Applied Awareness

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Why You Might Want to

Use a Meditation Chair

This article is for anyone who may be thinking about learning Applied Awareness™ meditation techniques, but worry you might be asked to sit in uncomfortable positions or on the floor. Don’t worry, your comfort is as important to us as it is to you.

Although sitting on the floor is still considered the norm in many meditation circles, it’s a tradition that begs to be broken.

How we sit can concern our health as much as our comfort.  For example, I learned to meditate sitting cross-legged in Thailand, where it was also generally considered to be comfortable, or at least not uncomfortable. However, after several years of meditating cross-legged, or in the half lotus, my knees and legs began aching almost continually. I didn’t initially attribute the pains to my meditation sitting position.  The continual discomfort could have just as easily been the result of my activities in the U.S. Marine Corps.  After all, I had meditated for years before the pain in my legs became a serious concern.  Then, one day a back injury prevented me from sitting cross-legged for a while. After a few days, the pain in my legs began to subside.

When my back was feeling better, and I resumed sitting cross-legged, and the pain in my legs returned.  Then, as a test, I stopped meditating cross-legged, and after a few days, the pain in my legs lessened.

I already knew the reason I sat cross-legged on the floor had nothing to do with effectiveness, and everything to do with tradition.  Now common sense was screaming that it was time to unfold my legs and get off the floor for good, which I did.

So, if it’s not about effectiveness, why do so many still sit on the floor?

Many modern instructors have simply continued the tradition of sitting on the ground or floor because that’s the way they learned to meditate. Their teacher carried it on from their teacher… and on and on.  Especially if the tradition is rooted in Buddhist meditation practices, such as “Mindfulness”, “Insight Meditation”, “Zazen” (zen meditation), etc.

There is even a story of the Buddha instructing a student to go and sit cross-legged under a tree and meditate.  When we understand sitting cross-legged was sitting comfortably a couple of thousand years ago, it’s fairly obvious that even people who taught meditation in it’s earliest days saw the value of being comfortable.

Our modern-day equivalent to sitting comfortably is finding a comfortable chair because it’s what we’re accustomed to. My preference is to use zero gravity chairs, which I refer to as “meditation chairs”. My students rave at how comfortable my zero gravity chairs are and I’ve noticed how they relax into the techniques much easier. Several students have acquired their own for meditating at home and carrying along to meditation events.

zerogravity-wilsonparkZero gravity chairs lean back to a position where the feet are just above the heart so it’s much easier for the heart to distribute blood throughout the body. It also takes the compression off the spine and distributes your weight over the length of your torso. One person even told me that sitting in one of these chairs for an hour was reason enough to come to class.  Although you can spend a lot for a premium zero gravity chair, I find the deck/lawn chair type shown in the pictures to be nearly as comfortable, yet portable enough to take with you.

If you don’t have a zero gravity chair, any place to sit or even lay comfortably is fine. There are times when sitting on the floor or ground with your legs crossed is appropriate. For instance, children in school sitting around the teacher during story time, or during a Marine Corps shooting qualification. But practicing Applied Awareness requires relaxing our bodies and using our minds, which is much easier when we’re not fighting with discomfort..

* The original zero gravity chair was created for NASA as a training device so astronauts could get the feeling of what it would be like to sit in the shuttle at take-off. The astronauts had to recline until practically horizontal. It didn’t take long to realize just how comfortable the chair was, and the design quickly found footing in the commercial market. The instant popularity of this comfy anti-gravity style is, at least in part, due to their reported therapeutic effects of sitting with your feet above your heart.

Key features and benefits of a zero gravity chair include:

  1. Reclining position: Zero gravity chairs are designed to recline and distribute the body’s weight evenly across the chair, reducing pressure on the spine and joints. This reclined position promotes relaxation and can alleviate stress and tension in the body.
  2. Elevates the legs: Zero gravity chairs often feature an adjustable leg rest or footrest that can be raised to a position above the heart. This elevation of the legs helps improve blood circulation, reduce swelling, and relieve strain on the lower back and legs.
  3. Ergonomic support: Zero gravity chairs are typically designed with ergonomic considerations in mind. They often have padded headrests, lumbar support, and armrests for added comfort and support while reclining.
  4. Stress relief and relaxation: The reclined position of a zero gravity chair, combined with the even distribution of body weight, can help reduce muscle tension, alleviate pressure points, and promote a deep sense of relaxation. It can be particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with back pain, muscle soreness, or stress-related tension.
  5. Improved breathing and circulation: By reclining in a zero gravity position, the chest and diaphragm are opened up, allowing for deeper and more relaxed breathing. The improved blood circulation resulting from elevated legs can also help reduce swelling and promote overall cardiovascular health.
  6. Versatility and portability: Zero gravity chairs come in various designs and materials, including foldable and portable options. This makes them versatile for use in different settings, such as the patio, beach, camping trips, or even indoors.

When considering a zero gravity chair, it’s important to try out different models and brands to find one that suits your preferences in terms of comfort, durability, and specific features. It’s also recommended to read product reviews and consider factors like weight capacity, ease of adjustment, and overall build quality.