Some people make a big deal about body postures for meditation.
It is important, but if you're new to meditation, don't worry
too much. Physical discomfort and an over-pushy mental attitude
can be a hindrance, so it's important find a way of doing things
that feels fairly comfortable. Wear loose-fitting and comfortable
clothes, and (unless you're doing a walking meditation outdoors
on stony ground) it's also a good idea to take off your shoes.
Lying down can may be fine for guided fantasy meditations, or if you
have back problems, but the big problem is the possibility of falling
asleep! Falling asleep isn't recommended, if only because among other
things we are trying to develop 'concentration', and you ain't
concentrating if you're asleep!
Choose a surface that's not too soft (a carpeted floor is fine) and
lie down with the feet slightly apart, and with your arms down by your
sides, palms open. The head should not be raised too much (a thin
cushion is much better than a thick one). Rather than make a habit of
lying down to meditate, try 'working up' slowly towards say, the
half-lotus. For most meditations, closing your eyes is a good idea.
SITTING ON A CHAIR.
Choose a straight-backed chair that is just the right height for your
legs so that the legs below the knee are straight when they touch the
floor. Sit with your back against the back of the chair so that your
spine remains fairly erect (but as with most things here, don't force
it TOO much).
Let your arms rest on the top of your knees, or
alternatively put your hands together in your lap so that the back of
your right hand rests lightly on the palm of the left, with the ends
of both thumbs lightly resting against each other.
The simplest way to sit cross-legged is to use an optional thin wide
cushion or piece of foam for comfort, with the legs lightly crossed in
front of you, and the back resting lightly against a wall or chair.
This is fine, although personally I find that a half-lotus position
actually gives more support to the back than when the legs are just
loosely crossed. Similarly, practising the half-lotus without the help
of a wall behind seems to exercise the muscles of the stomach and the
back, helping to improve the posture generally, so it's a good one to
go for. Doing the half-lotus or lotus positions on a hard floor can
result in sore ankles so a thin cushion or piece of foam may again be
For newcomers to the half-lotus the first thing is to find
out which side (of your legs and hips) have the most flexibility. Sit
down and tuck the ankle of your least-flexible side well into the middle
toward the base of your spine, so that the side of this leg is fairly
flat along the floor, foam or cushion. Now hold the ankle of the other
leg with your hands and place the top of this foot down on top of your
other thigh, such that this ankle is fairly near the middle too. There
is a kind of 'gap' there for the top ankle, and with a little
experimentaion you can find the most comfortable option. Ideally the
knee of the uppermost leg should be down toward, or on, the floor.
The full-lotus usually takes a lot of practise for those of us who aren't
naturally very supple. This is the 'classic' eastern posture. Go for it
if you have the discipline to develop the suppleness (yoga, stretching,
gymnastics may help!) but it's definitely not a good idea to force
yourself into this posture for meditation if it's very uncomfortable for
you. In the full lotus posture, the tops of both feet rest on the thighs
of the opposite leg, with the knees down toward the ground. For all
cross-legged postures, the hands should be together, resting lightly in
the middle in front of the groin.
Placing the back of the right against
the palm of the left, with the ends of the two thumbs lightly touching,
feels good, but remember that nothing here is 'set in stone'.
Yes, walking! Walking meditations have been part of the practise of many
traditions for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. All I can say here
is that loose clothes and a loose body (and the right attitude -see
elsewhere) are the most important things.
Also, keep in mind that with a bit of practise, you can meditate in all
kinds of different situations. The postures mentioned here are simply
the most common.