A meditation pillow is a cushion, usually round, that is specifically crafted to provide a practitioner with the greatest modicum of spinal alignment and comfort. Two basic attitudes when doing meditation are right listening and right posture. Physical stillness is necessary to achieve either one. A meditation pillow is helpful because it is difficult to remain motionless and listen when the practitioner's attention is drawn to pain in the body.
When the correct meditation cushion is selected, it aids one in sitting erect. By sitting with the spine in proper alignment, the body is steady, making it easier to accomplish stillness of breath. For a meditator who has ongoing physical issues, such as chronic pain from arthritis, a meditation cushion with a back support is available. The meditation cushion is a personal choice according to the practitioner's needs and desires.
Meditation using a zafu cushion is a popular choice because specialty pillows exist, depending on the place or surface where the sitting meditation will occur. The style of meditation pillow that one would select to sit on concrete would not offer the same level of comfort when sitting on a softer surface. Experts suggest that when choosing a meditation pillow, the first criteria should be to determine where one plans on doing meditation the majority of time.
Handmade combinations of two and three pillow sets provide an extra layer of comfort. For example, a zafu sitting cushion might be mixed with a zabuton that carries the weight of knees and ankles. If more height is needed, a third cushion will raise the legs for maximum comfort. Experienced meditators might desire a chair-back cushion for correct spinal alignment. Specialty sets are more expensive, but the extra cost might be a good trade-off for less pain and more comfort.
Depending on personal taste, there are several choices for pillow filling. The most common filling is buckwheat hulls. They are supple and move about to accommodate the meditating position. The kapok filler is firmer and adjusts to the body shape more gradually. Hard foam is another option.
When meditation is most often done outside, choosing a meditation pillow with a zippered, removable cover provides the opportunity to wash and dry it as necessary. Covers made of velvet, silk or other non-washable materials work better when dedicated solely for inside practice. It's a good idea for a practitioner to do some comparison shopping and try various kinds of meditation pillows before settling on one for purchase.