How Effective is Supine Meditation?
Meditating while lying down in bed: is it an effective way of meditating, or just another millennial fad you don’t need to concern yourself with?
The short answer is that if you know what you’re doing, in-bed meditation can be highly effective at fighting insomnia and even advancing your personal meditative practice. But be aware: according to some practitioners and teachers, meditating in the supine position (while lying down) is not always ideal if your goal is true meditation in the strictest sense of the phrase.
Supine Meditation is More About Deep Relaxation Than Conscious Meditation
If you ask Savitri Simpson, founder of the Ananda Teacher Meditation Program, meditation in Savasana or the supine position promotes deep relaxation as opposed to ‘true meditation’. According to Simpson, supine meditation tends to spread the energy out all over the body, which makes it easier to slip into a dreamy and woozy state of subconsciousness.
She stresses that even the great yoga masters say that sitting upright is the proper way to meditate, as this position better allows the individual to ‘draw the energy upward’, supplemented by the various practices of pranayama (breath control) and other meditation techniques.
However, Simpson also says that there’s nothing wrong with practicing supine meditation if that’s what you prefer. Just don’t do it in a class that teaches upright meditation. Not only does the sight of someone lying down tend to bring down the energy of the whole class, it can also lead to sleeping and possibly snoring, which inevitably interferes with the deep meditation of anyone within hearing range.
It’s a case of subconscious versus superconscious: lying down for meditation tends to make the body sleepy while sitting up is more about superconsciousness or hyper-awareness, which is arguably one of the primary goals of traditional meditation.
There Are Legitimate Ways to Meditate While Lying Down
Vipassana or insight meditation is a type of meditation that’s focused on ‘purifying the mind’ of everything that causes distress and/or pain. Its practice was discovered by Buddha himself and his disciples, who used it to free themselves from all forms of worldly suffering. However, while it sprang from buddhism, vipassana in itself is not buddhist, in the sense that it’s not attached to any religion.
Literally anyone can practice vipassana, as long as they’re willing to undergo the often intense and arduous mental fortitude necessary to truly embrace its practice.
For instance, in vipassana, you will be taught not to ignore pain and itching while meditating in a specific posture. But rather than adjusting yourself to tend to the pain or scratch the itch, you’re supposed to just observe the sensation and make a note of it as it happens – all while retaining focus on your primary object of meditation.
Of course, it should be noted that there are plenty of other nuances when it comes to practicing vipassana, but for the purposes of exploring legitimate supine or lying-down meditation, the above and following information will suffice.
In vipassana, there are actually four meditation postures: walking, sitting, standing, and lying down. According to those who teach vipassana, only those who have some mastery of meditation can actually practice meditating while lying down without losing mindfulness and eventually succumbing to feelings of sleepiness. That’s why novices are advised to limit supine meditation to just a maximum of 15 minutes, otherwise, the act of meditation may turn into deep relaxation, rendering the practitioner sleepy instead of fully aware.
So if you have a bad back or are suffering from an illness that doesn’t allow you to sit up straight for prolonged periods of time without damaging your body, feel free to explore supine meditation. Just remember that part of being aware of pain sensations is to know when the pain signals discomfort and when it actually signals potential damage to the body (at which point you should adjust accordingly).
Also, be aware of the fact that while lying down is comparatively more comfortable than sitting or standing up, there will still be pain and discomfort (just ask anyone who’s been bedridden) – it’s just up to you, the practitioner, to be aware of the sensations, work through them, and retain focus during meditation.
Determine Your Goal for Practicing Meditation
In the end, the best posture for meditation is determined by your personal needs and experience.
What are you meditating for? Is it to attain a mental awareness that will allow you to free yourself from the bondage of the material world? Do you meditate as a way to handle the stress of everyday work? Or are you simply looking for a drug-free way to attain deep relaxation and beat insomnia?
There’s nothing wrong with meditating in order to cradle yourself to sleep. Just don’t mistake it for true meditation aimed at sharpening focus and attaining enlightenment – especially if you prefer meditation in the supine or lying-down position.