Choices – How do I pick the best Meditation Cushion Set for me?

Meditation ChoicesChoosing the best meditation cushion, meditation pillow, meditation mat, yoga mat, zafu, zabuton, and other seemingly myriad of names may cause some confusion.  How do I pick the perfect one?  What size and shape do I want, filling do I need, do I need a cushion and mat, etc?  

Hopefully, we can help guide your journey along a bit more smoothly.  Although they say you can’t find the perfect meditation cushion, hopefully, this guide might help you get that much closer to your own primordial nirvana.  We want to help you find that cushion that not only allows proper posture but also helps to elevate and deepen your experience while achieving those deeper states of consciousness and awareness which meditation brings us.  Restore that inward calm, cool, clarity and read aummmmmmnnn. =) 

Here at My Dharma Store, we want your shopping experience to be sublime and peaceful.  Forget the stress, take a deep breath and let’s move onward and inward and find that perfect fit for, well you! 

Meditation Bloom Infograph

–  Meditate and Bloom –  Mind. Body. Spirit. Expansion                          –  Some of the Many Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditate and Bloom – Benefits of Meditation

Although the direct purpose of this article is not to discuss the many benefits of meditation.  We thought we’d list just a few to hopefully aid in a small motivation to engage in or create your own daily meditation practice. So choose a space, choose a mat, a cushion, and bloom.

– Spirit –

  • Compassion and Empathy – Universal Connection
  • Inner Silence – Clarity and Calm – Deeper Creativity
  • Deeper Understanding – Wisdom
  • Intuition – Deeper Sensory Perception

– Body –

  • De-Stress – Master your emotions and Stress Response. Reduce or Nullify Anxiety
  • Improve Sleep – Easier to Sleep. Achieve states of Deeper Healing during Sleep and Meditation
  • Mind-Body Connection

– Mind –

  • Clarity – De-Cluttering the Confused and Activate Nature of the mind
  • Focus – Engaged Thought.  Channeling that Activate Nature into Focused, Calm thought
  • Increased Neural Connections in the Brain
  • Overall Improved Grades and Mental Performance

– Expansion –

  • Kundalini – Energetic and Vibrational Expansion – Smoother Progress through Spiritual and Life Paths
  • Cosmic Unification and Awareness –  into Cosmic Awareness
  • Self-Ascension – Shedding of Lower-Self, Ego and Thoughts
  • Nirvana – Peace and Joy

Meditation Cushions and Zazen

So what’s the difference between a meditation cushion and a zafu you ask?  Is a meditation pillow for sleeping?  Zabuton?  Or are you a more seasoned Yogi looking to optimize your meditation experience and/or experiment with different styles of cushions?

We’ll start by saying that most of these terms are and can often be used interchangeably.  In addition, definitely not all, but most are geared towards some form of “sitting meditation” or “Zazen.”  However, there are resting, or lying meditation cushion forms as well.  We’ll investigate these positions and postures a bit further below. 

– Types of Cushions –

Zafu

Satori - Meditation Pillow

Zafu – Satori Meditation Pillow

(Meditation Pillow / Cushion) A zafu is simply defined as a meditation cushion, sometimes also called a meditation pillow. Here you can see a picture of one of our Satori Zafus.  Zafus aren’t always necessarily in this shape. They are often round and used for comfort and support under the butt during many meditation postures (some discussed further below.)  In Japanese Kanji a Zafu ‘Za’ Seat was filled with ‘Fu’ reedmace or cattail and sat on during seated meditation.

Now, there are many shapes and styles of Zafus including the Crescent shaped Satori one we’ve shown here, a Gomden or Squared shaped Zafu, The Cosmic Cushion which has a more V-shape, or the more common circle-shaped cushion.  These can each be used depending on particular preference.  Now there are a number of different fillings as well including Buckwheat, Kapok, and Cotton amongst others.   

Zabuton

Dharma Objects Zabuton Meditation Mat - Purple

Zabuton – Dharma Objects – Meditation Mat

Commonly used as the foundation cushion that goes along with your zafu. The zabuton is what you would kneel or sit upon while the zafu provides further support under your butt and helps support a stable vertical posture and proper airflow throughout the body. The zabuton provides additional cushioning for your ankles and knees so that they are not uncomfortably touching the floor while kneeling or sitting and can also be called a meditation mat. Pictured here, you can see one Zabuton we have available from Dharma Objects that helps provide additional comfort between your knee’s, feet, butt and the floor. 

Cushion Fillings – Kapok

Kapok has been used for centuries in creating meditation cushions.  The material itself is a soft, cottony material that comes from the Kapok tree that can be found in Thailand, Indonesia and some parts of Southern America.  However, once put into the cushion the kapok material becomes dense and firm helping to support the body.  It does help contour to the shape of the body without becoming to compressed as some other materials might like cotton, foam or polyester.  Kapok filling has a natural resilience to mold and mildew. This material can sometimes be likened to sitting on polyester although can fill a bit hard, but still the preferred choice for those not akin to Buckwheat.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat Hull pillows can really help contour with the body achieving that custom fit for different meditators.  The filling comes from a plant cultivated for its grain-like seeds.  These seeds have a sort of natural pesticide as bugs don’t bother them.  It is very comfortable but definitely does not have the same feel as that of cotton, kapok, polyester or other materials.  It tends to hold it’s cushioning and durability for many years. Often you will find another material used as the outer casing and buckwheat filling the inside. Overall,  Buckwheat tends to be the most preferred filling for most meditation practitioners. 

