Cushions, mats, or stools are support aids that help personalize your space and maintain posture while meditating. Choosing the right meditation pillow, cushion, or other support for your meditation practice can be overwhelming. This guide covers the ins and outs to help you in choosing the best meditation cushion for your practice.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned meditator, having the right support for your sitting or kneeling position is important.
- Why You Should Use Meditation Cushions
- The Main Types of Meditation Cushions
- What Cushion Do I Need? Pose Wise
- Inner Filling Choices in Meditation Cushions
- Popular Selling Meditation Cushions
- Where to Buy Meditation Cushions
Why You Should Use Meditation Cushions
Meditation teacher, author, and coach, Giovanni Dienstmann, explains the best way to meditate “is on a cushion on the floor”. He goes on to say that “this is the most stable meditation posture, making it easier for you to relax and achieve physical and mental stillness”.
Cushions provide comfort for the various upright styles of meditation (sitting or kneeling). They are beneficial in supporting your spine and will help prevent ‘pins and needles’ in your legs. They help you relax and feel calm – a state required for meditation.
Watch this video for some helpful tips on how to sit in meditation…
Turiya Moore, meditation teacher, explains “Finding the correct cushion (for your body) will help take pressure away from your tailbone and also relieve some of the tension you may experience in your knees”.
The zafu and the zabuton are the most common meditation cushions. They can be used in combo or separately. A zafu meditation floor cushion has three main shapes: classic, crescent, and wheel (see the diagrams below). The zabuton is mostly square and flat.
Why use a zabuton? A zabuton helps to define your space, makes a base for your cushion, and provides support for your knees and ankle joints. A zabuton placed as the base (or alternatively, meditation mats) will cushion the effect of your joints against the floor.
Best Type Of Meditation Cushion
People ask: What is the best type of meditation cushion? My take is the cushion that helps you sit upright (with an upright mind) for durations without pain or causing you to suffer pain afterwards. Otherwise, you’re likely to slouch and fall into sleepiness with your mind going as ‘slack’ as your body. As well, your back might hurt after some time tilted forward and your breathing will be hindered.
A good posture is the best foundation for meditative practice.Giovanni Dienstmann, Meditation Teacher in Practical Meditation.
The following is what I’ve discovered from research into the different poses and cushion support recommended by meditation teachers.
The Different Types of Meditation Cushions
First, let’s get familiar with the different types of meditation seating support.
Zafu Meditation Pillow
Zafu is the traditional style of cushion used by the Zen Buddhists and so is sometimes called a zen cushion. Translated, Zafu means sewn seat.
A zafu is a round (classic or wheel) or a moon shaped (crescent) cushion with more height than a usual cushion (see diagrams).
|Classic||Most common, pleated sides|
|Crescent||Support for the hips and legs|
|Wheel||Higher, less wide support|
All help to raise the hips into a comfortable sitting position (see best postures). The classic or wheel shapes form a short cylinder.The crescent can be useful between your feet and your buttocks in the kneeling pose or used to support the knees in Burmese pose.
Zabuton Meditation Cushion
A zabuton cushion is flatter than the zafu and is often used in the full, quarter, or half lotus postures (see the different poses). These cushions are designed to use alone or to go underneath your zafu or meditation stool. They help to relieve any pressure on your knees, ankles, and feet when in the sitting or kneeling poses.
Meditation Chair with Back Support
Meditation chairs suit the sitting posture and are specially designed for people who might suffer back pain or limited flexibility. They typically have extra support for the lower back and a curved meditation block for a cross-legged position.
The following describes common meditation poses and suggested props for support.
What Cushion Do I need? Pose Wise
Let’s start with the poses where a cushion comes in handy. Here are the main ones.
- Easy pose is simply a comfortable seated position with legs crossed in front. It is similar to the Burmese pose. In this, your knees are wide and your shins are crossed.
- This is not the best pose for meditating more than a few minutes as it is not the most stable posture.
- But…You could place a sitting cushion, such as a crescent meditation cushion under your knees for support and add stability.
Full, Half, or Quarter Lotus Position
- This is a common position that people seem to adopt naturally. A thin cushion, a folded blanket, or a zabuton is best for lotus positions.
- The full lotus is where you sit crossed-legged with your feet resting on top of the opposite thighs. The half lotus involves only one foot resting on the opposite thigh while the other leg is stretched out in front or folded underneath and rest beneath the knee or thigh. The quarter lotus has both legs crossed but with each foot resting under the opposite thigh or knee.
- People who have difficulty sitting with legs crossed may prefer the Burmese posture. This involves laying your legs bent and flat on the floor in front of you. This position has the legs folded (rather than crossed). One heel is on the inside of the opposite thigh, and your other heel sits slightly in front of the opposite foot, ankle, or calf.
- The sides of your knees touch the ground and if they don’t, you can do what I do, and add a cushion under one or each of your knees to support them. You can use pillows, bolsters, or blankets for this extra support.
