The meditation posture at the two 10-day (Goenka) Vipassana meditation retreats I have attended was always sitting cross-legged.
I experienced a lot of discomfort but managed the situation.
What I learned was to distinguish discomfort that comes from your body being in a position it’s not ready for (where it will only increase over time) and discomfort that comes from deep, chronic tension (where it will eventually dissipate if given enough time).
This was a valuable lesson.
However, I didn’t sustain my cross-legged practice following the retreats. In reality, my body was just not flexible enough to stay in that meditation posture comfortably.
I erroneously thought my only other option was just to not meditate.
The idea I could lie down didn’t occur to me as ‘real’ meditating, which is a common misconception.
It seemed like cheating.
Since then, my personal experience has proved that thought to be not only snobbish but inaccurate.
And I have also discovered other schools of meditation that actually focus on many different meditation posture. That is, sitting, lying, standing, walking/moving.
There are many variables to meditation to work out which posture is best for you at any one time, but an important question to ask is,
Why are you meditating?
Some meditate for a specific goal, like seeking answers to personal problems.
Some for emotional or physical well-being.
And some for the almighty enlightenment.
With my background in Wing Chun kung fu, which focuses on relaxation as a way to generate power and withstand incoming force, my initial reason was to release areas of chronic tension.
This led me to give the lying meditation posture a crack.
It proved to be resourceful for letting my body release tension – that is, to relax. And it gave clarity of mind as an added benefit.
Jump ahead quite a few years and I can also say that it can be physically demanding.
I can now lie down and meditate for an hour or more on a hard surface with no cushions or additional support. If I feel any discomfort it is just another level of chronic tension emerging and passing.
When I first tried the lying meditation posture though, it was with support. On a bed with a pillow under my knees and another under my head.
There was no other way.
I persisted and was slowly able to stop using the pillows, which I previously described in more detail for how I meditate.
And yes, I can now meditate cross-legged. That is, without the kind of discomfort that comes from the body not being ready for the position. Yet I still occasionally get some particular discomfort from underlying chronic tension.
With that, I choose to still practice in the lying meditation posture.
I get value from it.
My point is that if someone has never done any sustained stretching and they can’t sit cross-legged comfortably, it’s not productive or resourceful at all to just tell them to tough it out.
Nor is it accurate to say that lying down is not ‘real’ meditating. It just depends on your present body condition and reasons for meditating.