Proper posture for meditation requires three things: stability, comfort, and a straight spine.
Have you ever felt the pain in your ankles or numbness in your legs from meditating on the wrong surface? I know I have. When I started meditating I'd sit every way to get comfortable. Problem was I never actually felt comfortable.
If you're new to meditation, you should know that having a meditation cushion and a place to meditate comfortably can make all the difference.
Lets break down the best meditation cushions for every body type. And if you want to try different styles, you can come back to this post and check out the best ones in each category.
What is a mediation cushion?
Simply put, a meditation cushion is a specially shaped pillow that's designed to support proper posture during meditation. Can you meditate without one? Yes. You can meditate on the subway, in the park or anywhere you're comfortable.
But having a dedicated space and cushion is both more comfortable and serves as a mental reminder to meditate. You're less likely to quit and it makes it easier to get into a meditative headspace.
Why do you need a meditation cushion?
We come in all shapes and sizes. One of the things that's not talked about is finding the perfect meditation seat. Sitting in the right posture allows you to relax more and breath deeply - which is a big part of meditating.
It can be THE difference maker in whether or not you want continue your meditation practice.
Since I'm not very flexible the meditation pillow makes a big difference. Sitting straight, with my spine erect allows me to remain more present in my intention. Which allows you to get more out of your meditation since you're not struggling to ignore general pain and discomfort.
Here's what the right meditation cushion can do for you:
- Conform to and help correct your posture.
- Provide excellent support making meditation a breeze.
- They're comfortable - helping you focus and save time.
- Prevent pain in places that would have a lot of pressure on them (ankles, knees, etc.).
- Help larger people and people with longer legs to comfortably meditate.
- Help you remain more alert during your meditation.
How to choose a meditation cushion:
There's several shapes, sizes and fillings for different meditation cushions so choosing one can be a challenge. There are some factors to consider when picking the right one for you:
- Height - are you over six fee tall?
- Comfort - do you prefer soft or firm?
- Flexibility - are you flexible or just starting out?
- Reliability - is the cushion made from quality materials?
- Price - the most expensive doesn't always mean the best.
The taller you are the more lift you'll need from your meditation pillow.
If you're over six feet tall you'll find that either a zafu (round) style cushion or a rectangular cushion with a larger meditation cushion under it will provide you with the most support and comfort.
Having the larger cushion under the zafu or rectangular cushion allows a higher lift and helps tremendously with stability and comfort.
The comfort of your cushion will depend on all of these factors and the stuffing they're filled with. Meditation pillows are usually stuffed with one of two ingredients: buckwheat or kapok.
Some use cotton filler which is similar to kapok and something you're probably already familiar with. Below we'll cover the kapok and buckwheat since these are less common.
Buckwheat: buckwheat hulls are the outer shell of the buckwheat grain. These hulls conform well to the shape of the body and offer a stable support. Its a similar experience to sitting on mound of sand at the beach.
Pros of Buckwheat
- Most cushions can be opened allowing you to remove / add more buckwheat hulls to adjust for your comfort level.
- Conform well to the shape of your body
- They maintain their shape and don't flatten out.
Cons of Buckwheat
- A bit hard for some people. They are about as firm as a small mountain of sand.
- Weight a more than some of the lighter cushions.
- The hulls make a little scrunching noise when moving around.
Kapok: this is the more traditional filler. Kapok is a more fluffy and cotton like material. It's mold resistant, hypoallergenic, and its a natural fiber that's grown in the south pacific from the seed pods of kapok trees.
Pros of Kapok
- Fluffy material that makes for a softer cushion.
- Lighter weight material than buckwheat hulls.
- Naturally hypoallergenic and mold resistant.
- Traditional filler that's been used for thousands of years.
Cons of Kapok
- Not easy to refill and refilling can result in a cottage cheese like feel to the cushion.
- Doesn't provide the stable feel of buckwheat.
- Can flatten after a lot of use.
How flexible you are will play a role in choosing the right cushion.
If you can't comfortably sit in a crossed legged position for an extended period of time then you'll want an elevated cushion. This will help relieve pressure from your knees and ankles. It can also help you maintain a straighter spine alignment and open airways for deep breathing.
I've owned cushions that weren't very comfortable, weren't versatile, and didn't last long. A cushion that's made from durable materials, properly stuffed, and versatile is one that you'll be able to use for a very long time.
Expensive doesn't necessarily mean highest quality. There are many cushions available that are over $150.00. But chances are you won't notice a difference or like them any more than the cushions that are half that price.
The cushions reviewed below are the absolute best of all worlds. They're affordable, high quality, and comfortable.
How to Sit On a Meditation Cushion
If you've never sat on a meditation cushion than you may want some backup. Since the purpose of the cushion is to both provide comfort as well as keep the spine straight there's a definite form to comfortably sitting. This meditation basics video does a good job demonstrating how to sit properly.
