Low back pain keeping you from meditating?
If yes, this article is for you.
By the end of this article, you’ll find the best meditation cushions you can use for back pain, learn about meditation postures to avoid back pain, and so much more. Here it goes.
Why Meditation Causes Back Pain
Ahhh, meditation. I’m sure you’ve heard about how beneficial it is to your mental, emotional, and spiritual health. But sometimes, even the good things can have harmful side effects. For example, the most common side effect of meditation is back pain.
In meditation, you sit in a cross-legged position or Lotus Pose. These seated postures require open hips to keep the low back in a neutral position. When you have open hips, you might not feel pain. But when you have a limited range of motion in the hips, you will most likely curl your lumbar spine. At first, you will not feel pain. But if you stay in this position for a few minutes or longer, that’s when the pain starts.
According to Shape.com. Jeffrey Armstrong, DC., a chiropractor based in San Diego, “Putting anybody in a cross-legged position for longer than five minutes can lead to problems, especially if they’re not used to it.”
How to Avoid Back Pain During Meditation
Avoiding back pain is possible in meditation. One of the effective ways, aside from finding the proper posture, is to use a meditation cushion.
What Is a meditation cushion?
A meditation cushion is simply a cushion you can use to support your meditation practice. A meditation cushion helps you in keeping the natural curve in your lumbar spine. It lifts and rolls your hips forward to keep your low back from rounding too much. Meditation cushions are made with a heavy cloth filled with kapok, or buckwheat.
How are meditation cushions different from household, decorative, or sleeping pillows?
“But can’t I just use a regular pillow during meditation?” asks a friend.
Yes, you can use a regular pillow, but household, decorative, and sleeping pillows do not support your low back needs during meditation. In addition, these pillows will not help you avoid or relieve back pain during meditation.
Meditation pillows are specifically designed for meditation. Their resistance is different from sleeping or household pillows. They don’t sink or flatten when you sit on them.
The height of meditation cushions is also different from that of a sleeping pillow. Meditation cushions raise your hips higher than your knees to make it easier for the back to stay in a neutral position.
Materials Used for Meditation Cushions
Meditation cushions come in different materials. Here are the most common types of materials used in meditation pillows.
Kapok fiber comes from the seed of kapok trees. It is the most commonly used fiber to fill meditation fibers. It is also the type of meditation pillow chosen by many meditation practitioners because it is a sustainable fiber.
In addition, kapok trees are very self-sufficient. They can flourish on their own.
Kapok fiber is soft and silky. But meditation cushions filled with kapok fiber are usually hard at first—a sign that it is sturdy. They need breaking in, and the only way to do that is to sit on them. It might be uncomfortable at first, but it will become soft and cozy after a few meditation sessions.
Kapok meditation cushions are naturally hypoallergenic, so you don’t have to worry if you are sensitive to allergens. Furthermore, it repels moisture, so bacteria, mildew, and mold cannot thrive in it.
Buckwheat hulls are also used to fill meditation cushions. Meditation pillows made using this are durable and can last for many years.
Buckwheat hulls are great to make cushions because they are adjustable. They move around to conform to the shape of your buttocks when you sit down on them. They also don’t need too much maintenance since they stay fluffy and soft even when you’ve been using them for years.
Meditation pillows filled with buckwheat hulls also are eco-friendly. Buckwheat is renewable and biodegradable. So, by the time you need to throw your cushions away, you are sure they will not harm mother earth.
Cotton is also a material used as filler for meditation cushions. While cotton makes soft and breathable clothing, it is not great for meditation cushions. Cotton loses its shape quickly, especially when you sit on the cushion for more than five minutes of meditation.
So, cotton doesn’t provide support, especially when you have back pain. If you are sensitive to allergens, though, cotton is hypoallergenic.
Artificial or Synthetic Stuffing
Meditation cushions with synthetic stuffing are least popular because they are not eco-friendly. The artificial stuffing can either be foam or polyester.
Synthetic meditation pillows are very soft and cheap. They are great for those with sensitive sitting bones and knees. But they can quickly sink in and lose their buoyancy.
So, they don’t last long, and you will have to replace them faster than meditation cushions stuffed with natural materials.
Types of Meditation Cushions
There are a few types of meditation cushions you can choose from. Here they are:
Zafu Meditation Cushion
Zafu meditation cushion is the most common meditation pillow out there. They are Japanese-style and round. These cushions typically have kapok or buckwheat hulls as fillers.
Zafu meditation cushions come in different heights. They are also not too big in circumference, so you can use them for any seated posture.
Zafu meditation cushions can help with back pain since they can bring your hips higher than your knees. If you sit on the edge of the cushion, it will tilt your pelvis forward, and you can avoid rounding the lumbar spine. But since you have to sit on the edge, your thighs and knees are not supported. If you tilt your pelvis too forward, you might push your knees to the floor, which may feel uncomfortable.
Zabuton Meditation Cushion
Zabuton is another type of meditation cushion you can use to avoid back pain. It is wide and rectangular. The stuffing of Zabuton is usually cotton, so it is very soft and can quickly flatten.
Because of this, most people use zabuton with a zafu on top to provide more support.
