Thursday, September 16, 2010

Zazen Posture.

There was a nice turnout last Tuesday, the first of our weekly meetings after the summer break. Thanks to everyone who came along to try out zazen.

Some people sat on chairs, while some sat on the zafus (the small, round cushions) and zabutons (the bigger, flat ones). We have to start practicing zazen from whatever point our body is at, and, while sitting in a cross legged pose is recommended, it simply is not possible for all of us. This is fine.

The cross legged position on the floor offers the great stability of a tripod (made by our two knees and the sitting bones of our backsides). Remember we sit towards the front edge of the zafu and allow our pelvis to drop forward, which, if we are sufficiently flexible, should allow our knees to fall towards the zabuton (you can use a folded blanket on a carpeted floor at home as an alternative to a zafu and zabuton). This stability allows us to make the upright (but not rigid!) posture with our upper body.

If we're sitting on a chair it's important not to slump back in on ourselves in the lower back region, and we don't lean against the chair's back (as in the 'traditional seat' image at the top of this post). We should sit forward, towards the edge of the seat if possible, and gently stick our rears out allowing for a gentle inward curve in the lower spine (as in the 'saddle seat' image up top... this can feel a bit odd at first!) We should support our own upper body on this base, remembering to allow the shoulders to drop naturally with our hands in the mudra position. The mudra is formed around the part of our body which is the pivot area of our torso; this serves to bring a sense of centeredness and balance to our posture.
Remember: Getting into the routine of doing 3-5 mins, or whatever, twice a day (usually morning and evening) is better than doing 20 mins or half an hour infrequently!

... And be careful not to try to do too much everyday at first, so as not to burn yourself out on it and make doing it a drag. The length of time we sit daily can be built up very gradually as we get used to it.

You'll find links to some info on stretches to help open the legs, hips and back HERE... and check out the 'How to do Zazen' link in the links section up on the right hand side of this page.