Review of the Best Meditation Cushions
Zafu meditation cushion
Zafu meditation cushions are the most popular and well known type. They're comfortable right out of the box which is why many beginning meditators start here. Zafu pillows are filled with buckwheat hulls or kapok giving them a firm nature that conforms well to your body.
Kapok filled cushions will feel much firmer when taken out of the box and may require a small break in period. But once you break it in, you'll become very attached to your kapok cushion.
Zafu cushions can also be turned on their side. This gives you more height and works well if you like to meditate in a kneeling position and if you're taller and need the added lift. Zafus and cushions in general may take a few days to get used to if you've never sat on a cushion before. But once you've tried it a few times you'll find its the best way to meditate.
Zafu Meditation Cushion - Cotton or Hemp - Organic Buckwheat Filled
Zafu Meditation Cushion - Cotton or Hemp - Organic Buckwheat Fill
This next zafu is cotton filled. The primary differences between the two are the weight and experience of sitting on it. The buckwheat will conform to your body right away. Similar to sitting on a mound of beach sand. The cotton may feel a little more dense out of the box but once broken in you may find that you love the way it feels even more.
Choosing between cotton, kapok, and buckwheat is a matter of personal preference since you'll end up loving all of them.
Zafu Meditation Cushion - Cotton Filled
Zabuton meditation cushion
The zabuton is like a mini futon for meditation. It's a wide, rectangular cushion that's typically filled with cotton and only a few inches thick. The zabuton is placed under the zafu or other meditation cushion. It provides comfort and support for the ankles and knees as well as added stability making meditation easier for you.
If you plan on meditating for periods of 20-30 minutes you'll appreciate having this cushion. While sitting for 5-10 minutes won't hurt your ankles or knees very much, sitting for longer will result in sore ankles, knees, and legs falling asleep without proper support and posture.
The zafu and zabaton combination aren't just meditation cushions. sitting on them while watching TV, reading, or relaxing with your family can help open the hips and correct posture in no time. In fact individuals with bad backs, back aches, and poor posture should be using these daily.
Zabuton Meditation Cushion - Cotton Filled
Buckwheat Zafu and Zabuton Meditation Cushion Set
V-shaped / wedge / crescent meditation cushion
The crescent or V shaped meditation pillows are similar to the zafu but offer a wider support base for the legs and hips. A big benefit of the crescent shaped pillow is that it allows you to tuck your legs in closer to your body. The dip in the center of the pillow allows you to bring your ankles in close when sitting in a cross legged position.
I like this type of cushion because my hips externally rotate. The crescent shape offers support for my leg and the downward slant encourages my pelvis to tilt forward. This combination helps me comfortably maintain a straight posture through the entire sitting period.
If you can comfortably sit on a zafu, then you'll have no problem sitting on a crescent and you may even like it more. Pro tip - get a zabuton or some thick blankets to place under the crescent. This will protect your knees which will be slanted forward toward the floor.
Crescent Meditation Cushion - Buckwheat or Cotton Filled
Rectangular meditation cushion
The rectangular cushions are similar to the zafu in height. The primary difference is the shape. The rectangular shape offers a wider base for larger individuals. Whether you choose a zafu or rectangular pillow is really a matter of preference. The wider width of the rectangular pillow will support your upper thighs more.
Some people like their legs to extend off the edge of the cushion. If this is you then you'll fare better with a zafu. The rectangular shape also offers the versatility of the zafu. You can turn this pillow on its side and place it between your legs for a comfortable kneeling meditation.
The straight edges of this pillow make it easier to position yourself. Some experienced meditators prefer this shape over the zafu.
Rectangular Cushion for Meditation or Yoga - Cotton Filled
If you prefer to kneel during meditation or sitting crossed legged is a challenge for you then you may want to consider a bench.
The purpose of the meditation bench is to support an upright position during a kneeling meditation. It keeps your bottom supported and the pressure off of your ankles while allowing you to sit with perfect posture.
The first time I tried a bench I found it to be a little difficult. Since I prefer to sit crossed legged rather than kneeling it took some getting used to.
After using it a few times I found it got easier and it wasn't hard to keep strong posture and a focused meditation. I still prefer the cushions for my daily meditation but I can use a bench just as easily. It's really a matter of personal preference.
If you're already flexible or want to become more flexible then you might like the bench.
You can experiment at your house to find what you'll like. If you have a small bench or stool, try to meditate with it. Keep in mind that the base of the meditation bench is designed to allow room for your legs. If your stool isn't narrow at the bottom or doesn't have a gap for your legs, it won't be the same experience.
Joy is Within You Meditation Bench - 3 Sizes
Well there you have it. There are many other benches and cushions that I didn't review here. Mostly because this review is already long and the items reviewed here represent some of the best choices for meditators of all shapes, sizes and experience levels.
No matter what bench, pillow or cushion you choose, meditating daily is a practice that can change your life in so many ways. It's proven to help depression, anxiety, performance at work, stress, sickness, and so many other things. Get yourself a meditation cushion and start practicing today. You'll be satisfied that you did.