So I know it's not supposed to be about the equipment nor the props coz it's about "the practice" itself... but sometimes a little boost from the right product makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE to your practice.
Dunno about you, but I'm one of those people who struggles with meditation. I even struggle with Savasana often - the Corpse Pose - physically the "easiest" of yoga poses coz you're supposed to be just lying there in full relaxation, but mentally the absolute hardest for me coz of my monkey mind. It takes me at least 5 minutes of wading through the cacophony of noise in my head before I can come to a relatively still place.
As you can imagine, if lying down is difficult enough for me, I can't even begin to tell you about meditating while sitting up! My mind wanders, I fidget, my leg(s) fall asleep, I feel pain in my right knee (with a torn anterior cruciate ligament from 15 years ago)... it just doesn't stop. If I can't sit still and be physically comfortable, my mind can't sit still either. (No, I'm not from the school of thought that believes you must just sit and get through it even if you need to be carried out of the room on a stretcher later. Why make life so difficult?!)
While I was on the Ashtanga teacher training, we had daily morning pranayama and meditation sessions and I can tell you now that first week was sheer torture for me. As my body and mind became more used to the process, it got a tad bit better in the next few weeks, with some days being better than others. My housemate on the course, Lisa the Pranayama Queen, had brought her special Moon Seat with her and I got to check it out.
WOW. This baby's pretty amazing. So amazing that I came back from the course and immediately Googled it to see where I could find one in Cape Town. Sangeeta, the lady who makes them, actually lives here and you can CUSTOM MAKE YOUR OWN CUSHION! (Yes, I'm a sucker, but more on the custom-making process in a bit).
What's so amazing about the Moon Seat? It's shaped like a... er... crescent moon, and each end of the moon shape slowly tapers off. So it's not one big equally puffy cushion, but is kind of ergonomically curved on both ends.
What this does when you sit on it, is it actually tilts your pelvis slightly forward, and allows your knees to comfortably rest on the floor while the rest of your hips are elevated. I find the problem with other kinds of cushions which don't taper off is it only allows cushioning for your bum - your hips and knees are both elevated at the same height, or even if you fidget until you get the hips on the cushion and the knees on the floor, you still end up slouching on the cushion coz your pelvis is rigid and upright and that's hard to hold up for long periods. After a while you still end up creaking and aching in the joints too. The tapering ends also allow that pelvic tilt, which is such a subtle difference, but I find this allows you to actually sit comfortably for a much longer period (and my legs don't fall asleep!)
It's not the best picture coz I was wearing black, but you can kinda sorta see what I mean here:
The material itself is made of stretch "suede" or moleskin "suede" and is soft and velvety to the touch, but feels nice and sturdy-strong at the same time. The stuffing is very firm, so it feels like one of those cushions that won't sag from use over time (we'll see - ask me in a year's time!) The Moon Seats website says the stuffing's made from cotton.
Now for the best part: there are 54 different symbols you can choose from, and there's a riot of fabric colours to choose from as well... So it's a whole mix-and-matching thing you can do. I chose a lotus flower design and asked for it to be done in hot pink threading (what other colour could it be?!) and intially was going to go for black fabric but thought that would show up every speck of dust, so went for a charcoal grey instead.
It turned out so pretty! And Sangeeta was such a sweetheart as well - she called me up and talked me through the different colour options available and was very patient with me (coz I can get kind of anal and obsessive about minor details). She was prepared to meet me to show me different colour swatches, but I felt bad since it wasn't like I was gonna bulk order a whole bunch of cushions... but the fact that she would've gone through the trouble just to sell ONE little cushion was very impressive. Great service is appreciated!
OK, after having gone through all of that and using the cushion over the past week now... I've got to say it has helped my meditation a lot. I still struggle with bringing my mind to an absolutely still place (well, this cushion doesn't actually profess to still a monkey mind). But it has definitely helped to lessen the other distractions like the fidgeting, tugging, legs falling asleep, spine slouching... so I'm able to get to a more quiet place with less fussing around. Don't get me wrong - I'm still struggling with meditating, but this cushion has definitely made it a lot less painful (mentally and physically)... and funny enough I used to resist/ dread meditation, and a large part of that was coz of the physical discomfort. Now there's one less barrier and that works for me!
If you're interested, more info on the Moon Seat here: http://www.moonseats.com/