What is a zabuton? In the past, you may have heard someone mention “zabuton” and wondered what it meant. It is the Japanese term for meditation cushions or mats used during sitting practice.
Sometimes people confuse it with a zafu; they are two different things but used together as a meditation cushion set.
A meditation zafu cushion is a low pillow-like cushion filled with kapok, buckwheat hulls, or other material designed to support your body as you sit in a seiza position. It might seem like a simple cushion, but it has been used for centuries in Japan as part of the Zen practice. The zafu is a pillow that’s placed on top of the zabuton meditation mat.
The combination of both forms the “seat” in an area where you meditate. That combination is used in many sitting mindful activities.
The following photo is an example of how NOT to meditate to understand the importance of such a cushion.
That posture above is impossible to keep without a zabuton or/and a zafu. If you do it, in a few minutes, your buttocks will numb, your ankles and knees will be in tremendous pain, while there is no way to keep your back straight unless you hold it against a wall or a sofa. Avoid that by all means.
Even if you plan to sit for a 10-minute meditation, you need to be comfortable.
What should you pay attention to when choosing a zafu and zabuton? This article will share some knowledge I got from my own experience.
With so many options available, it can be hard to find the right zabuton mat for your needs. To help you narrow down your choices, we have come up with a list of features that will make the most significant difference when purchasing one.
You can also go after a meditation chair, but that is not the traditional way to sit for zazen or other types of meditation.
What Does Zabuton Mean?
Zabuton is a type of Japanese seat cushion. The first character means “sitting” and you may be familiar with the second part -布団 which refers to an old style mattress made from thick padded cotton material that was used for sleeping on during enlightenment times!
So essentially zabutons function as modern day futons designed specifically so we can sit down comfortably without causing any harm or discomfort
What is a Zabuton
The zabuton is a Japanese floor cushion that can be found in restaurants and hotels all over Japan. These beautiful cushions are often used to sit on while enjoying delicious food or relaxing after an instructive session at one of these venues but what you might not know about them?
A lot goes into making this humble piece of furniture stand out from other typical seats – they’re usually round with soft edges so as not to scratch your knees when reclined; there’s also tassels hanging off each corner which help keep heat away during cold weather months.
History of Zabuton Meditation Cushion
Such cushions are used to sit upon while meditating. These pads have been around for hundreds of years, and they were first introduced in Japan during the 17th century. They are made from several materials, including foam or cotton.
Despite its use for meditation purposes, zabuton is also used in daily life in Japan. Its shorter version is used as a sitting pillow.
It is also known as “suwari buton,” which means sitting cushion. In early Japan, it was known as “shitone” and had a round shape, mainly used by aristocrats and zen meditation. Later on, it became square, with cotton filling, and took “zabuton” (floor cushion).
It comes in large and small sizes, as it is an object for any daily sitting activity and not just for a meditation practice, while it was also reserved for guests and family.
Even their fabric and filling (thickness and fabric type) change for summer and winter use.
How to Choose the Best Zabuton Meditation Cushion?
It might be tempting to buy the zabuton for meditation based solely on its size first; however, this may not always work out as well as you had hoped. The primary criteria for buying a zabuton are the following:
- Choose a zabuton that is made of natural materials.
- Make sure it has a removable cover for easy washing.
- It should be large enough to accommodate your legs and feet comfortably but not so big that you have to curl up or stretch out to sit on it.
- If you’re looking for an eco-friendly option, try using recycled cotton or hemp fabric.
Why Use a Zabuton?
While meditating, zabuton provides extra comfort and support to the buttocks, knees, ankles, and lower back. It significantly enhances your overall posture when sitting on the floor versus a hard surface such as wood or concrete floors.
Because these mats provide support to your lower back and legs, it eases the pressure from those areas that otherwise would be uncomfortable without using such a mat.
So when choosing one, it’s essential to know what material works best for your body type and how you plan on using it.
As your meditation practice evolves and you sit for more extended periods, your posture will also change. Your folded feet will gradually “drop” lower from your body, resting softly on the zabuton. If you sit on a wood or concrete floor, you will get lots of pain. The same stands for your waist and your butt. The video we embedded shows lots of the whole posture and the importance of these two “pillow” elements.
The effects of meditation extend far from understanding and calming the mind. Your sleep quality is positively affected. Do read about the various sleep disorders that trouble many people.
How to Know the Correct Zabuton Size for Me?
If you own a zafu, sit on it with your legs crossed. If that is your usual posture, you need to measure a square that includes you while sitting on the round zafu.
If you can’t sit with your legs crossed and you need to fold them under your body (in seiza posture), or you stretch them while having your back against the wall, then measure that.
In any of these postures, your legs and body must be inside the area covered by the zabuton.
You don’t want any part of your body to be on a hard floor, either wood or other, while you sit. Keep in mind that you need a zafu on top of the zabuton to sit correctly. It is not easy to only sit on a zabuton and keep your body vertical to the floor. Moreover, since it is not too thick, your buttocks or legs will get cold fast, or they will ache soon enough.
What Material Should my Zabuton be Made Out of?
When buying a zabuton for meditation, make sure that the material used to make it is authentic cotton or silk materials. This will ensure your comfort when meditating on them. Make sure too that they have been well-constructed and not rushed through production to meet increasing demand.
The most user-friendly type is the one that has a removable cover. This way, you can pull it out and wash it whenever you need to.
Do not wash your zabuton altogether. If you do that, the cotton or wool filling will be gradually destroyed, and the zabuton will be less effective.
This guide from the University of Hawaii drives you -with precise measurement- to create a zabuton on your own.
How to Sit on the Floor?
This video is rather explanatory on how to sit on a zabuton and a zafu. It shows different ways of sitting depending on your flexibility.
Where can I Buy a Zabuton Meditation Cushion?
Here are suggested items that you can buy that can suit any style.
Mindful and Modern Large Meditation Cushion Pillow
See the details of this mat from here. A large floor mat offers pressure relief for your knees when sitting on a zafu, crescent pillow, or meditation bench.
This one comes with sturdy cotton twill and reinforced stitching for the outer cover.
That is the typical style of such a mat.
Round Zafu Pillow and Large Square Zabuton Mat
This colorful option is comfortable, stable, and breathable, thanks to natural plant materials.
It is filled with new, untreated kapok, a plant fiber extracted from the fruits of a tropical tree.
Even during longer meditation sessions, this meditation seat mat and the yoga cushion offer a high comfort level.
Foldable Meditation Floor Seat 2 in 1 Set
If you love intense colors and a different kind of sitting cushion, then this one may be for you.
However, the sitting cushion is not a zafu but a block, and covers are not removed for washing them.
Conclusion on Zabuton for Meditation
Without a doubt, zabuton cushions are the best solution to sitting on hard floors. And let’s face it; we all have to sit and meditate at one time or another.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced veteran or a beginner just starting with yoga and meditation. You must understand that there are many different styles of zabuton pillows available today. However, only certain brands will provide optimum comfort and support for your body during meditation sessions.
Choosing the right one is not as difficult as you might think but can make your next session more enjoyable than before!
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