- For this, a zafu is useful, to elevate your hips, and a zabuton cushion or folded blanket can be used as a base in the Burmese posture. Dienstmann1 recommends having your hips slightly higher than your knees.
Kneeling (Seiza) Position
- This position is more gentle on the knees. Best for those who find it hard to sit cross-legged; a kneeling position is ideal.
- For this, you use a meditation bench or stool as a prop. Otherwise, you could straddle a zafu (meditation pillow). You can also place a meditation rug or mat (zabuton) underneath to define your space and add more comfort for your knees.
- Make sure your spine is in proper alignment. Dienstmann1 explains “Your pelvis should be titled slightly forward to enable you to sit with a straight spine”.
- In this position, your feet are rested firmly on the ground in proper alignment with your hips and knees. Dienstmann1 advises that: “Your thighs should be parallel to the floor”.
- Involving a chair or other seating, in this position you can use a folded blanket or a zabuton placed on the seat for support. You could also use a zafu if it fits.
What’s The Best Meditation Posture?
What is the best posture for meditation? The best meditation posture is subjective. Try the one that naturally feels right for you, where you can reach a depth of calm without slouching and falling into daydreaming.
Regarding the best meditation pose, Krishna, one of the most widely revered and most popular of all Indian divinities, had this to say:
Firmly holding the spine, neck, and head erect and motionless, let the yogi focus his eyes at the point between the two eyebrows. When a Yogi is ready successfully to engage his reversed mind and life force in a battle with the outwardly pulling senses, without any strictures or pinching of the spinal nerves, the mind and life force are easily directed upward.In the Bhagavad Gita
Imagine your spine is a stack of coins — a classic depiction from Buddhist texts.
Regarding comfort, Robert Butera, Author of Meditation for Your Life, explains that “Comfort is predominantly subjective—so long as muscles and joints are not compromised—so use your own body’s intuition to find what works best for you.”
Always support your knees. Giovanni Dienstmann, mediation teacher, explains: “Your knees should be supported. If they don’t touch the floor place a pillow or folded blanket under each knee”1.
What’s the Best Inner Filling Available in Meditation Pillows?
Here are seven main types of fillings in sitting pillows to consider when looking to buy a meditation cushion. Think about the purpose (e.g., will it be for home use or for travel) and whether you have any allergies, or how much you value use of organic, eco-friendly materials.
1. Buckwheat Hulls As Natural Cushion Filler
Buckwheat hulls are a by-product of buckwheat grain and are considered hypoallergenic. This type of filling provides a cushion that will shape underneath you.
Bonus: This natural type of filling won’t reflect your body heat as much as artificial fibers (polyester and polyfill).
2. Kapok Fiber Natural Cushion Filler
This is another natural material taken from the seeds of the Kapok tree, which grows in the South Pacific. It is also considered hypoallergenic. The advantage of this type of filling is that it is lightweight and mold resistant. It provides firm seating. Look for organic kapok.
3. Wool – Natural Cushion Filler
This is a good insulator of ‘energy’ (prana) according to many Yogis. It doesn’t compress and is comfortable. Wool will last longer than other materials used as fillings. Wool is a natural fiber and has a ‘crimping’ action that returns it to its original shape much like a spring.
4. Cotton Filling
This is the cheapest filling, but not the more enviro-friendly because of the water and chemical use in production. Best to go organic cotton zafu meditation cushion (no chemical use) to help the Earth.
5. Polyfill / Polyester Filling
This is artificial fiber made from fossil fuels. This will be less expensive but you may find this filling with tend to flatten with use.
6. Air Filling – Inflated Cushions
For the mobile meditator, an inflatable meditation cushion, one filled with air, is a practical choice.
7. Foam – Artificial Filling
This is artificial filling that will deteriorate with time. Foam filling is not usually recyclable and will not compost down.
Popular Selling Meditation Cushions
For you, the best meditation cushions are those suited to your meditation style and posture. Think also about any limitations in your flexibility.
As well, you may want to consider the material of the product, e.g., whether it is natural or eco-friendly. And is the cover removable and easily cleaned.
The following covers some popular meditation cushions to help you make the best choice of support for you to use at home (or anywhere).
The Brentwood Home Crystal Cove Meditation Pillow
This modern cushion has a removable cover with an inbuilt handle for easy transporting. Filling is buckwheat.
The pattern design of the Crystal Cove meditation cushion signifies calming waves. The outer removable cover is a stretch knit with the arty design. Dimensions lengthwise, from seam to seam, 16″; width, from seam to seam is 12″, and height about 5″. This one is available on Amazon. Read reviews of real owners here.
The Peace Yoga Zafu
The Peace yoga zafu has a buckwheat hulls filling and a removable cotton cover. You can choose a 13″ (33 cm) or 16″ (40 cm) diameter cushion, both with a height of 5″. It comes in a variety of vibrant colors including sun blue and peacock purple with a pattern on the one side. It has a built-in handle for carrying. This one is available on Amazon. See the reviews from verified owners here.
