Posted by Jay Suthers on June 20, 2014
Meditation Benches are designed specifically for kneeling meditation practice, also known as Seiza. The purpose of the bench in not to sit on it like a short stool, but to support the upper body and reduce the weight on the knees, shins, and ankles during kneeling meditation.
There are literally hundreds of meditation benches to choose from. But, they all have similar characteristics, which helps to narrow down the options when choosing a meditation bench. The main factor is in the dimensions of the bench. The bench seat is typically wide enough to provide more than enough space for sitting. This width ranges from 15 to 20 inches, with most benches leaning toward the larger size to ensure full coverage. The depth of the seat is typically 6 to 8 inches, which is ample for most people. Finally, the height of the bench must be high enough to straddle over the calves of the legs. This height ranges from 6 to 8 inches with an average around 7 inches.
Given that most benches fall into these measurements, there are some other features that distinguish one bench from another and need consideration before choosing a bench. Additional features to consider are the placement of the legs, the angle of the seat, whether the bench can be folded flat for portability, and the quality of the materials used in constructing the bench.
At Sage Meditation we offer two styles of benches. The Original Pi Meditation Bench has the legs placed in the middle of the bench. At first glance, this may not appear to be very stable, but since the majority of the body weight is down the center, the central placement of the legs is perfectly stable. The advantage to having the legs in the middle is that this creates a wide open space for the calves, ankles, and feet. With no legs on the outside edge, there is nothing to get in the way of your legs.
We also offer the Omni Folding Meditation Bench, which has the legs on the outside edge. This is a traditional style and most people feel comfortable with the legs positioned on the outside. To make the bench more spacious and stable, the legs of the Omni Bench splay outward slightly. This creates side-to-side stability and gives you more room for your legs.
Many benches on the market have a simple, fixed-angled seat design. Either the bottom of the legs or the seat top are angled to produce a forward slope. In the Seiza posture, the legs form a ">" shape. So, it only makes sense that the bench have an angle built into it to accomodate the natural position of the body in this posture. However, no two people have exactly the same dimensions. For this reason, a fixed-angle bench will not be ideal. If it is angled too sharply, the rear edge of the seat may dig into the buttocks. If it is not angled enough, the front edge of the seat may dig into the upper thighs.
We offer benches with rounded legs. This is not to create a "Rocking Horse" affect but, rather the rounded end allows you to rotate the bench to a nearly infinite number of angles. The best way to adjust this is to kneel down and then place the bench against your buttocks so that is is perfectly parallel. Slowly lower yourself until the bench is all the way down. You may need to shift your weight slightly, but you will find that the seat is now perfectly positioned and neither the front nor the rear edge are digging into you.
The Pi Meditation Bench is also available in a folding version, affectionally known as the " Pi To Go". A simple latch system allows the legs to fold flat creating a more transportable bench. The Omni Meditation Bench has a stiff hinge on each leg. The legs fold inward and can then be unfolded for use. The tight hinge mechanism and outward splay of the legs ensures the legs will not fold up while sitting on the bench.
Both the Pi To Go and the Omni Bench are stable when the legs are extended and the benches are as functional as those benches that are assembled as a solid piece. The ability to transport these benches makes them ideal for taking to your weekly group meditations or on weekend and week-long retreats. Some benches have a design that allows you to easily assemble and disassemble the bench for transporting. Be sure you understand how this assembly works so you can determine whether the bench will be stable and safe when in use.
The construction material and design is another very important consideration when choosing a meditation bench. Some benches are made of plastic and others may be made of inexpensive or soft woods such as pine or fabricated wood. These products may seem "eco friendly" or may reduce the cost of the bench to the $30 to $40 range, but they will not likely be durable or, worse yet, may not be safe. Plastic inevitably warps over time and softer woods can break or assembly screws can easily tear out of the wood. Both our Pi Benches and Omni Benches are made from solid hard woods. Our benches have a durable and beautiful finish. They are well worth the extra cost if only for the durability and safety alone.
Finally, there are ways to make the meditation bench more comfortable. Because the knees, shins, and ankles are on the floor and still supporting some of your weight, it can be very helpful to use a Zabuton Meditation Cushion under the bench to cushion your legs from the floor. The pressure from the legs of the bench can be hard on the Zabuton padding, so it is important to regularly rotate and flip the Zabuton to ensure it wears evenly and lasts a good long time.
We do not offer a cushion for the seat of these benches. Because you can place the bench perfectly parallel with your buttocks, the seat of the bench should be comfortable for long sits without a cushion on the seat. In many cases, bench cushions cause problems - they either slide around on the seat or they get bunched up creating an uncomfortable seat.
Thank you for reading,
If you would like to comment on this blog or have any questions, please feel free to Contact Sage Meditation Customer Service.