Can You Meditate Lying Down? Absolutely!

Meditation purists say that you need to sit up with a straight spine to properly meditate.

Well, to that I say, the best meditation is the one you can do. Meditating lying down helped me start my meditation practice when I had really bad burnout. I still meditate while lying down when I’m not feeling well, or relaxing with a Yoga Nidra meditation (which is meant to be done lying still).

Ever Wonder “Can I Mediate Lying Down?”

It seems like this is a controversial question. Which find this pretty weird because meditating lying down helped me start my mediation practice.

When I first started meditating, early on with my burnout, it was really hard. Meditating for even a few minutes was a challenge to be honest. On some days the only way I could even try to meditate was lying down

woman lying on a couch looking upset

I remember one day where I was curled up sideways on the couch, trying to meditate with Jeff Warren’s ‘How to Meditate’ on the Calm app. I think I only managed 5 minutes and then felt so completely exhausted from the effort I fell asleep for a half hour.

Was lying sideways on the couch the best way to meditate? No.

Was it the only way I could meditate that day? Yes.

Was keeping a daily practice of meditating as best as I could part of what got me to the point where I regularly meditate? Yes.

relaxed woman lying on a mat and meditating

And, as they say, that has made all the difference.

People who say – You can’t meditate lying down!  Your chakras aren’t aligned!  Blah, Blah, Blah….   They make me want to shout.

But after meditating and having a little more equanimity, maybe I’ll say ‘I appreciate the experience of your practice, but I’m just going to continue doing this the best I can.’

Why I Still Meditate Lying Down (Sometimes)

At this point (more than a year into my meditating practice) I mostly meditate in a sitting pose

This pose is generally preferred as it helps you keep your spine straight and makes it easier to stay alert.

woman meditating while sitting on a couch with headphones on

It is felt that the sitting pose gives you the proper balance of focus and relaxation, and it lets energy raise up to the brain.

I don’t really grasp those details, but it does seem easier to focus and meditate while sitting vs lying down. And yes, even making sure my spine is straight seems to help.

woman lying on a yoga mat

However I do still mediate lying down at times. Like I said,  I figure it is better to meditate however you can and some days that is the most I can handle.

Reasons for Meditating Lying Down

There are a ton of reasons someone might meditate lying down.

Maybe you are far along in your pregnancy and sitting is uncomfortable.

Pregnant woman lying down and looking relaxed

Maybe you are older and have some hip issues. Or you recently had a surgery. Or you have a health condition that means you are more comfortable lying down.

Maybe lying down is really the only meditation position that is an option for you.

older woman lying on a yoga mat meditating

Whatever, there are a ton of possible reasons that meditation while lying down is the best options for you.

So if you need to mediate lying down, just for one practice, or all the time – go for it

Meditation Lying Down: Yoga Nidra Script

There are some meditations that are actually meant to be done lying down.

Yoga Nidra means Yoga Sleep and is very easy to do, you basically lie down and are lead through the meditation. Yoga Nidra involves following a guided meditation (called a script) to enter a self-directed state of calm.

woman lying down and doing yoga nidra, a NSDR protocol

The Yoga Nidra instructor will guide you through breathing exercises and then a body scan. Your focus is directed sequentially onto different parts of your body. 

Yoga Nidra is a recommended Non Sleep Deep Rest protocol by the Huberman Lab podcast, Particularly done as a rest in the afternoon.

Meditation Lying Down: Body Scan Meditation Script

There are also a number of basic body scans meditations that you can follow.

Again, early on in my burnout I often used a body scan meditation to try to overcome my racing thoughts as I tried to fall asleep.

woman lying down on a carpet and meditating

I would slowly move up my body focusing on each body part. There were times I literally got distracted at my ankles. Getting up to my hips was an accomplishment.

So I was able to use the body scan in this way to actually measure my ability to focus. Which was poor.

But body scans do more than that. They help you get grounded in your body. Becoming more aware of your body sensations, improving interoception which a goal of being able sense your body how you are doing. Which…. helps you avoid burnout.

young woman lying on a yoga mat surrounded by candles

Yeah, wish I’d been doing body scans earlier.

Keep the Focus: Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation

One of the issues with meditating lying down is that it may be more difficult to concentrate. 

After following the Lizzie Hill Yoga Nidra meditation several times I have found myself adding a body scan of my hands to my focus meditations when I feel my mind wandering.

woman lying down and doing yoga nidra

It turns out this is very similar to an ancient meditation practice: Sa Ta Na Ma meditation which is a combination of a mantra (sacred chant) with a mudra (sacred hand position).

Sa Ta Na Ma mediation is a mantra in which these sounds are repeated in your head, while you touch your thumb to each finger in sequence.

I find the sensory aspect of touching thumb to each finger in addition to focusing on my breath helps me stay focused.

Meditation Lying Down: Savasana Pose

So there is actually a yoga pose that is lying down, called savasana or the corpse pose.  

This is often done at the end of a yoga practice and in this pose the aim is to be motionless

three women lying on yoga mat in savasana pose

If you can remain totally still but not fall asleep, you can be totally relaxed, both in body and in mind. This should allow you to deeply connect with yourself

This is a very similar idea as the science based Non Sleep Deep Rest Protocols, which include Yoga Nidra.

Simple Vagal Exercise Lying Down

Ok so this isn’t meditation but it is a relaxing exercise you can do lying down so I thought I would include it.

A friend recommended I try Stanley Rosenberg’s simple vagal exercises from his book Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve.

These simple exercises are designed to stimulate the vagus nerve.  I tried it with a great deal of skepticism and was seriously surprised when it reduced my neck and face tension very quickly.

The basic exercise is done by lying down on your back.  Take your hands and interlace your fingers and place them behind your head. You want to rest your head in your hands with your finger on your skull and your thumbs just at the base of your skull. 

woman lying down with her head resting in her interlaced fingers

Now rotate your head and assess how easily and far you can turn to each side. Check for pain and tension.

Now for the exercise. Rest your head in the middle of your hands. Keep your head facing up, and without moving your head, look all the way to right with open eyes. Keep looking to the right for several seconds, 30 seconds or more.  You should at some point feel a relaxation with a swallow, a sigh or a yawn. It may subtle or not.

man looking to the right

Then move your eyes back to center, and now do it again on the left side. 

And that is it. You can check your neck rotation again. I find mine is always better.  At least for a little while.

It sounds crazy, but it turns out that our eyes convey a lot of information to our brain and looking sideways signals relaxation in some way.

Summary: Meditating Lying Down

The fact that I meditate is actually kind of amazing.

If you’d told me a couple of years ago that I would not only be meditating almost daily, but that I would think it was really important for my mental health and ability to focus…. well, I think I would have laughed at you

view from above of woman lying on a yoga mat with closed eyes

There is no way I could have started my meditation practice if I didn’t meditate lying down. And some days, it still is all I can manage.

So meditating lying down works for me, maybe it will for you too.

older woman lying down and meditating

Meditation is a big part of my learning to feel and care for my body. I’m hoping to continue my meditation practice for many years.

Funny how things change, isn’t it?