Types of Meditation Cushions

Meditation cushions deepen your practice by promoting the physical comfort necessary to get you to stop fidgeting, stop thinking about your body and how uncomfortable you are, and allow you to enter a state of very deep meditation where all sense of the physical self disappears.

Many Westerners aren’t used to sitting on the floor, cushion or not, and may prefer to sit on a chair or use a seiza (meditation bench) where your knees are on the ground and your seat on the bench. It can take some time to get used to meditating on the floor on a cushion; in that case, you can try breaking up your daily practice into several short meditation sessions than a long one.

However, if you like to meditate on the floor, having the right meditation cushion can make the difference between holding your focus and losing it because of physical discomfort.

Zafu Meditation Cushion

One of the most popular and widely used meditation cushions is the zafu, or round cushion.

The buckwheat zafu is filled with buckwheat hulls. It is like sitting in firm sand – the cushion conforms to your posture and provides excellent support. No break-in period is required with a buckwheat zafu. If you are comfortable sitting in a lotus, half lotus or cross-legged position, the zafu is a great choice for you. The zafu can also be used on its side to support you in the seiza (kneeling) position. This is especially comfortable for anyone who is not particularly flexible in the hips and knees, or simply prefers a higher sitting position.

A variation of the zafu is the kapok zafu which is an extremely firm cushion stuffed with kapok. This cushion is much firmer than the buckwheat cushion. It is the cushion of choice for people who prefer a very firm seat. Since it doesn’t compress much under body weight, it’s ideal for taller or long-legged meditators or anyone who is not very flexible. When turned on its side as a seiza cushion, it provides a taller seat than the buckwheat zafu (again, because of its firmness).

The kapok zafu does require a break-in period, but once it conforms to your particular physique, it’s the perfect seat, molded specifically for you! Beginners usually prefer the softer buckwheat cushion. Long-time meditators who are more used to sitting for prolonged periods of time are more apt to use a kapok zafu. However, if you prefer the seiza (kneeling) posture, you may like the extra height and support of the kapok zafu.

Some zafus are stuffed with cotton, which like kapok can be very hard, but (also like kapok) will gradually flatten and break in like a comfortable pair of shoes. Buckwheat zafus remain softer and more pliable through the years – you can plump them up again and again, like a very firm bean-bag cushion.

Some people use a zabuton or larger square cushion that goes under the zafu, for added comfort.

Technically the seiza meditation bench is not a cushion, but like a cushion, its intention is to make you physically comfortable while you meditate. The bench is used in the traditional Japanese kneeling position. This is a great alternative to sitting cross-legged, which many people find difficult. The bench allows for proper spinal alignment and may be a more comfortable alternative to sitting on the floor.

Whatever cushion you choose, look for quality of construction and materials. They can last for several decades if they are well-constructed – or fall apart within months. They aren’t terribly expensive, so go for the best. It’s a small investment in long-term comfort!

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