Crescent or V-Shape Meditation Cushion
The crescent or V-shape meditation cushion is shaped after your buttocks and thighs in a cross-legged seated position. It slopes downward, so your hips are higher than your knees, and your pelvis is in a neutral position. The space in between is for your ankles to cross.
If your thighs need support in seated meditation, this one’s for you.
How to Use Your Meditation Cushion to Avoid Back Pain
Even when you’re using a meditation cushion to support your back, you still need to have the correct posture. The proper posture will reduce the risk of aggravating your current injury and avoid new damage. Here are the correct postures for meditation using a meditation pillow.
Sitting in a cross-legged position is the most common meditation posture. But it’s not easy at all as it requires flexing the knees and externally rotating the hips, which many people have a hard time doing.
To make this pose easier, sit with your whole buttocks on a meditation cushion. Your crossed ankles and shins should be on the floor and not floating or on the pillow. Then, rest your hands on your lap or knees and keep your shoulders relaxed.
Sukhasana or Easy Pose is also a common meditation pose. The name suggests it’s easy, but not for everyone. To make this posture easier to hold for a few minutes of meditation, sit on the edge of a meditation cushion. Then, bring one shin in front of the other and make sure your shins are on the floor.
I see people with their whole legs crossing on top of the cushion. Doing this makes the meditation cushion useless since it’s not giving you the height your hips need.
Kneeling is also a common meditation posture. However, it is a difficult pose as it requires you to flex your knees.
Here’s how to make it easier:
- Do this position with your buttocks sitting on a meditation cushion.
- Open your knees wider, so your shins are on either side of the pillow.
- Keep your shoulders down and your collarbones broad.
Meditation is not only practiced seated. You can also meditate while in Savasana or Corpse Pose. But if you still have lower back tension even in Savasana, you can place your meditation cushion under your knees. Doing this will relax your low back, hips, and knees.
Chair with Meditation Cushion
You don’t have to sit on the ground to meditate. Sitting on a chair is perfectly fine.
Here’s how to do this:
- Sit on a chair with your knees at least parallel to your hips.
- Make sure your knees are hip-width apart, and your feet are firm on the floor.
- Do not lean on the back of the chair. If you can’t do that without rounding your back, put a meditation cushion behind your low back to tilt your pelvis forward.
Top 5 Best Meditation Cushions for Your Back
Florensi Meditation Cushion
This zafu meditation cushion uses buckwheat hulls as filling, so it conforms to the shape of your buttocks and sitting bone. I love that it is a large cushion with the size of 16 x 16 x 5 inches. So, meditation practitioners of all sizes can use it and feel supported.
It is also sturdy and doesn’t flatten even when you sit on it for hours. No more sore buttocks and back pain with this meditation pillow.
The height of this pillow is also perfect as a prop for other yoga poses, such as Reclined Spinal Twist or when you put a prop in between your thighs to keep the hips neutral.
The Florensi meditation cushion also comes in different colors and has a beautiful mandala on the cover. The cover is removable, and you can wash it in the machine.
LEEWADEE Meditation Cushion Set
This meditation cushion is a set of zafu and zabuton, which is why I recommend it. The zabuton cushion is 20 x 20 inches (WxDxH) and the zafu cushion is 13 x 13 x 5 inches. The cushions are sturdy and firm because they are filled with kapok fiber.
The LEEWADEE meditation cushion set comes in various colors and designs. Although some of the designs are asymmetrical, that doesn’t matter since I don’t focus on it when meditating. If you are above 6 feet and have long legs, though, the zafu cushion may be small to accommodate your legs.
Yoga Meditation Buckwheat Bolster Pillow Cushion
This crescent meditation cushion from Peace Yoga feels very high-end. It comes with buckwheat hulls filling, so it adapts to your body form. It also has an excellent firmness to it. It’s not too soft, it flattens right away, and it’s not too firm that it’s hard on the buttocks.
Since it is crescent-shaped, it gives excellent support to your hips and thighs.
This meditation cushion is also not as narrow as other crescent cushions, so you can use it as a prop for different yoga poses. For example, I have used it in between my thighs to activate the glutes in Bridge Pose.
REEHUT Zafu Yoga Meditation Cushion
This zafu meditation cushion from Reehut is very versatile. You can use it for meditation and Restorative Yoga poses. It also comes in three different sizes 12″ diameter × 4.5″ tall, 13″ diameter × 4.5″ tall, and 16″ diameter × 4.5″ tall. So, yogis and meditators of all sizes can feel the support it provides.
The Reehut meditation pillow uses buckwheat hulls as a filling so that you can custom-fit it. If you want it lower, you can remove some of the hulls inside. If you wish to make it higher, you can add more inside. It also uses a cotton cover, so it is hypoallergenic.
Hugger Mugger V-Shape Cushion
This V-shape cushion from Hugger Mugger provides excellent support for your back pain. The height is perfect for keeping the hips higher than your knees while also giving your tailbone and thighs the support they need in meditation. It is firm and soft. It also conforms to your form, like sitting on fine sand on the beach. It is a little heavy, though, so you cannot bring it while you travel.
Your meditation session should give you comfort and ease. But if instead of giving you that, it’s giving you back pain, it’s best to use the support of a meditation cushion.