The Right Sitting Position for Pranayama and Meditation

Updated: Feb 18

How to sit right for Meditation, Pranayama and other spiritual practices is a big question and a topic of struggles for beginners and practitioners alike.

To find the perfect pose can take some time and requests respect for yourself and your unique physical conditions. When you find your personal position, you can sit without effort or discomfort for long hours. The right pose will allow your energy to flow and deepen your spiritual practice.

When do I sit right?

You have found your perfect pose when

  • You can sit without any effort

  • Your position is stable

  • You are completely relaxed in your position

  • Your spine is straight

  • Your foundation is stable

  • Blood circulates normally (no numbness)

Sthira Sukham Asanam

Patanjali´s Yoga Sutra about the nature of Asanas states that a pose (Asana) should be stable (Sthira) and comfortable (Sukam). The serenity of the body allows the practitioner to dwell deep inside and lets the energy (Prana) flow freely through our whole being.

To find stability in our pose, build a strong foundation to sit on.

Whether you sit on a chair or on the floor, with or without support, doesn´t matter when it comes to the principles of sitting.

1. Stable Foundation

To sit stable, like a Pyramid, we need to sit on our natural tools, our sitting bones. The spine is balanced freely upon this foundation. The hips should be free, so we can still tilt our pelvic forward and backward without obstruction. The knees are always lower or at the same level as our hips, so that the energy can flow freely in the position.

Make sure that you sit high enough otherwise there will be a pressure on the hips which transfers onto the next joints, our knees and ankles! Use support to cushion your legs individually and find the right support for your grounding.

2. Straight spine

Our spine is not linear but shaped in a double-s-curve to bring us the stability and flexibility we need to be upright. The intensity of the lordosis (convex curve) and kyphosis (concave curve) in the spine differs individually. No one looks like pictures in anatomy books, but we all have unique conditions and an individual harmony in our physique. So, every sitting position will look a bit different from person to person. When we stand up straight and relaxed, without effort, our spine is straight. The chest is open and the shoulders are hanging down without tension. The neck is long and the chin remains parallel to the ground. The highest point of our head is in straight line with the base of our spine, our coccyx. The head is facing forward and not tilted in any direction.

When we sit down our spine remains in the exact same position.

Watch out for the curve in your lower back!

As you sit down on the floor, your support or a chair keep your hands at your lower back and observe the curve. The curve has to remain the same. If it flattens then level up your support to keep your lordosis and your hips mobile. When your spine remains in the same position as in standing up you have found the right hight for support.

3. Support for sitting

As a support for your sitting position, you can use anything that allows you to sit stable and effortless. The legs can be cushioned individually to avoid blocks in the energy flow. Some suggestions here

  • Folded blanket/towel

  • Sitting cushion

  • Meditation bench

  • Pillow

  • Yoga block…

4. Effortlessness and Free Energy Flow

After some minutes of sitting, you may observe that some tension builds up or limbs become numb. Often pain in the hips, knees or ankles occur and without respecting the signal of the body we might end up hurting our-self. So, if numbness or pain arises, we have to change the position so that no nerves or vessels are squeezed and allow the energy to flow again. Stretching or changing the legs in crossed-leg positions is a good way to counter the problem during a session. Yet, the sitting position should be adapted, so it won´t happen again.

A little journey of trial and error is normal until you find your perfect sitting position.

5. Crossed-legs or parallel legs?

We all have seen pictures of meditating persons sitting blissful in the so-called Lotus seat. Most people cannot sit like this as the hips are not open enough for this advanced asana. Whether you want to cross your legs and take one of the many Yoga positions or sit with parallel legs is completely up to you and your personal composition.

If you choose to sit with crossed legs make sure that you change the legs every day or every meditation session so that your body remains balanced.

Vajrasana Lotus seat- Padmasana

6. Mudras for eyes and hands

It is not necessary to form a Mudra with your hands during meditation. Yet, you can intensify certain aspects of your practice or use a Mudra as treatment for ailments. You can read more about Mudras in this article. Holding the palms upward opens your system towards energies. You can feel more of your surroundings and receive cosmic energy. With the palms facing down you close your system more. It helps to remain with yourself and hinder disturbances from penetrating your energy field.

I recommend to keep your eyes closed so that the visual stimulus is excluded and your inner sensation increases. Yet, there are practices with open or half-closed eyes as well like Trataka or rolling the closed eyes up.

7. Tips to correct the position- Indications

Tension builds up in the lower back Your lower back muscles cannot relax because they have to hold the position. Level up your sitting to relieve your lower back

Knees are painful after some time Too much pressure on the knee, adjust your sitting height and make sure your hips are mobile like in standing position.

Neck is tilting backward and shoulder falling forwardlevel up your sitting position.

8. Start easy and adjust over time

As much as we want to sit like in a Yoga journal, we have to respect our physical limitations and needs. In the west we grow up sitting on chairs, not on the floor. Mostly our hips are closed and an advanced Yoga position will bring discomfort and eventually injuries. Most important is the position of your spine and that you sit straight in comfort and without any effort. So, feel free to start you sitting Meditation or Pranayama practice on a chair or use enough support. When you practice Asanas and sitting postures your hips will open and your sitting support has to level down bit by bit. You will have to adjust your height and cushions according to your progress in flexibility.

Watch out! Even without stretching your hips will open up through mental practice and meditative states alone. Be prepared for changes.

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