Zazen Posture Checklist
- Sit on the front third of your zafu. Cross your legs in one of “lotus” positions or the burmese position. the burmese position. Knees should rest fully on the zabuton, not held up. (Use a supporting cushion under your knees, if necessary.) In the seiza position, you can drape your toes off of the back of the zabuton if more comfortable (so toes are less pointed).
- Curve the lumbar (lower) spine by tilting the top of the pelvis forward. Chest should be out, shoulders back and relaxed.
- Gently lift your head, slightly tucking in your chin. Imagine that the crown of your head is holding up the ceiling.
- Align your nose with your navel.
- Ears should be in line with, and equidistant from, your shoulders.
- Press your tongue lightly against the upper palate.
- Rest your right hand in your lap, palm up. Rest the fingers of the left hand on the fingers of the right hand, with thumb-tips lightly touching.
- Keep your eyes open, but lower your gaze so that you are seeing, but not looking at, a spot on the floor about four to six feet in front of you.
- After one or two deep clearing breaths, breathe normally and silently through your nose.
While the postures illustrated above support the spine and overall stability in an optimal way, modifications can be made for those with special physical needs due to injury, aging, and other conditions such as pregnancy. At Great Plains Zen Center, these modifications are perfectly appropriate. Please don’t hesitate to ask if we can help you with postural issues. Here is an example of a practitioner who does zazen in a supine position when necessary due to a neck injury. This sitting posture was used during a Rohatsu Sesshin.
Recommended Books for those New to Practice
Reading books is not a requirement for practicing Zen. In fact, it is often said that the best Zen book is one that makes you want to put it down and go sit. Nevertheless, there are some encouraging and practice-related books that are recommended for those establishing a practice and actively practicing. Find a list of recommended books here.