Yoga Mats and Meditation Mats, Zafus and Cushions
The first meditation mat I ever received was from a friend. This meditation mat was made of woven grass and this type of meditation cushion was very rare. You can't buy them today. The monks in ancient China used to carry this type of grass meditation mat on their back or if it started to rain, they placed it over their heads on their journeys. If the ground was wet or dewy, they could also put it on the ground and sit cross-legged while remaining dry. Unfortunately, it could not be used as a yoga mat and frankly, sitting on it hurt!
As to yoga mats, I've done yoga on wooden floors and on rugs, and let me tell you that a comfortable yoga mat is well worth it. Buying one of those inexpensive yoga mats is something to consider if you want a good gripping surface for your practice. Yoga mats are portable, make great gifts (especially when given along with yoga videos) and some are even quite stylish. But don't use them for meditation. For meditation you need to cushion your bottom.
Meditation Mats and Cushions
Let me tell you two stories about meditation mats, often called zafus in Japanese....
I don't remember the name of the Zen master, but he wrote that he wore out seven or eight meditation mats in his life. That's how much sitting practice you have to do to reach the Tao. Ouch, that must have hurt his behind if his meditation cushion was not comfortable. Considering the fact that the Zen master would continue wearing patch-clothed robes until they were in tatters, he must REALLY have worn things out.
Another story concerns Milarepa. When his student Gampopa was leaving him, Milarepa called Gampopa back to reveal one last lesson. Then he lifted up his robe and showed the calluses on his bottom that he had formed because of all his sitting practice. That guy definitely should have used a good cushion!
So do yourself a favor. If you don't want to discourage yourself from meditation, do everything possible to make it a routine, a habit, and make it comfortable. When sitting in meditation or doing yoga, get a good mat! Remember in meditation to also cover your knees with a towel or place a towel over your neck, too.
You don't have to sit cross-legged when you meditate, but eventually that's the best form of sitting meditation practice. And if your legs hurt, remember that it takes some time to get over it but when the chi (qi) finally does goes through your legs it will extend your life. So that's another reason to practice sitting meditation (and yoga, too). I don't care if it's Zen meditation, Buddhist meditation, japa mantra practice, vipassana or whatever, make sure you are comfortable so that you can forget your body.
Also, if you're practicing meditation techniques for health, remember to use nattokinase or Nature's Pure Body to help detox your body as that will do more for you than 1000 vitamins stacked up in a row. You can find out more about them in our wonderful detox book. Just the other day someone called me telling them that nattokinase got rid of the pains in their leg when they were walking, standing or sitting. This stuff is so good I'm sure they'll take it off the market.
Good luck on your sitting practice, but remember there are all sorts of meditation techniques. Whatever you do, may your sitting be as comfortable as possible so that you continue the practice! Cushions, pillows, towels, mats, whatever -- make sure you arrange things to keep up the spiritual practice because without it, there's no progress.
As to yoga mats, remember that you want to be able to grab the floor with your feet (those yoga socks you see are good for this too), and you want the mat to be portable, colorful if you like (I always like a bit of style), and thick enough that it cushions your feet. "Try them out before you buy" is the best piece of advice anyone can give.
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