Meditation has been of growing prominence in the world of today – it’s a great way to de-stress, de-clutter, focus and prioritize.
Sitting on the floor for 15 minutes or more can be challenging without any support and getting completely comfortable and focused may take time; and will probably eat into your meditation time and space.
Just like we all need a good night’s sleep, a high-quality meditation cushion is a must if you want to establish a consistent and inspirational practice. Most beginners start with chairs and then progress to asanas on well-crafted cushions which are functional and comfortable.
zafu Meditation cushion is what most seasoned-practitioners prefer – it is comfortable, aligns the spine, improves posture and gives you enough flexibility for yoga poses and to meditate.
Tracing back several centuries, the zafu Meditation cushion has its origin in Japan and can be loosely translated as a ‘sewn seat’. A zafu is a seat stuffed with the fluffy, soft, downy fibers of the disintegrating reedmace seed heads. This cushion is designed to relieve pressure from the back, ankles, and knees while supporting spinal alignment.
[Zafu trivia: The words zabuton, zafuton and futon are closely linked. The word zazen meaning "seated meditation" or "sitting meditation" is also closely linked. In western usage, zafu refers to a meditation cushion or meditation pillow, and zabuton refers to the cushioned mat upon which a zafu is placed.]
What is a zafu meditation cushion?
A zafu is a comfortable round meditation pillow or cushion that's traditionally stuffed with either kapok or buckwheat hulls (although cotton is common these days).
Zen Buddhist practitioners traditionally sit on a zafu when engaged in sitting meditation. The cushion raises the hips, making the entire range of cross-legged sitting positions more stable for the meditator.
Yoga gurus say they like zafus because they are comfortable and can accommodate any position - you can use it for meditating in a standard lotus, you can kneel and have it between your knees, you can use it as a bolster in yoga and heck, they look nice enough to use for a couch pillow!
- improve your position during meditation by stacking your spine while relieving pressure from your knees, ankles, and back.
- filled with buckwheat hulls that gently conform to your body's shape
- adds comfort to your meditation practice
[Zafu trivia: Typical zafus are about 35 centimeters (14 in) in diameter, and often about 20 centimeters (8 in) high when fluffed. Contemporary zafus are sewn from three pieces of heavy cloth, usually colored black: two round swatches of equal size for the top and the bottom of the cushion, and a long rectangle that is sewn into gathers in between. They are typically filled with either kapok (a fluffy plant fiber, similar to Typha) or buckwheat hulls.]
How do I meditate?
The traditional position of Zen meditation involves sitting on a circular cushion (zafu meditation pillow) with your legs crossed in the Lotus position, your spine upright, your hands on your thighs and your eyes pointed slightly downward. This is truly a spiritual workout and heightens your senses.
Want to know more? Here are some easy steps to follow –
1. Posture mindfulness
Sit in the center of the cushion if you prefer keeping your knees on it.
Cross your legs in a comfortable position when using a zafu. The lotus position is the most traditional way to cross your legs during Zen meditation, but it may not be comfortable for newcomers or those with physical limitations. Fortunately, there are several positions you can use. Popular choices include -
• Lotus: Cross your left leg over your right so that the tops of both of your feet are resting on the upper thigh of the opposite leg.
• Half Lotus: Cross your left leg over your right and rest your left foot on your right upper thigh, but tuck your right foot beneath your left leg. You can reverse legs if desired.
• Quarter Lotus: Cross your legs loosely so that your left knee is resting on (or just slightly above, depending on your flexibility) the side of your right foot, and vice versa.
• Burmese: Instead of crossing one leg over the other, spread your legs a bit wider, rest your knees, lower legs, and feet on the mat (or floor), and touch the heel of one foot to the base of the ankle of the other foot.
[Tip for Zen meditation beginners: Sit with your crossed legs resting on the cushion along with your backside. Sit at the front of the cushion if you want to rest your knees on the floor. For extra comfort, you could place a meditation mat, or even a blanket or towel, on the floor underneath the cushion.]
2. Spine mindfulness
Extend your spine straight upward, centered on your lower abdomen. Push your lower spine slightly forward and extend your chest slightly out and up. In this position, you should feel as though the top of your head is extending as high as it can and that your abdomen is the center of gravity. Your spine doesn’t need to be literally vertical, as this would likely be too uncomfortable to maintain. Rather, focus on stretching your upper body straight upward as much as you can without moderate or greater discomfort.
3. Chin mindfulness
Tuck your chin and direct your gaze on the floor about 4 feet (1.2 m) ahead. Angle your chin slightly in and down, so that the crown of your head, rather than the top of your head, is your highest point. Angle your eyes a bit further down so that you’re looking at the floor 3–4 ft (0.91–1.22 m) in front of you.
4. Eyes mindfulness
Close your eyes halfway, as if you have ‘sleepy eyes.’ Look at the floor without fully focusing on it. Don’t close your eyes all the way, or you’ll likely daydream or possibly doze off!
5. Mouth mindfulness
Align your lips and teeth, and touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The top and bottom lips, as well as your upper and lower rows of teeth, should be aligned and in light contact with each other. Don’t clench your teeth or lips. Lightly press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper front teeth. Breathe deeply through your nose while keeping your mouth closed.
6. Your wrists
Rest your wrists on your thighs, overlap your fingers, and touch thumbs. No matter your sitting position — cushion, chair, bench, etc — lay your wrists on top of your upper thighs. Open your hands with your palms up, and lay the fingers on your left hand on top of those on your right hand. Touch the tips of your thumbs together. The outer sides of both pinkies should be touching, but not pressing against, your abdomen.
Now that your body is positioned, you can begin your zen meditation at ease and with due focus.
The zafu meditation cushion comes in standard shapes and sizes. However, you’ll want to consider a few things about yourself before settling on the one for you. The primary factors to consider are your height, comfort level, flexibility and reliability of your cushion.
1. Your height -
Your height will play a role in whether or not you choose a Zafu or go with another meditation cushion. The taller you are the more lift you will need. You don’t want to be too high because you’ll be sitting at a forward angle most of the time and your knees should be able to touch the ground/yoga mat/blanket below.
[Zafu tip: A zafu is about 5 - 8 inches off the floor which should be perfectly fine for individuals of almost any height.]
2. Your comfort -
If you’ve ever sat on the floor or a thin yoga mat during meditation, chances have you realized quickly that it's uncomfortable and blocked you from getting in the zone.
The filling and material of your cushion will dictate the comfort of the cushion. If you like a somewhat softer feel to your pillow, you’ll want a kapok or cotton Zafu Meditation Pillow. If you like a firm base and heavier feel to your cushion, you’ll want a buckwheat zafu.
3. Your flexibility -
Sitting in a cross-legged position requires a certain level of flexibility. Personally, I’m not that flexible so sitting Indian style on the ground is really not an option for me (although I’m working on flexibility so maybe someday…). If you’re in the same boat, then you want the lift of a zafu under you while you’re meditating.
Zafus should stand the test of time and be durable and reliable. So invest in the time to choose the right zafu which is reliable.
Most yoga aficionados prefer Healthy Life Cycle’s zafu's which have been designed to improve your position during meditation by stacking your spine while relieving pressure from your knees, ankles, and back. They’re filled with buckwheat hulls that gently conform to your body's shape and a removable microfiber cover with an easy-to-carry handle.
So there you have it, all-you-need-to-know about zafu Canada
Connect with yourself, and more deeply with the world around you using a zafu meditation cushion.