Which Zafu Is Best For You?
Posted by Nicholas Milewski - October 20, 2016
Photo Credit: By Jesse Coble Photography copyright 2016 Trevida.com
New yoga and meditation innovations are hitting the market like crazy, these days, as the two industries continue to grow. But the real standout products aren’t so much innovations as they are redesigned ancient tools, like the meditation cushion. It’s a must-have for any aspiring yogi.
There’s no denying the physical strain that can come with hours of regular meditation. When one sits in the same position for long periods of time, you find that your back and hind-end get a bit tired out. This is where a zafu yoga meditation cushion -- buckwheat filled, soft, and supportive -- comes in.
You might be wondering what distinguishes a zafu cushion from, say, a regular cushion. Aren’t all cushions created equally? Well, not exactly. So let’s take a look at the many types of cushions to see which is the best fit for you.
What is a Zafu Then?
The word “zafu” comes from “zazen”, meaning “seated meditation”. In its modern form, we know it as a zafu yoga meditation cushion, a pillow shaped like a round pill with pleats around it. It has a zip opening on one side through which you can simply take out its stuffing and wash it. It’s easy to keep clean and its shape is designed to support the back and bum when you are in a seated, meditative pose.
The stuffing, however, is the great importance here. Traditionally (in Asia a long time ago), the zafu was filled with cattail flower spikes. Nowadays, you’ll find meditation cushions with buckwheat, foam, or kapok — a sort of tropical cotton — stuffing. Naturally, the all-natural buckwheat and kapok stuffings are favored.
But the choice between these three materials depends on personal preference and comfort. Foam may become uncomfortable with regular use because it gets compressed with weight. The kapok and buckwheat, however, have the ability to settle into the shape of the user’s (ahem) lower cheeks, and thus provide maximum support. The big advantage here? Just pick it up after use, and it will regain its original shape.
So, Are Half-Moon, Crescent and Zen Cushions not Zafus?
No, these aren’t zafus; these are also yoga and meditation cushions, but they have different names for different shapes and uses.
- Half Moon or Smile Cushion
This one is an absolute fit for those who have knee or hip troubles. It works best to support the top part of the legs. Its height is most often the same as that of a zafu, but the sides are flatter. Also, it works well when used on a meditation mat, also known by the fun-to-say name zabuton.
- Crescent or Wedged Cushion
A cushion named for its interesting shape, the crescent cushion is thicker in the middle than it is on the two ends that support the upper part of the occupant’s legs. These ends allow the pressure to lessen on the feet, offering a comfortable posture. This one also works well with a zabuton, and it’s another meditation cushion with buckwheat stuffing as an option.
- Zen or Square Cushion
A Zen cushion is harder than the other varieties, and, thus, caters to different needs. It elevates the meditator, supporting blood circulation in the legs and feet better. The result? Less pressure, less stress on the back. Sounds great, but what’s the downside? Given that it’s a stiffer cushion, it’s a little less cushy and comfortable.
So, if you are getting into meditation, make sure that you are equipped with a cushion. Whether it’s a zafu yoga meditation cushion, a half-moon, a crescent, or a square is all up to you. But be sure to seek out an ethical, quality producer who takes pride in crafting an organic, natural product.
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