12 Things to Know about a Yoga Meditation Bench

  1. Think of the bench as a "yoga mat with a bench under it". The top of the bench is like the floor, only raised a little higher, so it's easier to get up and down. (If need be, you can also press an Ottoman, coffee table, or chaise lounge into service!)

  2. To sit comfortably, put a meditation cushion, zafu, or rectangular yoga bolster and sit on that. Position it towards the back half of the bench so that, with your feet flat on the floor, your knees are right at the edge of the bench. (If you can sit in Lotus Pose (padmasana), or you can sit on your heels while kneeling (vajrasana), an extra sitting cushion will only get in your way. But for any other sitting position, you need one.)

  3. You can then cross both legs on the bench, just as you would on the floor. But now you have extra options. You can sit with one foot on the bench and the other on the floor, or with both feet on the floor.  (The Quick Start guide shows you a variety of ways to sit. One comes with the bench, or you can order it from the website.)

  4. Ideally, you'll have at least one knee fully supported by the bench. When you do, it's like sitting on a gentle slope--a slope that encourages the slight tilt in the pelvis that makes it possible to sit fully upright, with minimal effort! (For even greater comfort, you can put an additional base cushion (zabuton) on top of the bench, and put your seat cushion on top of that. But for most, it isn't necessary.)

  5. The bench helps you sit with great posture, and it can help you develop the specific combination of strength and flexibility required for it. (Flexibility is needed in the hips and shoulders. Strength is needed in the neck, upper back, and between the shoulder blades. For more, see the Bench Yoga book.)

  6. That upright posture is the key to meditation, for two reasons. First, lets you sit with minimal muscular strain, so you can relax and go deep into your meditation, without sensations of pain occupying your focus. Second, in a very real way, it allows for the internal flow of energy.

  7. The spine is often compared to garden hose. If the hose has "kinks" in it, the water can't flow freely. So too, with energy. But while the garden hose analogy is helpful, it isn't exact. An internal energy flow is a subtle, but quite real flow of electrons--a movement that is also called electricity.

    Whenever electrons move, they create a magnetic field. When the spine is bent, the field produced in one area interferes with the field produced in another, creating resistance. So, for the maximum energy experience, work to achieve excellent posture.

  8. Feeling the energy flow is also a matter of perception. It's a subtle experience, so you need a quiet mind, alert to inner sensations. As you meditate, see if you can feel the energy moving inside you--and know that the energy within you is identical to the vast ocean of energy that pervades the universe!

  9. It also helps to know the Secret of Yoga: If you stretch too far, it's painful. All you feel is the pain. If you don't stretch far enough, nothing much happens. But if you stretch right at the edge of your ability, and breathe into it, you literally produce an energy flow. (Science can prove it, at last.) Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi) taught that we should spend as much time meditating after a yoga asana as we spent in the asana--for each and every asana we do. Experiencing that energy flow is why!

  10. You can get the same kind of energy experience from isometrics, a massage, a shower, a both, "earthing", or bathing in sunlight. Each of those activities generates an energy flow. Sunlight, water, and the earth provide them directly. But anything that squeezes, stretches, pushes, or pulls muscle tissue produces a stream electrons that can reduce inflammation, calm your emotions, and energize your brain. (For more, see my  Earth Energy series at Medium.com -- especially #1 Earth Energy is Real, and #3 The Sun, the Earth, and Your Body.)

  11. But perhaps the most important thing is know is this: That flow of energy produces an unparalleled sense of positivity and joy!

  12. These days, everyone knows that meditation provides an enormous range of mental and physical benefits. But if you have to make yourself do it, only the rare disciplined few will achieve those benefits. If you enjoy it, on the other hand, then you do it because you enjoy it, so it's easy to meditate regularly. And when you practice meditation regularly, then you acquire the benefits. So be on the lookout for a meditation practice that makes you happy inside. Above all, use the bench in good health, make the most of it, and enjoy the experience!