Yes, You Can Meditate Lying Down: Here’s When You Should

An upright posture simply isn’t the best shape for everyone all the time. In meditation, what’s important is comfort and alignment of the spine. In this article, explore how to best meditate on your back as well as meditation types that are best practiced lying down.
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog
can you meditate lying down
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog

You can meditate lying down any time you’d like to. What’s important in meditation posture is to find a pose you can hold comfortably for a long period of time. There are certain types of meditation where lying down may even be preferred. We explore when and how you should lie down to meditate.

How To Meditate Lying Down: Supine Meditation For Comfort

In the Buddha’s discourse The Great Frames of Reference, the Maha-Satipatthana Sutta, we learn that mindfulness is not limited to any one posture, but can be practiced at all times. The Buddha himself refers to four meditation postures; sitting, standing, walking and lying down. 

What’s important, Buddha says, is not the shape itself, but that

“when walking, the monk discerns, ‘I am walking.’ When standing, he discerns, ‘I am standing.’ When sitting, he discerns, ‘I am sitting.’ When lying down, he discerns, ‘I am lying down.’ However his body is disposed, that is how he discerns it…this is how a monk remains focused.”

There’s no one meditation posture with a monopoly on mindfulness. An upright posture simply isn’t the best shape for everyone all the time. In meditation, what’s important is comfort and alignment of the spine.

About Comfort

If the body is uncomfortable or in pain, it will become a distraction. Some distraction is minor and can be overcome by working with mindful attention. Other times distraction is overwhelming and unnecessarily disrupts the meditation practice.

Each individual practitioner must define for themselves what their window of tolerance is. Aggressive or acute pain might be more wisely handled by changing posture. There are no extra points in meditation for sitting with pain, nor for sitting upright in full lotus pose.

Read more: Learn what part discomfort plays in our personal and spiritual journey.

About Alignment

An elongated spine promotes the free flow of energy, or prana, through the body. If alignment is compromised, energy potentially becomes trapped. Sit up taller and you feel better. Posture is related to mood, as confirmed by a 2017 study linking recurrence of major depressive disorder with excessively hunched backs. The good news is, a neutrally aligned spine can be achieved sitting, standing, or lying down.

Read more: If you do want to sit down for certain practices, read our tips for a healthy sitting meditation posture.

Meditating lying down may be the best way for you to find the level of comfort and spinal alignment you need. There’s no one reason to meditate lying down, and there’s no reason to meditate in the same posture every time you practice. Just as we bring nonjudgmental awareness to our mindfulness practice, we should do the same for the posture we choose.

When And How To Meditate Lying Down

If you decide to meditate lying down there are several ways to do it. No matter how you set up, apply the general principles of beneficial meditation posture: Find a comfortable pose that promotes a long, neutral spine.

Inclined Savasana

In this supported corpse pose, savasana, you use a wedge-shaped support made of blankets, cushions or bolsters to situate your torso at an incline. Keeping your head slightly elevated above your hips may prevent the drowsiness that a fully supine pose can trigger.

As you set up, be aware of the curvature of your spine. Make sure the support spans the back of your head and the width of your shoulders to avoid over arching your upper back. This inclined position can also accentuate the curve of the low back, causing uncomfortable pressure or pinching in the lumbar spine. If this is the case, try lifting your shoulders higher or bend your knees and plant your feet. Place additional support beneath your knees to let your legs relax.

Semi-Supine

To meditate lying down in the semi-supine posture, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted. Maintain the natural curvature of your spine as you try to connect the back of your head, back of your shoulders, back of your heart, and the back of your sacrum to the surface below you. Rest one palm on your chest, and the other on your belly. 

To relax the legs, step your feet slightly wider than your hips, and aim your toes inward. Your knees will naturally rest on each other for support. Play with bringing your feet closer or further from your hips for a posture that promotes both ease and lengthening in the low back.

Savasana

In a full savasana, the body is completely supine with arms and legs stretched long. Face your palms upwards by your waist and relax your fingers. Subtly bring the shoulder blades together under your heart for a greater sense of openness. Place your feet at a comfortable width and let your pinky toes relax towards the earth for a gentle outward rotation of the thighs.

If you’re using supports in savasana, be mindful of how your props influence the alignment of your spine. A large pillow under the head can lift the chin too much towards the chest. Support under the knees may be beneficial in protecting and lengthening the low back.

Meditation To Lie Down For

While meditating lying down is just fine for any type of meditation practice, there are some practices that are particularly suited to a reclined posture.

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra, also known as Yogic sleep, is a type of meditation for which a supine posture may be best. In this guided practice the practitioner enters a powerful state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. Senses are withdrawn from the outside world as awareness turns inward.

Research shows Yoga Nidra is beneficial to those who have experienced trauma. A regular practice can shift activity to the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce heart rate variability.

Explore hundreds of free guided yoga nidra meditations on Insight Timer.

Body Scan

Body scans and other relaxation techniques are frequently practiced lying down. Lying down is relaxing and allows the body to be elongated in a neutral position. Because muscles are less activated when lying down, it can be easier to direct mindfulness equally to each body part in sequence, without another asking for attention.

Body scan meditations reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and increase self-awareness. Mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn cites body scans as the best type of meditation for easing chronic pain.

Explore hundreds of free guided body scan meditations on Insight Timer.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is a relaxing pranayama technique which is ordinarily practiced in an inclined savasana or semi-supine posture. With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, practitioners are guided to breathe through the nose. While breathing, movement in the chest is minimized while expansion and contraction of the belly is emphasized. 

Intentionally breathing in this manner strengthens the diaphragm, the body’s most efficient breathing muscle. Over time, breathing requires less effort, oxygen exchange becomes more efficient, and the heart rate slows down.

Practice your belly breathing right away with these selected breathing meditations:

  1. Belly (Diaphragmatic) Breathing Dr. Darragh O'Shea 8:15
  2. Belly Breathing For Anxiety Mary Maddux 12:03
  3. Belly Breathing For Releasing Stress Christina Mattison 8:42
  4. Diaphragmatic Breathing Cait Luke 3:19

Sound Healing

Sound healing is a passive experience in which a listener is encouraged to rest in the most comfortable shape possible while immersed in the vibrations of singing bowls, gongs or windchimes. Maintaining a supine meditation posture such as savasana lets the body rest while receiving this relaxing energy. 

By reducing stress, sound therapy can reduce inflammation and strengthen the body’s immune system, thereby protecting participants from stress-related chronic disease.

Explore thousands of free sound healing tracks on Insight Timer.

Sleep Meditation

Just as stress does, insufficient sleep leads to inflammation, weakened immunity, and a host of physiological and psychological illnesses. Our sleep deprived selves are often tasked with trying to stay alert and awake during meditation. With sleep meditation, drifting off to sleep is the goal. Guided journeys or soothing music shift consciousness from a waking to dream state.

Lying down to meditate is the perfect posture for those who intentionally want to fall asleep. If that’s not your intention, try meditating supine with your eyes open.

Experiment to see what works best for you. In the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha also said, “We should not go by reports, legends or traditions…When you know for yourself, ‘these qualities are skillful,’ then you should enter and remain in them.” Sometimes lying down to meditate is the most skillful thing you can do.

Explore thousands of free guided sleep meditation practices on Insight Timer.

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Always.