Zafu and You – the Right Meditation Cushion

There are many different types of meditation cushions, and that is probably because there are just as many different body types, levels of tolerance, and flexibility. Don’t worry, if you are the ‘I don’t need a cushion because I’m flexible with a lot of padding.’ type, or “I can’t possibly meditate because I can’t sit on the floor” type. There is a way for every one to engage in meditation with the right preparation and thought.

Meditation Cushion Shapes

Zafu or Round
A buckwheat filled zafu or round pill shape
A buckwheat filled zafu or round pill shape

The word ‘zafu’ is said to have originated from the word ‘zazen’ meaning ‘seated meditation’ and the word ‘futon’ meaning a round cushion stuffed with cattail flower spikes. Today the word ‘zafu’ is most often used to describe a round, pill-shaped meditation cushion with pleats. Sometimes they will have covers that zip off for washing or replacing (which is very handy), and can be stuffed with many different types of materials (see materials below).

‘Half-Moon’ or ‘Smile’ Style
A smile or half-moon shape helps support the back
A smile or half-moon shape supports the back by allowing the thighs to have a gentler slope to the ankles, relieves the stress on the ankles.

This style of cushion is really good for people who have hip or knee issues because it gives the top part of the leg excellent support. This type of cushion is often the same thickness all the way around, and is a little flatter than a zafu. They work well on a mat for added cushioning of the ankles and feet – which receive more pressure when using this kind of cushion. That’s because the knees tend to sit higher, changing the angle of the feet and ankles, pushing them more into the floor.

You can also find a very tiny half-moon shaped cushion that is less than 12 inches long, about four inches wide, and no more than an inch thick. Those who have perfect posture and have mastered the lotus position use these cushions just where the tailbone hits the floor.

Wedge or Crescent Style cushions

Wedge Meditation CushionThis cushion gets its name because of the shape, and because it is thicker in the middle and thinner at the two ends just like a banana. Like the ‘Half-Moon’ cushion it gives more support to the upper thighs, and because it gets skinner at the end allows less pressure on the ankles and feet. This is my favorite kind of cushion coupled with a mat.

Square Style cushions
Square meditation cushion stuffed with synthetic hard foam.
Square meditation cushion stuffed with synthetic hard foam.

The square style, or box cushion, is often very thick and tends to be harder. It’s meant to raise the meditator higher so there is better circulation in the legs and feet, and causes less stress on the lower back for those who feel they are not flexible enough to sit on the floor at all. It gives the user an alternative choice from a chair, and can be used to help graduate a meditator from a chair to a semi-lotus position.

Kneeling Bench
kneeling meditation cushion
From Boondecor, a kneeling meditation cushion for those with knee or back troubles.

Some meditators prefer to meditate in a kneeling position, a tradition that comes from Japan. A bench helps to take pressure off the calves and ankles, and improves posture and circulation. Some wooden benches have cushions, and there are some who prefer no padding. Either way the bench should be well built just for meditation with a good tilt and solid construction. Some benches are collapsible for easy transport and storing.

Next article: Cushion Stuffings – How to choose the right stuffing for you. Follow this blog to learn more.

Read other articles on meditation cushions:

Choosing a Meditation Cushion

Meditation Cushion Stuffings and Material

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Afloat.”

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