Finding the right meditation cushion is surprisingly serious business and I never thought that this would turn into a global hunt! I thought this would be one of the easier decisions in my life so to save you some time, I'll teach you all the things I learned along the way because this was certainly a 2-year labour of love. Here you'll learn how to use a meditation cushion, why you should use a meditation cushion (zafu,) which meditation cushion is best (and why) AND where to get one!
We all come to meditation for various reasons and usually they include the promise of feeling less stress & anxiety, feeling more clear in the mind and the ability for life to seem like it's not moving so fast. That's what meditation can do if you practice regularly though the trick is to not wait for those things to happen. To enable you to have a consistent practice, as a beginner, you need to get the meditation cushion right. I started meditating and just sat on my floor in my NYC apartment. Don't do that....sitting on a floor with nothing to prop your body up is painful initially and only gets worse as you go. Other options to meditate are walking, laying down or seated in a chair. We aren't going to discuss walking meditations here. Laying down is great for some people as long as you don't fall asleep! Seated in a chair can work though here are a few things you want to remember:
1) Have your feet flat on the floor or have your feet on a pillow if you your feet don't touch the floor
2) Keep your back away from the chair and sit tall, lengthening the spine. Place pillows behind you if needed though avoid leaning back. You might find that you need a pillow under your hands as well.
3) Your hips should be higher than your knees and it may be more comfortable to sit on cushions or pillows to prop the body up. See video below.
Why do you need a meditation cushion?
For many people chairs aren't comfortable because they put the body in an unnatural position. If you do have a chair that's comfortable at home, perfect! The problem is you can't bring that chair with you to every yoga class, retreat or workshop you go to so then you still need something else. This is where the cushion comes in. Some people use a meditation bench or a yoga block. Both work, if they suit you, however I've seen very few people with a regular meditation practice using a bench or a block long-term and that's because they are obviously very hard.
What is best meditation cushion to use and where do you get it?!
That's where our textile story began. Several years ago my friend (also a yoga teacher) and I were talking about how our students seem to keep asking about which meditation cushions are best alot lately. I mentioned that the one I had was just worn out and that was probably because it was cheap at around £20. After a short conversation we decided to pool £ and buy loads of different cushions to try the out, switching back and forth and reviewing them.
It was astonishing what crap is on the market!!
Seems if you just make them with pretty Indian looking fabric and fill them with anything you can find- voila! You have a meditation cushion! These things are packed with styrofoam balls, paper, polyester fill for stuffed animals, anything you can imagine. We even ordered several "top of the line" cushions from that famous place where almost everyone orders stuff from online and the fibers weren't accurately identified. The reason that matters is because you are buying a poor quality product and wasting money for something you can't return down the line. Buy cheap, buy twice as they say. If you are someone that needs hypo-allergenic products that is another problem. You just can't really be sure of what you are getting with things like these.
Regarding the filling, styrofoam flattens, so does paper and polyester fill. Natural fibers make a huge difference because they have loft and can be re-fluffed. After trying cushions from about 12 companies (and over 7 countries) we had taken a little break. Partly because this experiment was getting expensive and partly because my husband was asking me where we were going to put all these cushions. I had received a Facebook message from my friend Michael asking if I was still doing that "stupid zafu experiment" because he was going to bring me a zafu from Nepal. He treks there regularly and his sherpa family also hand-weaves fabrics and hand-makes crafts, one of the things being meditation cushions. Thinking about how unhelpful that would have been because how could I supply these regularly to my yogis I just sort of forgot about it...
...And then two months later I get a big box at the door with 2 different zafus inside which seemed huge compared to the ones that we had been using. As luck would have it, that's what made the world of a difference. It was amazing. All meditation cushions that we tried up to that point (and that I had seen up to that point) were under 15-ish centimeters high. Of course these work for some people just fine but they have nothing to compare it to! What is quite amazing is that after we discovered this - and talked to our yogis about it - we realised there is a huge amount of people who thought they were supposed to "just deal with the pain" or breathe through the pain because there is a greater purpose here. No! Not at all!! Never deal with pain; speak up! You shouldn't have to be fighting through physical pain during meditations. As a reference, I've had low back pain for about 5 years and can meditate on these zafus for 6 hours with no pain at all having regular breaks throughout a day retreat. Most people feel the instant relief from back pain when sitting on these cushions and there are 2 ways to sit, which you will see in the video below.
Needless to say I now carry stock of these cushions and they sell out as quickly as I can get more in! They are filled with kapok which is a natural, hypo-allergenic fiber. Fabric is a cotton/wool blend, beautifully hand-woven. They are £40 + shipping. Below is a video that shows how to find a meditation posture and the 2 ways to sit on the cushion. I've had mine for 5 years now and it stands the test of time. Message me if you are interested in buying one and I'll reply letting you know which gorgeous fabric colorways I have available.
PS- Click here to watch the video of how I work from home using the zafu to prevent back pain!