A meditation mat should generally be chosen according to the body type and flexibility level of the person who will be using it. There are several types of meditation mats, cushions, and pillows. They come in a variety of shapes to accommodate the varying needs of individual users. The zafu, or traditional round meditation cushion, is considered a good meditation mat for most users of average build, who enjoy at least a normal level of physical flexibility. Other meditation mat options include the crescent-shaped zafu and the rectangular meditation cushion. A zabuton, or large, thick, rectangular mat, can be used alone or placed beneath a zafu to provide additional support for the spine and padding for the feet and ankles.
Appropriate physical posture is generally considered vital to successful meditation. A seated position that allows the spine to maintain its natural S curve is considered most appropriate for meditation. For most people, a zafu or round meditation cushion can help with the comfortable achievement and maintenance of this posture. Individuals of above-average stature may need a taller meditation mat. Those who suffer from limited flexibility in the knees, hips, or back may need a cushion of a slightly different shape.
The average meditation mat can be made taller by placing it atop a zabuton, or large, flat cushion. The zabuton adds height to the meditation cushion and offers comfortable padding for the feet and ankles, which can otherwise dig uncomfortably into the floor. A rectangular meditation pillow can be placed beneath the zafu for additional height if padding for the ankles is not desired. Folded blankets, cloth yoga mats, and towels may also be used to increase the height of a zafu. Those with a high level of flexibility and experience meditating may find that the zabuton alone is sufficient for their needs.
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The crescent-shaped zafu may be a good option for those with less flexibility in the hips, knees, or back. The crescent shape of this pillow offers more support for the thighs, and helps them to taper downward slightly from the hips, so that the ideal meditation posture is more easily attained. The shape of the pillow also allows the user to fold his heels in toward the body more easily. Rectangular meditation cushions also generally offer more room for the comfortably positioning of the feet, though they may be best suited for tall people.