The three most common types of meditation support are:

  • Zafus (zah-foos): The most traditional and widespread of the meditation cushion, the zafu is a flattened, round cotton case filled with kapok or buckwheat. It is generally about fourteen inches in diameter and ten inches in height. The crescent zafu is an innovation designed to provide extra hip support. Inflatable zafus are also available for traveling meditators.
  • Gomdens: These firm, rectangular cushions were designed for Western practitioners by a Tibetan meditation teacher. Although only six inches thick, their firm interior creates a higher perch than the softer zafu.
  • Meditation benches: These simple wooden benches provide an angled sitting surface – sometimes padded – with room underneath for legs. The meditator sits in a supported kneeling position, rather than cross-legged.

Other supports might also be helpful:

  • A zabuton (zah-boo-ton): This thick mat is to be placed under your cushion or bench. Zabutons soften the impact of hard floor surfaces on your legs and ankles.
  • A support cushion: Made in sizes that fit zafus, gomdens, and benches, these small, flat cushions are placed under or on top of the meditation support to provide a little more height (or, in the case of benches, to cushion the seat). Some practitioners also use them to tuck under a knee.
  • A gomden raiser: These wooden platforms are made specifically for gomdens, raising them a couple inches off the floor or zabuton. Tall meditators who use gomdens sometimes find them useful.

Adapted from Insight Meditation: A Step-by-Step Course on How to Meditate with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, an interactive learning program from Sounds True.

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