Introduction: Alternative Meditation Bench
This type of bench I have been using for meditation some years now. Experiences with normal meditation postures appeared to be too painfull and the the use of a seiza bench gave me lower back problems. Unlike the seiza posture this bench is meant for cross-legged sitting; the lower legs can be placed under your buttocks.
This solution has some advantages over the use of a seiza bench or a chair:
- muscles in the knee and hip area are strained very much less compared to traditional postures, so sitting for long periods of time without pain is possible
- cross-legged sitting provides greater stability
- the body is supported by upper leggs and buttocks, so the body weight is distributed evenly, without pinching nerves or blood vessels
- sitting with a straight back is easy because of the higher position
The only disavantage is this bench is less compact then a seiza bench. On the other hand, there is no need for a thick cushion (zabuton).
This bench is very easy to make yourself. Because it is less compact I have made it foldable and portable, so you can easily take it with you. I am rather tall (6.3 ft / 1.94 m.), so the ideal measures might be different for you. However, it is best to wait with modifications until after you have done some time on your bench; shortening the width and lowering the height can be done later.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- For the top and the sides you need 6 pine wood boards. Thickness: 0.7 in / 1,9 cm - Width: 7.7 in / 19.6 cm
- For the cross bar you need 1 board of pine or multiplex: Thickness: 0.5 in / 1 cm or thicker - Width: 4.4 in / 11 cm
- Hinges: 6
- Door bolts: 4
- Shrews and/or bolts
- Shrew driver
Step 2: Attach Top Boards and Mark Top and Side Boards
Put the top boards against each other and attach the hinges. Maybe you need to drill a pilot hole to prevent the wood from splitting.
Now turn the top upside down. Lay the side boards on either side as shown above. Mark what will be left and right (the bench is now in upside down position, so left and right are shifted) and front and back. The shortest sides of the side panels wil be on the front, the longest sides on the back.
Step 3: Attach Side Panels to Top Boards
Once the panels are marked measure where to attach the side boards to the top. Start with the back panels. Please check if the position of the side-boards will not interfere with each other when folded. If so, attach the side boards nearer to the edge of the top board. There should be no problem if the distance to the edge is fewer then 0.6 in or 1.6 cm.
Step 4: Attach the Cross Bar
The structure prevents the sideboards from collapsing to the outside; the cross bar is needed to make certain that the side boards cannot move to the inside while sitting.
For the cross bar you need 1 board of pine or multiplex: Thickness: 0.5 in / 1 cm or thicker - Width: 4.4 in / 11 cm. You can now determine the exact length of the bar.
There are many ways to connect the cross bar:
A. Using door bolts
The main advantage of this constuction is you can set up the bench real quick.
There are 4 small door bolts needed, two on the left and two on the right. Attach the door bolts to the cross bar, two on each side. Use screws if the material of the crossbar is thick enough, otherwise use nuts and bolds (probably 2 per door bolt are enough).
Now you can drill holes in the side boards. First, make sure there is no space between the side bords (front and back panel). Carefully mark were you want the holes. The top side of the cross bar should be approx. 1.6 in / 4 cm from the underside of the top boards. The size of the drill should correspond with the thickness of the door bolt.
Once the cross bar is in place and secured with the door bolts your bench is finished.
One small advice: when the bench is in upright position the door bolts could loosen (by gravity) after some time and there is the possibility the crossbar becomes loose. To prevent this use elastic bands.
An alternative where you don't need bands is to turn the cross bar 180 ° so the bolds are on top; there should be just enough space to fasten the door bolds this way.
B. Using a fixed bolted connection
In this option it takes some extra time to set up your bench or to take it apart. It adds some stablility to the bench. You might need a wrench to prevent the bolt from rotating while fastening it with the wingnuts.
Step 5: Practicalities
- To prevent creaking during meditation that might disturb others you might use some wax or vaseline on surfaces where the wooden panels touch each other
- I use small a rolled up towel under my instep to prevent my feet from stretching to much