Do you struggle in meditation posture, or avoid meditation because you assume it’s agonizing? I’ve created a four-point checklist, called STAG, that helps meditators create a posture with stability and openness.
Fifteen years ago, I was first given meditation instruction during a time of chaos in my life. The teacher mentioned posture almost as an aside. Be upright. Don’t slump.
This worked for about three or four minutes which, considering I was on a weeklong meditation retreat, meant that back pain was to be my transcendent experience. I remember very little else about this retreat other than trying to get comfortable on cushions, in chairs, leaning against poles, laying down at any spare moment.
In hindsight, the advice was overly simplistic. If good posture was simply sitting up straight, we’d all have mastered it by now. That’s why I created a short video that leads you through the four points of an effective meditation posture. This is a checklist that, after viewing the video, you can run through briefly before beginning your meditation practice, or just sitting at your desk. I developed these four steps to a sustainable meditation posture after years of working with my own posture and hundreds of students.
S for Sit bones – The first step is to feel the support of the ground through your spine and joints. Too often, in an effort to have “good” posture, we pull ourselves up (chest up, shoulders back), and while we may feel that we aren’t slumping, we are also disconnected from the ground and thereby adding a lot of extra tension and stress on our system. Imagine your sit bones are part of the earth.
T for Top of Spine – Place your index fingers near the opening of your ear, on the bone towards the top of your jaw that moves when you chew. If you move your jaw up and down you will feel that bone (near where sideburns would be if you had them) move. This is close to the top of your spine, which for many of us is higher than we had previously thought. Nod your head yes and no, knowing that the movement can take place as high up as where your fingers would meet in the middle of your skull. This is the top of your spine, and reminding yourself of its location reinforces your posture without strain.
A for Arms – Allow your arms to dangle by your side. Think for a couple moments, ‘I don’t have to get my arms ready, I’m not doing anything at all with my arms for a good hour or so.’ Then, after a couple moments (not an hour), allow your fingertips to lead the movement of your hands to rest on your thighs.
G for Gaze – Let your eyes rest on the floor about five to six feet in front of you. Often as we sit, our head progressively slumps forward and down. Give yourself the thought that light and vision are coming up to you, and being processed at the back of the skull, roughly around the same height as the top of your spine. There is a sense that you don’t need to lean forward to see anything but can be more passive, like the aperture of the camera, allowing visual input to come up to you. This reinforces a regal sense of posture, where you aren’t stooping because of what you’re looking at.
I hope you find the video useful in developing an easeful sitting posture. For those of you who are able to attend my workshop, Your Body Is Your Practice, this Sunday 10 AM-1 PM, we will review this check-in at the start of the workshop.
As my first Alexander Technique teacher used to say, “upright, but not uptight”…