Sitting Pains: A Meditation Month Discussion

Cator Shachoy

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It's Meditation Month here at Tricycle! Are you joining us in making the commitment to sit every day of February?

Sometimes our meditation feels like it's the easiest thing in the world. An hour floats by like a second, and we're in a state of complete calm and equanimity. Other times, it's a real pain in the butt—literally. Our feet, legs, bottoms, and backs can all be the unlucky recipients of aches and pains while we sit. It's certainly distracting, and if severe, debilitating.

All this week, founder of Youth Yoga Dharma Cator Shachoy will be answering your questions about how to work with pain while we sit. What do we do with it when it arises? How much pain is too much pain? How can we rework our relationship to it? The main thing, Cator says, is to recognize that pain doesn't have to be a bad thing. It's normal, it's going to happen, and if we use it skillfully, it can be a real asset to our meditation practice.

Post your questions or comments in the forum below, or email them to editorial@tricycle.com.

Cator Shachoy began the practices of vipassana, yoga, and craniosacral bodywork in 1990 to heal a chronic illness. She now lives in San Francisco, where she is in private practice as a craniosacral practitioner, and teaches yoga and meditation to adults and youth. She is the founder of Youth Yoga Dharma. 

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sjursh's picture

I've stopped sitting correctly and its made my meditation so much better! I just prop myself up in bed with a bunch of pillows and sit like a sack of potatoes, somtimes i fall asleep but then I just keep going through the dream stages and wake myself up and get back to the breath, I must say, I think correct posture is a bunch of bull, those guys back then didnt have modern conveniances. Perfect equalibrium is not that special who needs it, its better to go on the rollercoaster and stay gritty!

mpaone12's picture

Greetings,

While I think some 'discomfort' is unavoidable, I would challenge the idea that 'pain' is natural.

Have you heard of somatic education, in the tradition of Thomas Hanna?

While I agree that we will never be perfect, practicing Hanna somatics has absolutely, incredibly helped me overcome a whole host of musculoskeletal pain and postural imbalance. It's a tremendously powerful practice through which you work with the logic of the sensorimotor system and central nervous system (brain exercise ultimately) to learn to undo most chronic pain -- from either stress or injuries -- that accumulates in the body. A key component to this is becoming attune to the sensory experience of pain, and realizing that in order to release it, one must contract into it, and then slowly release it -- similar to how one releases trauma, of either a psychological or physical kind.

I'm eager to share this practice more with Buddhist practitioners and other meditators. A few months ago, I was unable to sit at all without a constant background noise of pain. Rather than just witness and acknowledge it (a necessary first step!), I found I had to seek the source (most often chronic muscle tension and contraction), and how to undo it. It's made my meditation practice so much more rich and rewarding. I'm interested to know if you and other teachers are aware of this breakthrough modality.

Peace!

Michael

buddhasukha's picture

I have had 5 knee surgeries and recently had my second ankle surgery. I prefer to sit Burmese style but sometimes it is not possible. Sitting in a chair hurts my back even more (I try not to sit all the way back) and I always feel I am leaning forward. I know this sounds silly but how do I even tell if I am sitting forward too much? I spend so much time trying to perfect my posture that I am unable to concentrate on meditation. Any ideas?

CatorShachoy's picture

HI Buddhasukha
Thanks for your comments. Your question is a good one. It can be very difficult to sense an upright posture. A few pointers for sitting in a chair -
* make sure the chair seat is the right height for your body. When sitting, you should be able to press the feet firmly into the floor, and have sense of lifting out of the hips - so the hips and thighs should be level - eg - do not have hips below thighs. You may need to either raise the chair seat or the floor in order to get it right. This can be done by using a firm pillow or folded cotton or wool blanket (synthetics are less likely to keep their folded shape) on the chair seat or the floor. Sit far enough back on the chair that the thighs are able to rest on the seat. For just a few minutes at the beginning of the sitting, place feet carefully below the knees and ankles (eg - not infront or behind). Actively press feet down into floor. Then press thighs into chair seat. Then lift torso up out of hips. Lift head up over torso - eg not dropping forward or back. Then sway forward and back just a little, and side to side a little. Look on it as a game, an experiment. Notice when there is an ease. When head gets heavy, back gets sore (usually means you are too far forward), when abdominal muscles engage (leaning backward). Just experiment for a few minutes.

Then slide back to sit fully on the chair seat. It is fine to use the back of the chair for support also - this might help you to find upright. And this way you can be more relaxed in your sitting, less focused on posture. If you keep doing this experiment every day for a few minutes, odds are good your body will find its way. It is important to balance our effort in the posture with relaxation and ease.

