Cushion Buyer's Guide
Not All Cushions Are Made Equal
Before you buy, know the factors that determine price.
If you’ve been shopping for meditation cushions you’ve seen the wide range of prices. What’s that about? Aside from the fabric they all look pretty much the same: they’re round, they have a handle, they’re filled with buckwheat. So why the disparity in cost?
Although there are many different shapes of cushions - also called “zafus” - from round to rectangular to crescent, we’ll just focus on the standard round cushion for easy comparison. Likewise we won’t discuss cotton or kapok filled cushions since they represent a small percentage of cushions on the market. For now we’ll only be referring to those filled with buckwheat hulls.
The most easily distinguishable trait in a cushion is the fabric, namely the colors and the patterns. Fifteen to twenty years ago you were relegated to a basic palette of primarily somber, muted colors. Today meditators often want their cushions to match their room décor, or their personality. Manufacturers have listened and now offer a variety of colors, color blocks, patterned & specialty fabrics.
Solids – Most makers set their base pricing with solid color fabrics. If cost is a primary factor when choosing a cushion, you’ll probably want to stick with a solid color. The good news is there are a wide range of solid colors to choose from: deep jewel tones, eye-popping neons, and understated earth tones.
Patterns & Specialties – Manufacturers have gotten wise to the buying habits of their customers and many price their “premium” fabrics higher. Premium fabrics can be anything from patterns to ethnic cloth to environmentally sustainable fabrics and treatments.
Organic & Natural Dyes – Meditators are becoming more aware of the consequences of their buying habits and frequently choose fabrics that are gentler on the earth. Manufacturers have responded with fabrics made of sustainably harvested base fibers, and those that are not chemically treated. Be assured the cost of these rare fabrics will be reflected in a cushion’s price.
Just like with clothes and cars, the attention to detail that goes into making a cushion has an impact on its price. This isn’t to say that every economically priced cushion is of lesser quality. Cushions made by small family-run businesses with less overhead can often charge less for products of equal caliber. By and large, however, you’ll notice an increase in price from manufacturers who take pride in their craft.
Stitching – Double-stitched seams aren’t something you’ll see, but you’ll certainly be thankful for them if you use your cushion daily or are planning to use it for many years. No one likes to see stretched seams on their favorite cushion, knowing a repair or replacement lies ahead.
Guarantees – Manufacturers who are committed to excellence will back it up with a guarantee, oftentimes a lifetime guarantee. From our experience these are the very companies who never see returns because their quality is second to none.
The details listed below almost always impact a cushion’s price. Some companies offer economy and deluxe models, while others include the extra features on every model. You may consider some features indispensable, or you might find that the base models are actually more accommodating because of their simplicity.
Zippers or Velcro – You’ll find a zipper or Velcro on cushions that aren’t sewn shut. If you’re happy with the amount of a cushion’s fill, you won’t need an opening… in the short run. If you’re planning on giving your cushion a lot of sitting hours, though, be aware that buckwheat hulls will break down over time, and without a way to access the contents you’ll need to remove stitches in order to refill with fresh hulls. Cushions with zippers or Velcro and no liner make it very easy to add or remove buckwheat.
Removable Covers – Top of the line manufacturers make cushions with removable covers. Most are zippered covers (some ingeniously hidden), while others feature a Velcro closure or drawstring cover. This can be a life saver for those who travel a lot with their cushion, or for those whose homes feature pets, kids, or accident-prone adults. Some companies also sell cushion covers separately so you can change the look of your cushion without having to purchase a new one entirely.
Zippered Liners – An inner liner keeps your cushion’s fill (buckwheat hulls, cotton or kapok) contained. You’ll only find a liner on models with a removable cover. Most liners are sewn shut, so adding or removing fill will require you to pull out stitches and sew the liner closed again. Conscientious manufacturers add a zippered or Velcro opening to their liners which is a very welcome, if rarely used, feature.
No surprise here, cushions made in developing countries cost less. We’ve found the quality is usually on par with the price, meaning the fabric is often lower grade, the colors are inconsistent, sizing is variable, and the stitching is flimsy. You’ll recognize some of these companies online when they say “Cushion will come with either buckwheat or cotton fill” meaning you don’t get to specify your choice.
I won’t try to hide my bias, I much prefer the standards of American manufacturers since nearly all of them are creating cushions out of a deep appreciation for meditation practice, rather than to make a few bucks in a rapidly growing industry. At Mayu 95% of our cushions are American-made, with increasingly more of our selection coming from local producers here in the metro area.
There are a few other details to keep in mind when comparing cushions. Some can lead to price differences, but mostly they’re considerations of personal preference.
Diameter & Loft – Cushions for adults are fairly standard in size, with minor variations in their diameter and height. If you’re larger or more petite than average you might appreciate a wider & taller, or narrower & shorter cushion.
Fabric Type – Nearly all cushion covers are made of cotton, but a few are made with blends or specialty fabrics. Decisions on covers usually come down to a preference for either the look or feel of a cushion. Satin and satin-like fabrics come in stunning colors and patterns but can be slippery depending on your clothing. Chenille, microfiber or brushed corduroy feel soft on bare legs but tend to pick up lint. Wool is extremely durable but can be scratchy. Being able to test-sit a cushion will give you a much better idea of the type of fabric that best suits your needs.
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As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the price of your cushion. As a retailer we know cost is a huge factor for most people, and shoppers are very savvy. The internet has allowed manufacturers to also become retailers, and some retailers sell online only without the expense of a walk-in store.
At Mayu we’ve taken all these realities to heart, and are still committed to offering you the highest quality cushions at the most economical price.
By visiting us and test-sitting your cushion before buying, you’ll see and feel all the features mentioned above. Plus, you won’t have to worry about costly shipping returns.
We also offer 30 Day returns for store credit if you bring back your cushion in like-new condition. Need more incentive? Bring in your old cushion and receive 20% off any support bolster of your choice, or 10% off any new cushion or bench.