Do we really have to sit cross-legged in an uncomfortable position to practice meditation?

Here are my observations and the positions in which it is possible to meditate.

False ideas about meditation

Meditation has a lot of false ideas. One of them is that we have to settle in a specific position to practice meditation. We all have in mind the image of the perfect position.

  • Sitting legs crossed with a straight back
  • Having your hands on your knees,  holding your thumbs and middle fingers together facing the sky (mudra position)
  • And finally, staying still for long minutes without moving

This position strengthens the muscles and determination, yes. But, it is not accessible to all and some may find this position very uncomfortable. For some people, it can be causing back pain, bad blood circulation and legs can be feeling like ants are running inside. That can make us believe that we are unable to practice meditation because we are not using the perfect position. Unfortunately, this can make people give up the practice. It is not an obligation to take the classical Indian position to meditate and there is a multitude of variants!

Performance and meditation

Before presenting to you different postures, I would like to talk about performance. Oh yes! In our society of performance, many of us may try to apply this same performance to meditation. I can say that I did try to be successful and effective in this area too! Meditation is the antithesis of performance. Because we are in a society where we have to succeed everywhere and right now, we want to do it perfectly the first time. Even if it does not suit us, we try to do it the perfect way. Many people are discouraged from doing meditation just thinking about all the preparation it requires. Many people think meditation is not for them because they have integrated an image of practice that is not accessible to them. Which of course, is not true.

Changing vision and perception of meditation

I did some workshops and training in which I was frankly not feeling good because I forced myself to do like other people and sit in the “perfect” position for long periods. My mind was disturbed by the discomfort of my body and my body did not want to collaborate with my mind. I went to an urban retreat with Nicole Bordeleau and she was telling to people that they can comfortably sit down on a chair for those who wishes to do so. She mentions it several times so that people do not feel embarrassed to choose for a sitting position instead of the carpet. I was surprised that many people left the carpet to afford the comfort of a chair, including myself! This has changed my vision and perception of meditation. Rather than focusing on my position and discomfort, I could then focus on the purpose of the meditation, have a free mind, and get a better sense of satisfaction from my practice. I finally recognized and accepted my limits. I had to put my ego aside and from then, I adapted my practice to respect my body. My practice now makes a lot better sense to me. Maybe it will make you meditate more often too!

It is simple to meditate

It is quite possible to simply meditate without having to take a particular posture. You can meditate in these four accessible positions:

  • Sitting
  • Lying down
  • Standing or walking
  • With movements

I will detail each of them in the sections below.

Meditation in sitting position

It is quite possible to meditate sitting on a chair by following these simple guidelines:

  • Stand with your back straight
  • Put your feet flat on the ground
  • Put your hands on your thighs
  • Close your eyes and you are ready!

Meditation can be practiced anywhere. It is easy to find a place to refocus and meditate for a few minutes in a sitting position. Here are some examples:

  • Outside, sitting on a park bench
  • At your desk or in an empty meeting room, sitting on a work chair
  • The kitchen or living room, sitting on a chair
  • In your bedroom, sitting on the bed, feet on the floor
  • In your bedroom, sitting on the bed, legs crossed with pillows that support your back. For my part, I often use this position.

If the flow of your thoughts is too strong to meditate in silence, you can listen to a guided meditation. Many are available on my Youtube channel and at my online store.

Meditation in lying down position

It is quite possible to meditate while lying down by following these simple indications:

  • Lie down on your back and make sure your back is well supported
  • Let your thighs and feet fall outward
  • Place your arms on the sides, spaced from the body, arms and palms toward the sky. An alternative is to put your hands on your stomach without crossing your fingers
  • Close your eyes and you are ready!

Meditation can be practiced anywhere. It is easy to find a place to refocus and meditate for a few minutes in a lying down position. Here are some examples:

  • Outside, on the grass
  • On your yoga mat, no matter which room you choose
  • Lying in your bed

There must other possibilities that I haven’t think of but these are the most common.

Meditation standing up or walking

The standing position is less frequent when it comes to meditation. Although, it is possible to meditate, to breathe, to be at peace, to be in full consciousness, in a standing position. You can use the yoga position of the mountain. The body is relaxed but straight, shoulders relaxed, but open, the arms are on each side of the body. The feet are slightly apart and anchored to the ground. You can do a short meditation and take deep breaths, no matter where you are.

Meditating while walking is done naturally, one step in front of the other, following the same pace. Each step is placed on the ground with intention and calm. The mind follows the movement of steps in the present moment. A simple walk becomes an opportunity to become aware of your breathing, your steps, your body, your mind.

Meditating in motion

In sitting and standing positions, it is possible to add movement to the meditation. For my part, qi gong movements allow me to add a physical, energetic and sensory dimension to my meditation. Here is a simple exercise that I practice often:

  • Sit on a chair, hands on your thighs, your feet on the floor
  • Inhale and lift hands from your thighs to your shoulders
  • Exhale and lower your hands like a wave from the shoulders to the thighs, without touching them
  • Repeat several times, at your own pace

By repeating this gesture that follows the breath, it is a great way to focus on the present moment, on your body, on your feelings. It helps reducing the flow of thoughts.

Meditate otherwise

This little penguin reminds us that we can meditate, no matter our physical limitations.

I hope this article will motivate you to practice meditation in a simple way.

A simple way to meditate, either it is a sitting down, lying down, standing up or walking, is to listen to a guided meditation. For guided meditations, visit my Youtube channel or get guided meditations in MP3 format at my online shop. You can also get printed cards, like this little penguin and the girl meditating in front of a winter landscape at my Etsy shop.

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May your life be filled with colors, joy and loving kindness.


Chantal Rioux

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