The Complete Guide to Sitting on a Floor Cushion

There’s a reason many people prefer not to sit on a floor cushion. When starting out, it can be painful. And frankly, why would you sit on anything else when there is a couch waiting for you to sprawl on?

Most Westerners who have sat on the floor or on a floor cushion know that even after a short period of time, it can get uncomfortable at best and excruciatingly painful at worst. The novelty of sitting on a floor cushion wears off around the same time that the throbbing knee, hip and back pain begin to set in, making the act feel fruitless and akin to self-inflicted torture.

But sitting on a floor cushion doesn’t have to be challenging or uncomfortable. And if you can work with the discomfort initially, you’ll find many lasting benefits to your health and wellbeing on the other side. This makes sense because you evolved to sit on the floor. On an evolutionary timescale, couches and chairs are only a recent invention that our bodies are not designed for. We’re built to squat, sit cross legged, and, more generally, to be on the ground. When we sit on chairs and couches, we learn all the nasty habits that evolution did not prepare us for: slumped chest, rounded shoulders, and an inactive posture. In the long term, these habits manifest as pain, tightness, tension, and stress carried in the body.

Sitting on a floor cushion regularly engages the natural design of our bodies. Our posture becomes more upright and key muscle groups become re-engaged. The result? Our skeletal structure supports and realigns itself. And best of all, the discomfort subsides. This gives rise to all sorts of positive side effects:

  • Better posture
  • Increased focus and alertness
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased digestion and weight loss
  • Increased life expectancy
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved strength

              So how can you get all these benefits? This guide will give you everything you need to know and do to make sitting on a floor cushion a habit that works for you. Take care of your wellbeing by simply sitting well. 

              There are three important points to consider when sitting:

              1. Why you’re sitting.
              2. How you’re sitting.
              3. How long you’re sitting.

                Taken together, these three ideas are everything you need to know to make sitting on a floor cushion one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing. Let’s sit in.

                Why You’re Sitting

                Floor cushions make sitting intentional. Your floor cushion can be moved around, giving you a choice about why you’re sitting in the first place. Thinking intentionally about why you’re sitting helps give meaning to the sit and ensures you maximize the enjoyment of sitting on a floor cushion.
                Choosing the best activity depends on your level of comfort and familiarity with sitting on the floor, or on a floor cushion. If you’re just getting started, you’ll want to choose activities that require less brainpower, so that you can better manage the periodic discomfort that arises (more on that later). If you’re more experienced or flexible and feel that you can handle sitting on your floor cushion for prolonged periods, feel free to jump into an activity that’s higher difficulty. The trick is to choose an activity that won’t be completely disrupted by discomfort or the need to adjust your posture. Here are some activities, ranked on their difficulty to endure during mild discomfort:

                Easy activities for floor seating

                • Watching Netflix.
                • Eating dinner (or breakfast, or lunch).
                • Socializing.
                • Browsing the net.

                  Moderate activities for floor seating

                  • Playing video games.
                  • Reading Calvin and Hobbes.
                  • Playing board games.

                    Difficult activities for floor seating

                    • Working from home.
                    • Meditating.
                    • Reading Dostoyevsky.

                      Activities in the ‘easy’ category can easily be resumed if they get disrupted by pain or discomfort. On the other end of the spectrum, once you’ve lost your focus during work, meditation, or dense reading, it can be very difficult to pick up where you left off.

                      So choose an activity that you feel you can manage, and that will allow you to change your posture regularly if need be. And don’t beat yourself up if you have to get up and shake it out, walk around, or change your posture. As you get more comfortable, your muscles will adapt and you will become more flexible. Soon, you’ll be able to hold postures for longer and with more comfort. As this happens, you can work your way through each activity until you’re a work-from-home, meditating, Dostoyevsky reading machine.

                      How You’re Sitting

                      The second aspect of making your floor cushion work for you is how you’re sitting on it. There is no one way to sit on a cushion, which means you can adjust and adapt to the posture and duration that suits you best. Before diving into postures, you might like to place a towel, blanket, or meditation mat underneath your floor cushion for added comfort. 

