Prop Yourself Up in Meditation
Meditation in a seated position requires great effort to hold such a simple seat diligently for long periods of time. What if there was a way to make this a little easier on the body for the sake of the mind? Over the course of the evolution of meditation, several types of meditation cushions and props have been designed. These props make sitting in meditation more comfortable so the practitioner can meditate longer, therefore receiving greater benefit from the practice. But comfort is not the only factor here- proper alignment of the body while seated is essential. It is important that the spine is long with the hips relaxed and chest open in good alignment. One must never compromise the integrity of the spine during meditation. After all, the mind and body are connected. Some of these types of meditation cushions include props such as the zafu, zabuton, and meditation stool. While they all have similarities, they each serve a different function. They originate from Eastern styles of meditation in particular, like in the zazen tradition, but can be utilized for any style of meditation to promote comfort and ease.  

The Zafu

This type of meditation cushion, the zafu, is a round pillow commonly used in the zazen style of Buddhist meditation from Japan. The word itself is Japanese and translates to “sewn seat”. They are traditionally made out of soft, plant-based fibers. Their purpose is to elevate the hips while in a seated cross-legged position, which helps lengthen the spine and relax the hips for comfort during meditation.   Traditional practitioners of zazen meditation perform a gassho ritual of bowing to the meditation cushion, their teachers and the other meditators in the session before starting and after finishing. However, this type of meditation cushion can be used for any sort of seated meditation, too.

The Zabuton

The zabuton is another kind of meditation cushion that originates from Japan, which can be used with or without the zafu. Whereas the zafu is round, the zabuton is square. In traditional zazen meditation, it is used as an additional cushion underneath the zafu. It allows additional comfort for the legs and knees in particular. However, it can also be used as meditation cushion on its own without the zafu for other styles of meditation.

Meditation Stool

For those unable to sit on their hips comfortably in a cross-legged position, a meditation stool is available for them to practice meditation on. Also called a meditation bench, these meditation stools are small benches typically made out of wood. However, the position one meditates in on this bench is different from the cushions. To use the meditation stool, the practitioner must assume the seiza position, which is a kneeling position. It is performed by kneeling on the knees and sitting the hips on the bench. Here, the hips are still elevated to lengthen the spine and release any discomfort from pressure on the feet. Have you tried any of these meditation props? They can be a life-changing way to enhance any meditation practice for greater peace and stress relief for the body and mind.