One of the reasons that I promote meditation as a tool to relax and not in a spiritual way is because many people who would benefit from meditation are turned off by the concept of spirituality, religion, philosophy or they think it has to be regimented in a way that only people who live in caves in India can gain from it. However, I find that when meditation is broken up into breathing techniques and the benefits of stress relief and relaxation become apparent, people really begin to open up to the idea.
Recently, I was doing a wellness workshop at a school. One of the assistant Principals, Tanya had tried meditation a couple of times as part of her yoga class. She did not feel comfortable with some of the spiritual connotations that went along with the practice as well as sitting in the half lotus. When she came to the workshop I could tell that she was very hesitant and wasn’t quite buying the whole deal. First Tanya told me that she was stressed and needed something to help her relax, but she was nervous about opening up around her co-workers and was wondering where she would sit because she had a bad back. I told her we would only do some very basic stuff today and that everyone would be sitting in chairs.
So we began the breathing techniques, I could tell Tanya was still nervous but was slowly letting loose and relaxing a bit. I even saw a smile! After we had completed the workshop Tanya asked me how she did, I told her I thought she did fine. She was concerned that she was still breathing into her chest too much and was not doing enough diaphragm breathing. I told her it takes time and to keep practicing which is the most important thing. She then told me that sitting in the chair made her feel very comfortable versus sitting in a half lotus and that is why she felt she was able to relax. I felt good about that.
Being comfortable is a key ingredient to having a meditation practice. Like everything else, if you do not feel comfortable it will simply not be effective. Of course there are immense benefits to meditating in the lotus or more traditional positions, but they should not be deal-breakers if people cannot sit like that. Relaxation should be simple and enjoyable!