Kapok Pillows and Zafu Cushions

kapok pillowsAs a retailer that sells a variety of organic kapok and buckwheat hull meditation cushions, I am often asked about the pros and cons of each material.  This can be a complicated question to answer in just a sentence or two, so I decided to publish a short article about each.  Like almost everything else, the choice comes down to a matter of personal taste, but I hope these articles will help you make an informed decision.

Part One: Kapok

In case you’ve never heard of kapok, you’re not alone.  This popular Asian tree is commonly found in Asia and its seeds have been used for thousands of years as traditional filler for Zafu cushions.  Perhaps you’re surprised to hear that Zafu cushions have been around that long.  So was I, but they have been practicing meditation for a very long time, and comfort is a top priority.

In recent years, the kapok tree has also been found in the Southern United States and parts of South and Central America.  Known for their enormous seed pods, which burst open to reveal a downy-like seed-laden material, the kapok was among the first organic fillings for cushions.   It’s no wonder that the kapok tree is so common throughout Asia.  When the seeds pop open naturally, the wind can carry its fluff for miles and miles, dropping hundreds of seeds along the way.

In addition to being used for all kinds of mats, cushions and pillows, kapok became a popular choice for flotation devices.  Since then, plastic foam material has become the norm, but kapok could still be used by people who insist on sustainable products.

Why do some people choose to buy kapok instead of buckwheat hulls?

Like anything, the selection of one material over the other is a matter of taste.  Just as some people prefer a feather pillow and others need one that has a foam structure, buckwheat hulls and kapok have their own unique qualities.  But since this article is primarily about Kapok, I will focus specifically on Kapok filling.

Pros and cons of Kapok

Pros

1. It is the traditional filling that has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years.

2. Unlike buckwheat hulls, which conform to the shape of the body, kapok is softer and fluffier.

3. While Kapok cushions can tend flatten with use, they can easily be revived by squeezing or fluffing the cushion.

4. Compared to other materials, such as buckwheat hulls, Kapok is very lightweight.

Cons

1. The level of Kapok in a pillow cannot easily be changed because the fibers are blown into the cushion.  This makes it virtually impossible to restuff a Kapok cushion unless you have professional equipment.

2. The kapok has a spongy yet firm feel to it, but it can be somewhat inconsistent and wobbly if used as a seat cushion.

Stay tuned for a follow-up article on buckwheat hull cushions.

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