Person holds prayer above head as they sit cross-legged in front of sunset.

Zafu meditation pillow: Benefits and how to use

A Zafu meditation pillow is believed to enhance your practice, providing comfort while also promoting good posture. Have you ever tried a lying down meditation? They’re great for relaxation, but it’s worth noting that your mindfulness practice could be elevated by ensuring your hips and back are sat upright – and a Zafu meditation pillow is absolutely perfect.

What is a zafu meditation pillow?

A zafu meditation pillow is a round cushion filled with either kapok (fluffy plant fibre, similar to Typha) or buckwheat hulls. There are two shapes: a classic round shape or a crescent moon shape, with the key aim to raise your pelvis above your knees while meditating.

A size of 8 inch is most popular, but there are different heights, such as a 9 inch. The 9 inch zafu pillow is best suited to tall people with bigger feet, or for those who have less flexibility or leg injuries. If you can comfortably sit cross-legged without extra height, 7 inch zafus are absolutely fine.

Zafu meditation pillows date back to the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) in China. The early zafus were used by Chan Buddhist monks, who would sit on them for long periods of time during hours of meditation. The zafu helped to support the monks’ bodies and prevent them from becoming fatigued.

Zafu meditation pillow: benefits

The zafu meditation pillow raises the hips, making the range of cross-legged sitting positions more stable for the person meditating. It’s great for enhancing meditation, especially for beginners, as the stable position means you’re less likely to fall asleep like you would in a bed or chair.

Other benefits include promoting good back posture, giving you comfortability, and helping you align your spine and pelvis. Strain and tension in the back is relieved using a zafu meditation pillow as it encourages a natural curve in the spine, helping you to remain mindfully alert.

Remember, the whole benefit of a zafu cushion means that, when sitting, your legs can drop off at the edges at the hip joints, so that your knees are lower than your hips – and maintaining the spine’s natural curve.

While it isn’t a requirement to meditate with a zafu pillow, anyone who wants to make their sitting practice more relaxed and easeful should try a zafu. It even helps when trying to work at your desk or simply to chill out watching television, as your back posture will be improved and therefore you’ll have less aches and pains.

How to use the pillow

Zen Buddhist practitioners traditionally sit on a zafu when engaged in sitting meditation, either at a temple or at home. You sit on the zafu meditation pillow by placing it under your hips in any cross-legged postures or traditional meditation poses, with your spine straight.

You can also sit down with the zafu meditation pillow right behind your hips, then lean back with your arms overhead to open up your chest. This is great for opening your heart chakra if you want to get really spiritual! But since the zafu is round, you get to choose what positions work for you.

Another way of using it to achieve a deep relaxation of the back muscles is by sitting on your heels, bending forward and resting your torso on the cushion. Zafus are often zippered so you can remove the filling and wash the covers if you ever need to.

Here are a couple of Zafu meditation pillows to try for yourself:

Basaho CLASSIC Zafu Meditation Cushion

Present Mind Extra High Round Yoga Cushion

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