A few other notes - if the hips and hamstrings (back of legs) are tight, then sitting is very difficult, and the joints - esp knees and ankles - become more vulnerable to injury. doing some hip openers and leg stretches for 15-20 min daily can make a big difference. The human body is built for movement. It is really very unnatural to expect it to be still in a sitting posture for extended periods. Preparing the body and mind through conscious non-linear body movement can really help our meditation practice to be less about pain and more about peace and calm. Perhaps it could be seen as a worthwhile investment.
Namaste,
Cator

Kunga.Chodzin's picture

Hello Ms.Cator Shachoy,

I have been suffering from Chronic back pain for 13 years, following an injury. The pain is now spreading into my shoulders, neck, feet, hands, and occasionally, my face. Courage in the face of such pain is hard to come by, especially if it means wanting to sit for extended periods of time. I often wonder what karmic action is in fruition to experience all of this, I am 29 years old. Pain has become a part of my identity.

Despite all of this, the most distracting and debilitating issue that I have on the cushion is numbness in my legs. Is there a way to prevent this from happening? It takes up to 10 minutes for the feeling to come back and the excruciating pins and needles sensation to subside. I have both a gomden and a bench, and experience the same sensations whether i am in a kneeling position or cross legged.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all of these questions (mine and others).

In the Vision of the Great Eastern Sun,
Kunga Chodzin

CatorShachoy's picture

Hi Kunga Chodzin
Thank you for your comments. Your situation touches me - it does not sound easy. I have a deep appreciation for the challenges you are facing in your life, and your attempts to live your life with courage and grace. I would like to answer your question from a couple of different perspectives.

As a Craniosacral Practitioner and Yoga instructor with therapeutic training, I would encourage you to not sit for extended periods. It could be destructive to your body. Also, there may be modalities that can provide some relief from the pain you are in. I encourage you to not give up.

As a meditation teacher I suggest you focus on lying down and walking meditation as your primary practices, and experiment with short periods of standing and sitting meditation. Lying down meditation can be a wonderful way to cultivate deep relaxation and refined awareness once we train ourselves not to fall asleep. Doing sweeping (eg - body scan) or breath awareness with an attitude of compassion while lying can be very healing to body and mind. Walking meditation is very good for developing concentration and body awareness. In walking let the focus be the sensations in the feet, or simply the feeling of the body in motion - both internal and external sensation. This means any sort of body sensation that arises as you walk - muscles being activated, contracting and releasing - as well as the pressure of contact with the earth, the feeling of the air on your skin or your clothing contacting the skin as you move, etc.

With regards to standing and walking meditation, why not try them for short periods - 5 or 10 minutes. This can be an excellent opportunity to notice what happens to the mind and body when pain arises. Set the intention to observe very closely the whole process of pain arising - where does it begin? what happens next - does it grow, shrink, radiate? What happens to the mind as the pain arises - from the very first instance - is there a reaction, an idea about what the pain means, how it will develop - i.e. does the mind rush into the future and decide the pain will become intolerable right away? Is it possible to come back, and stay with what is happening moment by moment, without assumptions? Since you are working with a lot of pain much of the time, try this only in small doses. Then change to a more comfortable posture - eg - lying down or walking - before the pain becomes too intense.

Cultivating compassion for yourself may be very beneficial. Your own kindness can be a potent medicine for your struggles. This can be done through holding an image of yourself in your mind, or an image of something or someone who inspires friendship and loving kindness, or through reciting phrases like:
* May I be safe & protected
* May I be happy
* May I be free from pain
* May I be free from fear & anxiety
* May I be peaceful
I hope this is helpful.
Namaste,
Cator

Kunga.Chodzin's picture

Ms. Cator Shachoy,
Thank you for you thorough and compassionate response.
I will work with these suggestions in my practice, trying more walking and laying meditation. I will also try to be kinder to myself, on and off the cushion.

-Kunga Chodzin

Marys's picture

Timely conversation for me as I find myself with an SI injury after restarting my hatha yoga practice. I'm meditating on a cushioned chair in "easy" pose with a rolled towel at the lower back. I have been advised by my yoga therapist NO forward bends/side stretches or twists.
Thanks Cator and to everyone who has shared their process; compassion, patience and wisdom...until forever!

