There are many conflicting answers available online to the question “Does Your Back Have To Be Straight When Meditating?” To give a quick and simplistic answer, I would say no, it’s not absolutely necessary to have a straight back when meditating.
However, there are some good reasons for meditating in a sitting position with a straight back as well as times when it’s ok to meditate in other positions that don’t involve a straight back.
In my 25-plus years of meditating, I’ve tried many different positions and have settled on two that suit me the best. I’ll elaborate on those here (sitting with a straight spine and lying down.)
However, I won’t include my thoughts on walking meditations, sitting in a café, in nature, etc. which I refer to as mindfulness meditations. For more information on Mindfulness, you can check out my post What is mindfulness: How will I benefit by practicing to become more mindful?
Also, it’s important to note, that when we talk about having a straight back, we do not mean that the vertebrae in our spine are to be perfectly stacked up on top of each other. Our spines do have some natural curvature. So what we are really referring to is the natural healthy positioning of our vertebrae for our bodies’ optimal physical and energetic alignment.
Does Your Back Have To Be Straight When Meditating?
In some traditions, the teacher will insist that the students meditate with a straight back. However, this technique does not suit everyone and you may benefit more from a different variation or technique that is encompassed by the term meditation. What is most important is that you develop a method/technique that works for you and does not detract/distract you from achieving your meditative goals. And this will naturally evolve with time and experience and may even result in you sitting with a straight back even if you didn’t begin that way.
How Important Is It To Sit With A Straight Back During Meditation?
The main aim of your practice should be to achieve a ‘pleasant’ state of being, body, mind, and soul. And because most beginner meditators find it difficult to sit comfortably with a straight back for even short periods, they may determine that meditation is ‘too hard’ and give up.
So, rather than forcing yourself to sit through countless hours of discomfort and not being able to achieve a relaxed mind and body, it would be better to choose a different position for your meditations (rather than giving up.)
We, humans, are very diverse, and really, we can meditate anywhere at any time once we have learned the basics of how to relax our bodies and minds. You can choose to do it now by just closing your eyes, taking a few long slow deep breaths, and allowing your mind to be at peace. And in this sense, meditation is more about our minds rather than keeping the correct physical posture.
As you become more experienced, your meditation practice is something that you will want to incorporate into more and more aspects of your daily lives. And with this in mind, it’s not practical to be running back to sit on your mat to ensure you can sit with a straight back every 10 to 20 minutes you wish to become more mindful, more focused, more at ease, and more self-aware……
So, by adopting a flexible attitude early on, it will serve you as your practice develops and your awareness of SELF and your environment improves. The important point I’m trying to get across is that YOU SHOULD FOCUS ON CREATING A PRACTICE THAT WORKS FOR YOU! And if you don’t get too hung up about it, your practice will naturally evolve as you do.
What Are Some Benefits Of Having A Straight Back When Meditating?
If you can sit with a straight back when meditating, you will benefit in some ways that you cannot when you are slouched over. Some benefits include:
– Your body is very stable when the vertebrae are properly aligned. You require less energy to sit comfortably, and with time, it will become easier and easier to be relaxed while sitting upright.
– Working towards, and then maintaining an upright seated position helps develop mental and physical self-control and strength. This is character-building and will benefit all aspects of your life.
– When slouching, your internal organs can be compressed and stressed. An upright seated position, erect but not rigid, allows all your organs proper space, thus allowing for optimum performance.
– With a straight spine, your rib cage can expand, allowing your lungs to inhale and exhale fully and deeply. This ‘cleanses’ the body and oxygenates the brain.
– Your Spine is the channel for your central nervous system. All physical stimuli/information passes through here from all over our bodies on its way to our brains. A strong and healthy nervous system is critical for a happy and healthy life experience.
– Your Prana/Chi/Life Force circulates more efficiently when your physical structure is optimally aligned. For more information on this, you can check out this article at yogabasics.com: Understanding the Flow of Prana (Life-Force Energy.)
