completely relax and focus on meditating not on holding your body in place.

Other Posture Tips While Sitting

  • Try to relax your jaw
  • Try to relax your arms and allow some space between the arms and side body
  • Try to place your head centered and think of it getting slightly lifted with a string

The key is to find a posture that is comfortable for you that allows a straight upright spine and the ability to let go of holding while maintaining alertness.

Sitting Meditation Postures

Meditation can be practiced in 4 different positions. 

Sitting, standing, walking, and lying down.

These are all of the positions that our body inhabits throughout our life.

Below are the main sitting meditation postures.

  1. Full Lotus– Legs crossed with both feet resting on opposite thighs
  2. Half Lotus– Legs crossed with one foot resting on the opposite thigh
  3. Quarter Lotus– Legs crossed with both feet below the opposite thigh
  4. Burmese Posture– Both feet laying flat on the floor without crossing legs
  5. Seiza (bench or zafu)– Legs under the body with knees forward and top of feet against the floor
  6. Chair (regular or ergonomic)– Legs on the ground sitting upright and straight

If you have good flexibility then sitting in a cross-legged position (half-lotus, quarter, or Burmese) using a zafu meditation cushion on top of a zafu meditation mat might be your ideal posture.

People who are less flexible in the hips and knees may find that using a seiza posture (bench or cushion) with the legs under the hips or a chair with adequate support is ideal.

Just keep in mind that any of these postures can work just fine as long as your hips are above your knees, you can maintain a relatively straight spine, and you’re able to relax in the position without having to hold your body up.

For any of the lotus positions, it’s usually best to place the zafu cushion near the back of your zabuton mat and have your butt on the end of the cushion to create a slight angle for proper alignment of the hips and knees angling slightly down towards the floor.

If sitting in the seiza posture with either a bench or cushion to prop up the hips just remember that a higher lift can ease up some of the tension on the knees.

For chair sitting, just make sure the hips are higher than the knees. You can get a cushion to sit on and move more towards the end of the chair to maintain an alert posture.

Which Meditation Posture is Best?

The meditation posture that’s best is going to depend on your flexibility and comfort in the various positions.

If you’re someone who has a hard time even sitting cross-legged and getting into any of the lotus style positions then try sitting in a chair or in seiza style with a cushion or bench.

If you’re someone who is more flexible then using a meditation cushion on a mat in one of the cross-legged postures such as quarter lotus or Burmese may be great.

You will need to experiment with sitting in the different postures to find out what your ideal position is. Also, keep in mind that you can vary the positions and alternate between sitting on the floor vs in a chair depending on any soreness you experience.

Listen to your body and be kind. Over time if your flexibility improves then you can always try different positions again to see how they feel. If sitting cross-legged isn’t for you don’t stress about it. As long as you can maintain a posture that keeps you alert and comfortable that’s all that matters.

Personally, I sit in a chair with a cushion to prop up my hips to get them higher than my knees and I also sit in seiza posture sometimes with a cushion. I’m not naturally flexible in the hip area so when I sit too much in a cross-legged posture I can develop knee aching.

Sitting Meditation Equipment

Below are the main props used in sitting meditation:

  1. Zafu– A round cushion that is used for sitting in meditation. The zafu raises the hips and provides padding making the position more comfortable and stable. They are usually made of cotton or buckwheat.
  2. Zabuton– A zabuton is a rectangular padded mat that is used under the zafu cushion to provide padding and comfort to the knees and legs. 
  3. Seiza Bench– A seiza bench is a meditation bench that is made for meditators to sit on it with their legs underneath the bench.
  4. Other Cushions– There are also rectangular zafu cushions called Gomdens, moon-shaped cushions, and other variations of cushions in different shapes that provide padding for the knees and legs. It’s best to test a number of different variations until you find the best ones to support your sitting style.

The key when selecting any cushions that can support your practice is to find the ones that fit with the position you sit in and provide the necessary padding and comfort for the posture you use.

Below are important considerations when selecting a cushion:

  1. What is the right distance for you between your bottom and the floor? The goal is that you are high enough off the meditation mat so your thighs angle downward from your hips.
  2. Will you sit cross-legged on the floor or use a bench or chair? Are your knees ok being on the floor or do they need to be off the floor in a chair or cushion that allows that.

If sitting cross-legged on the floor you will be looking at zafus and zabutons for cushioning. 

If you can’t sit cross-legged on the floor then you will be looking at benches, zabutons, and chairs. 

If your knees can’t go on the ground then you will be looking at chairs and benches that allow for the knees off the ground.

Meditation Posture Pitfalls to Avoid

These are the main pitfalls to avoid in any meditation posture.

  1. Arching– When pushing the chest out arching in the back can occur
  2. Slouching– When the pelvis tips back, back rounds, and shoulders/head slump forward
  3. Efforting head– When head starts to tilt up and reach
  4. Legs falling asleep or discomfort– When legs fall asleep and get uncomfortable
  5. Sleepiness– Usually occurs when posture is slouched and your body is tired


Hopefully, this quick meditation posture guide helped you understand what the best way to sit in meditation is and what equipment might be ideal for your sitting practice.

A few resources to check out that I used to learn and get information from for this guide were:

Just keep in mind that the best posture for you is the one that’s comfortable and allows you to sit upright, alert, and relaxed for an extended period of time. 

If you need to sit in a chair that’s perfectly fine. If you can sit cross-legged in the lotus position on the ground then I’m jealous of your flexibility. 

Find a position that’s most comfortable and easy to maintain, then purchase the necessary supporting cushions to allow for comfort and ease. 

Photo of author


Josh is a writer and entrepreneur who runs a small digital content publishing business. His main interests are in topics related to developing personal and financial freedom. When not working he enjoys reading, yoga, surfing, being outdoors, meditating, exploring, and hanging with friends.