the proper sitting posture for meditation
Typical sitting posture vs. meditation posture
1. Low back - The way flat seats round our low backs is a major reason so many people eventually have weak low backs and experience pain there. It doesn't help that most people sit an awful lot. We are the first walking apes, our pelvis has been extensively modified to allow that to happen. Unfortunately, sitting with this modified pelvis hasn't turned out to be easy. 1. Low back - Notice how your low back curves forward when you stand up from a standard flat chair. That is the position your back is designed for, the one where it is stable. If you stand nice and straight - your weight falling from your head down through your heels (not your toes), butt-cheeks relaxed, head centered over your shoulders - your pelvis will be at the ideal angle. The tilted chair preserves that angle. In this position your low back curves much further forward than when seated on a flat chair. If your posture is correct this area can relax completely. If you notice it is tense, it may be that you have rolled your pelvis a little too far forward, and the muscles tense reflexively because they are scrunched up, or your pelvis is too far back and your low back needs to pull to keep your torso from falling forward, or your pelvis is fine but your upper body is too far forward, again making it necessary for your low back muscles to pull it up.
2. Mid back - Long-term poor posture sometimes creates a hump here, and it can be chronically sore. Your trapezius muscles connect to your spine here. They are the largest muscles in your upper back, so if your head is too far forward (which is extremely common) they work constantly to keep your head up. If your shoulders are rounded forwards too, very common among people who read, drive, or type a lot, the muscles here work even harder. 2. Mid back - Moving your low back forwards brings this spot forwards too. With some practise, you will see how this lets you relax your shoulders so they fall back, and how this lets you tilt up your whole ribcage. Then this area can really relax. Breathing becomes noticeably easier when this position is ideal. It also allows you shoulders to roll around quite loosely. Try rolling them and see if that helps you find the right position.
3. Neck - With your back slumped, your head has to come way forwards in order to create a manageable weight distribution. Chairs with tilted backs make this even worse, despite being popular for the way they help our low backs relax. Since the vertabrae in your neck are thus tilted way forwards, the muscles at the base of your skull then have to bunch up and work hard to keep your head even close to level. 3. Neck - Stacking the vertebrae in your neck up squarely over your shoulders allows the muscles at the back of your neck to finally relax. When they do, your chin drops down and in. If you feel muscles in the area working, your head may not be far enough back, or it may not be level, you may need to swivel it up. This is also a common area of habitual tension - you may find over and over that muscles there have tensed up for no reason and need to be relaxed. You may also find you have tilted your head to one side or the other and need to straighten it.
4. Jaw - When your head is craned forward, muscles going from the inside of your jaw to your neck vertebra pull your jawbone back. Then the muscles running between the corners of your jaw and your cheekbones have to work to keep your mouth closed. 4. Jaw - If your head is properly balanced, the way your chin tucks in moves your jaw forwards. The muscles around your jaw can then relax. Your tongue is also pushed forwards by the tucked position, it will rest against the roof of your mouth.
5. Shoulders - Slumping causes your shoulders to roll forwards, tightening up your chest. This is greatly aggravated when we use our arms while seated this way - reading, eating, typing, driving. In fact, while standing too, as soon as you start using your arms, it is hard not to fall into the standing version of this same slumped posture. The weight of your arms in front of you, and of your head as you tilt it to look at what you are doing, pulls your ribcage down, which you compensate for by rolling your hips back, and then to compensate for that, you shift your weight forward onto the balls of your feet. We really have a sub-optimal design for a tool-using biped. It's a shame more prototyping wasn't done. 5. Shoulders - Your shoulders can move back when your spine is well aligned, which stretches out your chest. For many people, they will also lower once relaxed. They tend to get hunched up by the way our arms work.
6. Chest and Belly - Having a slumped torso compresses all the vital organs located there. It's just a slight compression, but it definitely makes a difference. This is the factory floor of your body, where all the important stuff is made and shipped out. Making everything a bit harder to pump around, air a little harder to get in and get out, slows everything down and things get a bit backed up. This compression develops the habit in us of using not just our diaphragm to breathe, but also our abdominals. Once the habit is there it's the way we breathe all the time, lying down, standing, or sitting. This tends to make our breathing shallower, which isn't healthy. 6. Chest and Belly - Good meditation posture lengthens out your spine a great deal, lifts your ribcage and clears a lot of extra space in your belly. Everything moves freely, breathing is easy.