– Your body’s kundalini energy can flow more freely when your chakras are properly aligned. Therefore, a straight spine has a direct positive effect on your Spiritual Evolution.
Our Physical Posture Can Have A Big Impact On The Success Of Our Practice
Our physical postures, gestures, and habits can tell a lot about our mental and emotional state of being. We all can see how confident, powerful people adopt different standing and seating habits compared to insecure and fearful people.
Outgoing people behave differently from introverts, and angry people are easily spotted and best kept away from. Depressed people slouch, don’t smile, and are slow to move. These examples show a few easy-to-recognize instances of how our bodies, minds, and emotions are intricately connected.
Because of these connections, we can use this knowledge to our advantage. And in relation to meditation, we can adapt postures to develop specific desired mental and emotional outcomes when we want.
Just as purposefully tensing your body, clenching your fists, and scowling will cause you to feel angry and forceful emotions and thoughts, adopting a sitting position with a straight back can induce feelings of power, control, stability, groundedness, and equanimity.
And, if you adopt the same posture, in the same location, use the same props (if any), and do your meditation at the same time every day, your body, mind, and emotions will quickly come to learn what is happening. Your whole being will become ‘tuned’ into the practice, and it will become easier and easier because of the consistent repetition.
Our posture is also important for proper physical and energetic functioning within other aspects of our lives. And as we become more self-aware and aware of our environment due to our meditation practice, most practitioners find that they become more ‘comfortable’ in other areas of their lives.
As your ability to sit and meditate improves, you will find that your confidence at work improves, your relationships take a turn for the better, and life generally seems to flow a bit easier.
Why? Because your energy is being upgraded, your vibration is rising, and therefore you attract, through the Law of Attraction, more of the things you want into your life and less of the stuff that you no longer resonate with.
Why Do I Predominantly Choose Two Different Ways Of Meditating?
I’ve listed many benefits of meditating with a straight back above, so won’t go over all that again.
However, I just want to say that I really like sitting in a lotus position with an upright body because of the stability that this position offers. Being able to fully expand the chest and breathe deeply gives me a feeling of empowerment and makes it really easy to maintain a very positive mindset.
However, it wasn’t always like that. It took many years of pain and discomfort and intense yoga practice to get to the point where I can now sit comfortably in a lotus position for more than an hour at a time.
This means that when I began meditating, I couldn’t achieve a ‘stable’ or calm relaxed mind while sitting. So, initially, much of my early practice was done while lying down. Technically, I reasoned that as long as I wasn’t on a soft mattress, my spine was still in a beneficial ‘straight’ alignment…. Just horizontally….
….. And yes, I had many experiences while lying down that involved my energy flowing.
Some people are reluctant to recommend lying down as a position for meditating because they feel the students are more likely to fall asleep. And yes, this may often be the case.
However, we are all individuals, and if you are well rested, not tired, and are not yet able to comfortably remain in any other position for the duration of your practice, then lying down is much better than not meditating.
There are many diverse reasons why we choose to meditate.
Some people wish to remain focused, alert, aware, and fully present. And if this is you, then yes I would suggest that you work towards an upright seated position with a straight back.
Others like to take a more relaxed approach. This may involve doing visualizations, relaxation, and affirmations. Therefore, a powerful rigid posture may not be the best choice. A more relaxed attitude can be attained with an ‘easier posture, such as kneeling, sitting in a chair, or lying down.
Also, some people who have physical pain or other ailments may not be able to meditate with an upright straight back…. So the important thing becomes to choose something that works for YOU, that enables YOU to continue with YOUR practice.
Don’t lose sight of the reason why you are meditating in the first place…. for the benefits of the practice…. Therefore, your posture is a secondary consideration and it’s the meditation practice that is of most importance.
Like all things related to meditation, they are only as important as you make them out to be….. If a straight back is really important to you, then work at it, and it will get better with time.
However, don’t let your fixation with your posture put you off from becoming a regular meditator…..