                      There are many, many ways to sit on a floor cushion. Let’s explore four basic postures. Try out each of these postures as you read and see how they work for you. You’ll begin to build your toolkit of postures that you can use and switch through anytime. Don’t worry if you can’t sit in some of them. As your body becomes more familiar with sitting on your floor cushion, it will adapt and become flexible to postures you had never thought possible.

                      Cross Legged

                      What they taught you in Kindergarten: criss-cross-applesauce. In the cross-legged position, you can choose to sit on the back, middle, or front of your floor cushion. The front will allow you to drop your shins and knees toward the ground. The middle-back will keep your knees elevated and supported by the cushion. Play around with it and find what works best for you. This is not a particularly stable position for your hips and back, so don’t expect to sit cross-legged for prolonged periods of time. If you’re a beginner to sitting on a floor cushion, it serves as a great entry point to prepare your body for some more advanced positions, like burmese and half lotus.


                      The burmese position is similar to the cross-legged position with a slight variation: your legs aren’t completely crossed. Sit on the front half of your floor cushion, drop your knees to the ground, and then rotate your knees outward so that the sole of your left foot is just grazing your inner right thigh, and the right foot is lightly touching the top of your left foot (or vice-versa). The key point is to make sure your hips are opened up, spreading the knees wider so that the feet arrive close to one another in front of your groin area. If the sides of your knees don’t touch the ground, you can place a blanket or pillow underneath them for greater support. Once you’re comfortable with the burmese position, you’re in a good spot to transition into half-lotus.


                      Take the burmese position and keep the left foot touching the inner right thigh. With the right foot, bring it up to rest the top of the foot on the left thigh. If this is too intense, or if your body doesn’t feel ready to move that much, you can instead try to rest the top of the right foot over the left calf, which is known as quarter lotus. If the half lotus feels good, you can also consider trying full-lotus, which is largely considered the most stable position for sitting on your floor cushion. To explore the full lotus and other more advanced postures, check out Movement Rev’s post on Rest Postures.


                      Hop up on your knees, turn your floor cushion on its side, place it between your knees, and have a sit. This one can be somewhat tough on the knees and ankle if you’re on a hard floor, so we definitely recommend placing a towel, blanket, or meditation mat underneath for added comfort.

                      With some basic sitting positions in your arsenal, you’re now equipped to cycle through different positions to find what works for you and increase the time that you spend on your floor cushion.

                      How Long You’re Sitting

                      The final consideration is how long you’re sitting on your cushion. There are no hard and fast rules here, but you should sit for as long as you’re comfortable. If it gets uncomfortable or painful, you can stop, change your position, or walk around. Gritting your teeth through any pain or discomfort will likely just help you develop a negative association with sitting on your floor cushion, making you less likely to use it in the future. So enjoy your floor cushion, let your body adapt to new postures, and move around frequently if these things get painful. That way you’ll spend more time on your cushion, which is the ultimate goal.

                      Putting It All Together

                      It may seem strange to spend so much time and effort learning how to sit. After all, shouldn’t sitting come naturally to us all? 

                      It should, but unfortunately, our bodies have become accustomed to chairs, couches, and La-Z-Boy’s that have negative consequences for our flexibility, posture, and overall well being. By working your way onto a floor cushion, your body will sit and move the way it was designed to, breaking those bad sitting habits and introducing new positive ones in their place.

                      Beyond the physiological benefits, making the floor cushion your seat of choice will change the way you spend your seated time. An active, upright posture. No laziness and no complacency. By choosing to sit on a cushion, you make a conscious choice about why, how and for how long you sit. You’ll fill your sitting time with activities that are meaningful to you, simply because you made the choice to sit well. 

                      If you think a Solum floor cushion will help you sit well, take a look at the options, here.

                      1 comment

                      • Brandon

                        Hey, thanks a bunch for taking the time to share your wisdom!

                      Leave a comment