Cotton

Cotton Fill pillows generally aren’t always the preferred choice for Zafu’s, but often are for Zabutons.  After time, they can lose that pillow-like fluff or shapeliness along with some durability.  They can sometimes pick up some mold and mildew over time if not properly cared for.  However, if you have allergies to some of the other fillings, it might be just what you need as an alternative and really can be quite comfortable for some period of time.  This is commonly used in zabutons as it can provide a softer pillow-like feel. 

Chattra Zafu & Plum Jali Zabuton Meditation Cushion Set

Zafu and Zabuton Set – Plum Jali Set

Additionally, There are many Zafu and Zabuton Set’s like This Royal Plum Jali Zafu set designed for Comfort and Longevity.  Clicking any of the images will take you to the actual product on the store with further information and details of the product.   Now-a-days as technology advances, we have many different styles and types of meditation cushions.  Here’s a recent one that has grown fairly popular which is a sort of hybrid meditation mat and cushion – The Alexia Seat is a sort of hybrid meditation seat designed to aid in proper posture and comfort and can be used under Lotus, Half Lotus, and Burmese positions. It’s exciting to see some of the more recent advances as well in EEG or brain-wave reading technology such as that offered by devices like the muse.                    

Alexia Meditation Pillow Seat

Hybrid Meditation Cushion and Mat                                  – The Alexia Meditation Seat

Here are several of the most common sitting position and some corresponding recommendations of the appropriate meditation cushions to use. The Stool or Bench Position utilizes a small wooden (usually wooden) bench to aid in proper posture and back alignment.

Zazen Postures and Corresponding Meditation Cushions

  • Full Lotus (Vajra or Padmasana) – Probably not the best for beginners but one of the more optimal meditation positions.  This is as it can be an uncomfortable or difficult position to achieve during initial practice.  This position employs a cross-legged sitting position in which both feet are set on the opposite thigh.  The Vajra position is known to aid in appropriate meditative breath and posture. Certain Slanted, V-Shaped, or Smaller Zafus along with Zabuton’s or Meditation Mat’s are ideal for this posture.  These cushion shapes provide appropriate support and comfort between the buttocks and the floor beneath the meditation practitioner. You may find various flexibility practices throughout the web or we may introduce some of these in another article to help aid in loosening and accustomizing the body into Vajra. 
  • Half Lotus (Half-Vajra or Siddhasana) – An initiatory position into the Full Lotus and hence a bit more beginner friendly.  In Siddhasana or Half Lotus, one still sits in a cross-legged position, however, one heel is brought to the perineum or pelvic region.  You would then place the opposing ankle on top so that both ankles are touching.  The genitals should lie between the two heels when seated properly.  
  • Burmese – In this position, the knees of both sides should rest on your Zabuton.  It’s recommended to sit on the front more side of a Zafu for a little extra support although it’s not required.   The legs will be crossed while the heels of both feet meet in the center.  The heels will meet near each other both facing upward while we sit back into the position.  There should be little effort in keeping the body upright in this position.  Sit back and straight, but comfortably. 

Sitting Meditation Positions - Lotus, Bermese

Additional Zazen Postures and Corresponding Meditation Aids

  • Seiza – A kneeling position.  It’s recommended to have a full Zafu and Zabuton set for this posture.  The Zabuton would sit underneath your knee’s helping to aidin support and comfort.  The Zafu would provide additional support between your buttocks and the back of your knee’s.  The tops of your feet will lie flat on the floor under a minor “V” shape while the big toes meet aligned or sometimes touching behind you.  In traditional Japanese culture, men separate the knee’s slightly while women sit with knees together. 
  • Stool – Very similar to the Seiza position this is a “kneeling” position.  Rather than utilizing cushions to sit, however, you would use a stool such as the Ikuko stool shown below.   The meditation stool can really be a great aid in achieving a seiza like position comfortably for an extended period of time.  Traditionally backless, one sits with their legs and feet tucked close to the floor underneath the bench.  The stool or sometimes referred to as a meditation bench aids in proper back and spinal alignment. 
    Meditation Bench

                Meditation Stool – By Ikuko

  • Chair – Under a chair pose, we would sit comfortably upright upholding other good meditative posture standards.  Ie.  Keeping our back straight, and aligned with our head, hands in our lap, and feet lightly but stably connecting with the floor. 

Sitting Meditation - Stool, Seiza, Chair

 

Venerable Thubten Chodron Demonstrates Proper Sitting Meditation Forms and Postures

Here’s a short video from the Venerable Thubten Chodron demonstrating proper sitting form when meditating. 

Note:  In most, or all of these positions you will want to sit with your back and head straight.  You may tuck the chin in just a bit.  Sometimes it helps to imagine a cord attached from the center-back portion of your scalp going up to the roof.  

Usually keeping the eyes just a pinch-open is helpful. Practice keeping the tongue to the roof of the mouth. 

The hands should be laying in your lap one atop the other in your lap to form a comfortable triangle.  The shoulders should remain relaxed, not to close or too far from the body. 

Altogether, proper sitting posture, breath work, and alignment of the body aid in enhanced circulation and flow of the energetic body.  Ultimately, we recommend you find a cushion and mat that suits you.  What do you feel comfortable with? What takes you deeper?

My Dharma Store – Meditation Cushions