CatorShachoy's picture

Hi Mary S -
thanks for your comments. Glad to hear you are paying careful attention to your body, and in particular your sitting posture as you recover from this injury. A couple of things to notice that might help. With an SI (sacro-illiac) injury, in most cases we want to avoid compression of the SI joint - the joint between the sacrum and the hip bone - and creating space there can bring relief. Internal rotation of the thigh bones will create space in the SI joints. External rotation will compress the joint. Very small, gentle, exploratory movements of the hips and pelvis can often bring relief, especially if you notice the small rotation of the thigh bone in the hip socket. Feeling the difference between the right and left sides of the joint, gently exploring what brings relief, and what aggravates it. I encourage you to both notice what aggravates it, and to stop doing that right away. When sitting in a chair with the feet on the floor, try pressing the tops of the thigh bones gently down into the chair seat. Then begin to lift the torso up out of the hips. This creates a gentle traction on the sacrum and lower spine, and can bring some relief. As you do this, you may also notice that the "sits bones" will feel lighter against the chair seat. Every now and then during your sitting, revisit this experience - pressing tops of thigh bones down, lifting torso up. This can bring a sense of lightness and alertness to the sitting posture.
Namaste,
Cator

akantra's picture

For years, my meditation posture has been a kneeling posture. I sit on a meditation bench with my shins under me on the ground. When I sit cross legged for very long my knees ache - not terribly, but a bit. They do not at all ache when my practice is done kneeling. Every once in a while, I revisit the question, "should I be sitting in a traditional cross legged posture?" So I ask this, "Is it important, or even just worthwhile, for me to work towards a different meditation posture?" I realize it isn't imperative. I am just interested to know whether or not it would be beneficial.
Thanks!
(I really appreciate all the advice and wisdom you have shared with us thus far!)
Namaste,
Augusta

CatorShachoy's picture

Hi Akantra

thanks for your comments. It sounds like you have found the right posture for your body at this time. It really doesn't matter what posture you sit in. If you find a posture that you can stay in, allowing the mind and body to settle and become quiet, then great!

If your knees ache in a cross legged posture, then odds are good there is some torsion, meaning that the lower leg is rotated relative to the upper leg. Sitting in a cross legged posture comfortably requires the hips to be open. If the hips are tight, then the tendency will be to force the knees to over rotate to accomodate for the tight hips. Doing hip openers and carefully bending the knees to make sure there is no rotation as I describe in earlier posts can help. I offer this by way of explanation, and to invite your investigation should it be of interest - not because I think you should change postures.
Namaste,
cator

CatorShachoy's picture

Thank you everyone for your comments! Holding ourselves with compassionate awareness as we sit and breathe and quiet our minds is always beneficial, no matter what posture we might practice in at any given moment. Letting go of strict ideas of what we ought to look like from the outside, and attending to our inner experience can be a useful guide to "good meditation". If you feel sleepy, try sitting up a bit more upright, open your eyes, cultivate alert, relaxed awareness. If you are overly vigilant and it is difficult to relax, try being a little less focused on correct posture, and instead notice the breathing. Let the breath draw you into a peaceful, calm state of mind.
May all beings be at ease in body & mind.
Namaste,
Cator

CatorShachoy's picture

Hi Mongo
Thanks for your comments. Generally speaking, it is helpful to work with creating a good stable upright posture to begin with. Once we settle in to meditation, anything can happen. I myself have been known to nod off once or twice while sitting in meditation! Having said that, once I notice I am doing this, I do what I can to bring myself back to a more awake, upright posture.
Namaste,
Cator

robren5936's picture

I don't sit on a cushion anymore. Being a woodworker I made myself a meditation bench built on an angle so that I am pushed forward, and can put my legs under the bench. Somewhat like sitting on my legs. I put some foam and a cover on the seat, and it has been perfect. My legs rarely fall asleep, unless I sit for over an hour, and by back is less prone to extreme pain. I also made it so it can be broke down for travel.

But I agree with mongo2, most monks that I have observed are all slouched over, and it seems to me that many older monks slouch when they are standing up. So I do not worry so much about my posture as long as I am somewhat comfortable and able to consistantly place awareness where it should be...whatever that may be.

CatorShachoy's picture

HI Rob

Your meditation bench sounds great! If your back starts to hurt, you might notice whether you have fallen forward slightly - whether your toso is still upright over the hips, and the head upright over the torso. When the head falls forward it gets heavy and pulls on the back. and when the back starts to slouch forward, this can also create some strain. Keeping the torso and head as upright as possible - while at the same time not getting too caught up in the idea of needing to have the "right posture" - which can cause alot of tension - will bring a sense of ease to the meditation posture.
Namaste,
Cator

britta.mohr's picture

When I started my meditation practice some years ago I was told that the pain in my legs and feet ( they fall asleep) would get better with more practice. But after years of practice ( Burmese position) I still cannot sit any longer than 30 minutes. If I try to sit longer, I can't move my legs or stand up later. I am quite tall and have very long legs. Maybe I just wasn't designed for meditation in traditional posture ;-) ? It's quite frustating, especially as almost everybody else seems to be fine.

