The purpose of a cushion (also called a zafu) is to to help you achieve a straight, comfortable posture. A mat (or zabuton), which is used in conjunction with a cushion, is meant to alleviate some of the pressure on your shins, knees and ankles caused by sitting on a hard floor.
If you’re just looking for a simple meditation cushion, jump to eight. It’s inexpensive and, if you need extra height, you can just buy another one to put on top.
Rather than being a straightforward “best-of” table, I’ve designed it as more of an overview of the different meditation cushions available to buy and the specific needs that they fulfil. A lot of the cushions are available in different sizes (and colours) so that’s one thing you may want to keep in mind.
Top 10: Our Picks
1. Buckwheat Meditation Cushion Set (2pc)
I’ve included this at position one because it’s an excellent all-round choice. The buckwheat hull-filled cushion is firm and will mould to your body shape, the cotton covers are washable and it’s available in a variety of colours. You can also adjust the height if you want to.
2. Rectangular Zabuton & Zafu Set
An excellent price for a set of this quality. Made completely of cotton.
3. Rectangular Cushion
Same as a normal cushion just rectangular. It’s made completely with organic cotton and comes in a variety of colours.
4. Round Buckwheat Cushion
A very-popular and simple buckwheat-filled cushion. Available in over 20 different colours and two different sizes.
5. Inflatable Cushion
A cushion that’s perfect for both at-home use and when you’re travelling. There are three separately inflatable parts so you can customize the size. Very light when deflated at only 13 ounces.
6. Cosmic Cushion
The “cosmic cushion” is a relatively new innovation. It provides more comfort due to it’s shape and the resulting extra thigh-support. You can choose between either a buckwheat or a kapok filling. Go with buckwheat if you want a softer feel. As with most of these cushions, this one comes in a wide variety of colours.
7. Silk Brocade Cushion
I’ve included this because of its lovely design. It’s 100% cotton and a fair-trade product made by the exiled monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery in Nepal. Lovely little item. If you’re looking for a beautiful design also see this piece.
8. Round Cotton-filled Meditation Cushion
This is a simple and cheap option if you just want a basic meditation cushion. It’s also got the added benefit of being 100% organic.
9. Luxury Meditation Set
I’ve included this on the list as the luxury item. The top of the zabu is decorated with an “Om” symbol set in a lotus flower. The mix of buckwheat and kapok filling is organic and the outer material is silk. There are other colours if you dislike the burgundy.
10. High Meditation Cushion
An 8-inch high cushion, so perfect for those of you who need a little extra lift. Good for tall and less-flexible people.
Types of Cushion
Zabu: Traditional circular meditation cushion. They come in a variety of heights to cater for those who need more lift. Filling is usually either buckwheat hulls (the outer sheath of the buckwheat grain), cotton or kapok. Buckwheat hulls and kapok are probably the most common. Whilst buckwheat is slightly softer, there isn’t a great distinction between the materials. All are supportive and will mould to your body (or buttock) shape.
Zabuton: Meditation mat. Use in conjunction with a cushion to ease pressure on the ankles, knees and shins. Especially useful if you’re going to be sitting on a hard floor. If you are struggling a lot with knee discomfort, you can always add a pillow under your knee.
Half-moon/Cosmic: A cushion with a crescent-moon shape. The slope and extended sides allow for optimal alignment and good thigh support. Good for taller and less flexible people.
Inflatable: Usually in the style of the half-moon cushion, these are great for travel. Also good if you want to be able to adjust the size
Rectangular: Same as a zabu just rectangular.
Bench: Used to support a kneeling posture.
Chair (e.g. “backjack“): usually used in conjunction with a cushion to provide extra back support.
What’s the Point?
A meditation teacher of mine once gave an excellent reason for sitting in good meditation posture. The mind, he said, is a curious thing and gets used to particular body positions being associated with particular activities. If the body and mind are both aligned in their aim to be still and focused, it will be that much easier to achieve.
The point of the cushion is to help improve our posture and feel more grounded. The analogy of a mountain is often used to describe an ideal meditation position: stable with all three points of contact (buttocks and knees) on the ground. For most postures you will need an extra little bit of life to achieve this. Equally, proper posture can help alleviate back pain and other associated problems.