Zazen Sitting Postures

Finding the Right Sitting Posture

When sitting Zazen, it is very important to find and maintain a comfortable posture.  If you are uncomfortable sitting then you will focus your attention on the body instead of the mind and thereby not be able to meditate properly.  All possible sitting postures have been used in one place or another according to the needs of the meditators.  It should be remembered that any posture you use should permit you to sit for long periods of time without moving and without discomfort.  If you are uncomfortable, you should see that as a sign that you have not found the correct posture for your particular body build and requirements.  The important thing is that whatever position you choose, the bones of the body should support your weight and not your muscles because the muscles will become tired and begin to cause pain.  So, relax your muscles and let your skeletal frame support and maintain your posture under the force of gravity.  It has been found through centuries of experimentation that the best posture is where the spine is comfortably erect so that the body weight gets transferred directly down to the cushion through the vertebrae.  This upright position permits the rib cage to easily expand and contract so that you can breathe normally and quietly. In this position, the shoulders and arms can relax.  You will notice that a good Zazen practitioner has an upright but relaxed posture that shows alertness without strain while being grounded to the earth through the cushion. If you have questions about improving your sitting posture, please feel free to talk with the Ino or Sangha coordinator. 

Huike & Bodhidharma by Sesshu
Huike & Bodhidharma
by Sesshu

Getting Seated Guidelines

Place your zafu (spherical cushion) towards the back edge of your zabuton (square pad). Sit only on the front third of your zafu.


Full Lotus Posture

Full Lotus

Place your right foot on your left thigh, as high as possible then, place your left foot on your right thigh.

Half Lotus Posture

Half  Lotus

Place your left foot on your right thigh, right foot is placed under the left thigh.

Burmese Posture

Burmese Style

Simply place one foot in front of the other with ankles resting on the pad.

Seiza Posture with Bench

Seiza with Bench

This is a kneeling position with your rear end supported by a bench in which your legs are folded under the bench.

Seiza Posture with Cushion

Seiza with Cushion

This position simply uses the zafu as the primary support for the weight of the body.  Since the cushion can be shaped to fit your needs, you may find this style easier than the bench. 

Posture while sitting on a chair

Sitting on a Chair

When using a chair for sitting zazen, sit forward from the chair back so that your spine can be comfortably erect.  If the chair seat is dished towards the back, try using a pad so you can easily keep your posture.  The feet are kept flat on the floor with the legs spread a comfortable distance apart to provide stability. 

Hand Mudra: position of the hands

Position of the Hands

Hand positions are called mudras in Buddhism.  The mudra used while sitting zazen is called the meditation mudra.  For a right-handed person, the left hand is placed in the right hand and and the tips of the thumbs touch lightly.  For a left-handed person, the hand positions are reversed so the left hand cradles the right. 

The secret is just to say "yes!" and jump off from here.
  Shunryo Suzuki