This Samadhi zafu has an removable cover in either 100% organic twill or 65% recycled-poly/35% cotton (ECO twill), and is filled with natural kapok fiber. Its dimensions are 10×10, that is, a 10″ (25.5 cm) diameter and a height of 10″ that settles to about 5″ (12.7 cm) when used. You can buy these on Amazon.com. Check out the latest price here!
Samadhi makes a best-brand name zafu meditation pillow. It is based in Vermont and the product is made in the USA.
If you are in the UK or Europe, check out the Basaho brand for a similar zafu, which is available on Amazon.uk. This one is made of organic cotton and filled with natural buckwheat hulls. Read reviews here along with the latest price.
Bean Products Zafu and Zabuton Cushion
Bean Products zafu cushions come in a range of color options and designs that are filled with organic buckwheat from the USA. The covers are made of eco-friendly hemp or organic cotton.
The inner filling of buckwheat can be refilled or removed to clean the cover. Each pillow has a built in handle for transport. Items are made in Chicago, USA. Combos of zafu and zabuton are available on Amazon. Check out the reviews from verified owners.
Rectangular Zafu Cushion
The Zafuko rectangular zafu shown here contains 100% organic kapok fiber filling. It provides a firm seat and is versatile. Spot clean only (not for the washing machine).
What’s to like? Fairtrade and sustainably sourced from Thailand. Good price for a natural filling. This versatile block can be used in yoga as well as in meditation. It does not slip on the floor when using for yoga. Check out the reviews from real owners here.
In Australia? Check out the rectangular zafu from StretchNow. The dimensions of this rectangular zafu are 37 x 23 x 11 cm and it is available in 6 patterned colors. It has an organic cotton twill cover and the inner filling is also organic cotton. You can also get a zafu crescent zafu in this range. These cotton zafus are generously filled. They are lightweight for carrying between places. Read reviews by real owners here.
Friends of Meditation Chair
Looking for more than just a meditation cushion? Wanting extra comfort and support because of back pain or… just because?
The Friends of Meditation offer a meditation chair with a combined cushioning similar to a zafu in combination with a zabuton, with back support. This chair has been designed by registered Yoga teacher and Osho meditation facilitator.
The video shows how easy it is to set up this seat.
The product dimensions are 29.1 x 23.6 x 9.8″ and it is fairly lightweight at 15.5 pounds. It is made with 4 inch 40D foam inner filling and comes with a 7-year warranty. It is fully foldable.
Cons: Cost. Backrest is not built to withstand a lounging position, so best to use appropriately. Carry case tends to be flimsy.
Pros: Comes with a carry bag. Ergonomic design. Back support to maintain good posture and alleviate pain. Detachable zafu and curved back support. The chair is available on Amazon. Check out the reviews of verified owners here.
Alexia Meditation Seat
This meditation seat is designed to give you maximum support and comfort. It is an ergonomically designed seat for a meditation sitting position suitable for use at the home or office (without the pins and needles).
You can choose a leather covering or a fabric cover.
It has a foam inner filling and is fairly lightweight, weighing in at approximately 15 pounds. The dimensions are 26″ x 32.5″ x 11.5″.
Cons: Costs more than a typical meditation cushion. If you are eco conscious, this one is not organic or recyclable. The cover is not removable. (The recommended cleaning for the fabric cover is dry clean only and for the leather use only leather cleaning products.) The size and shape means it would be awkward to transport to and from events.
Benefits: The comfort given by the ergonomic design and the size is a big bonus. It is light enough to be portable. Well designed for and perfect if your hip flexors are too tight. The design places you in a natural position. You can buy this from Amazon.com. Read the positive reviews by verified owners.
Where to Buy Meditation Cushions
If you shop with Amazon.com, I’ve listed popular meditation cushions from that outlet above. Otherwise, if you are looking for an online meditation store? Here is a selection.
US & Canada: Meditationbench.com is a family owned and run business with all pillows made at their shop in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California.
Europe and UK: Basaho on Amazon.uk
Australia & New Zealand: StretchNow has been established since 2002. They offer a range of eco-friendly yoga and meditation products.
Ways to Add Ambiance
- Meditation scenes
- Visual meditation videos
Is a meditation cushion a good investment? Yes. Having the right set-up will help you feel comfortable and motivated to continue a regular practice of meditation. For this reason, you should look at investing in a good quality meditation cushion and other accessories to support your continuation of this beneficial activity for your well being. These would also make great gifts for that special person.
At the end of the day, there are some basic principles to remember with regard to your meditation posture. Dienstmann, in Practical Meditation1, cites these four:
- Practice a firm posture to make you feel grounded and secure
- Sit upright or lie straight to prevent your mind from falling into daydreaming
- Make sure you are comfortable so you can sit still for a long duration with minimal distractions
- Relax the muscles in your shoulders, arms, and face.
Dienstmann, G. 2018. Practical Mediation. Penguin Random House. London.