CatorShachoy's picture

Hi Britta - thanks for your comments. I appreciate your patience to stick with the sitting meditation over the years even as it is uncomfortable. I have a few thoughts about your posture that might be of help. The burmese posture - called, "sukhasan" in yoga, or, "happy pose" - can be a very stable, comfortable meditation posture, but the hips need to be pretty open. Practicing some regular hip openers will make this posture much more comfortable. Yoga poses like warrior 2, side angel, and wide leg pose forward bend can help to prepare for sitting in this pose for an extended period. Here are a few other pointers about this pose. In the burmese posture, it is important that the ankles are not crossed, but rather one in front of the other. Also that the knees rest comfortably on the floor, and that you have a sense of lifting the torso up out of the hips. In order to get the lift of the torso, your cushion needs to be high enough that the knees fall below the hips easily. since you are very tall, you may need to sit a bit higher. Why not try playing with how high your cushion is, and the right angle of your hips relative to the floor? If the knees do not reach the floor once you get the hips right, or if one knee is higher than the other one, put a firm height under your knees - for example a folded towel or firm pillow. It is alright if one knee ends up a little higher than the other one, as long as both are supported - and the knees are dropping below the hips. Think in terms of a tripod of support - hips, and two knees. Most of the weight is on the hips.

When placing the feet and ankles in front of you, the rotation should come from the hips, not the knees. This can be a little tricky to determine. Try sitting on your cushion at the right height, then bending one knee up, getting the heel close to your buttocks. Then lower the knee to the floor, without torquing the knee joint. then do the same with the other leg. Press down on the thighs close to the hips with your hands for just a moment or two to invite the thighs to release a bit. Then lift the torso up out of the hips, sitting up tall to begin with. Just see how it feels... good luck!

one more thing - if your feet and legs continue to fall asleep, it really is fine to sit in a chair. There isn't one "right" meditation posture. The right posture is the one that allows you to experience your body, respect your limitations, and calm the mind. There can be alot of benefit to alternating between a few different postures, especially when on an intensive retreat and doing alot of meditation.
Namaste,
Cator

britta.mohr's picture

Thank you very much, Cator. My hips are really a "weak" spot in my body, I will try to put your advice into practice and pay more attention to them when sitting in meditation. I will also discuss this with a yoga-teaching friend.
Thanks again!
Britta

mtoliver88's picture

I have the same problem with my legs. While taking my precepts a couple of years ago. My legs where just inflamed with pain, then partly numb. The pain and agony where overwhelming. After the ordination, I couldn't move my legs unless I used my hands to literally move them. After about five minutes the circulation returned as I sat sweating and in agony. A few more minutes and I worked up the courage to try to stand. Eventually I did get my feet back under me, but I'm pretty sure I caused some damage to my left knee.
I have an over sized cushion and a small step platform I sit my cushion on now when I meditate. I for one having sat with Zen groups and now sit with a Theravada group have come to a compromise. I practice with both my mind and my body, if I were constricting my brain to the point of actual damage, then my meditation would not only be useless for the goals of meditation, but damaging and detrimental to my basic practice and goals. I practice and would like to one day sit on a regular cushion half lotus, but even with my efforts, my are still progresses. My main goal is for my Buddhist practice to progress, not to make myself cripple.

CatorShachoy's picture

HI Mt Oliver

thanks for your comments. Your main goal of having your buddhist practice progress and not make yourself a cripple sounds like a good one! Holding yourself with compassion while sitting, and every now and then scanning through the whole body to see if all systems are go - ie that there is not extreme pain or numbness anywhere in the body can help. If there is alot of pain in the legs or numbness, then moving mindfully and gently is a very good idea. The Buddha taught four traditional postures - sitting, standing, lying down, and walking. This is a way of saying that any posture is good for meditation. There is more than one enlightenment story that takes place as the meditator is moving from one posture to the next. Holding a strict posture is less important than listening closely to your body, and respecting its limits.
Namaste,
Cator

sorjuana's picture

My problem isn't back pain, although I do experience that from time to time, but every sitting I do I experience my feet falling asleep. I sit on a "cosmic" cushion by Sun & Moon. Is this an issue? Should I breathe into it? I generally have poor circulation as it is. (sorry for the double post, I'm new here)

CatorShachoy's picture

HI Sorjuana -

thank you for your comments. Your question is in some ways similar to Britta's, so you might read my response there for a bit more info. I would look closely at your posture. You may need to sit higher up, and/ or tilt your cushion a bit more. Make sure the ankles are not crossed, but rather one foot is infront of the other, and the knees are not torqued, and are properly supported. Opening up the hips prior to sitting in meditation can help with keeping the feet from going numb. You can open the hips through some yoga stretches. If your feet continue to go numb after playing with your posture a bit, consider sitting in a chair or on a bench. You only get one body this life time... it is worthwhile to treat it gently and respectfully, with kindness and compassion so that it will last a good long time!
Namaste,
Cator

sdewitt's picture

Thanks for engaging in this discussion.

I am going on a 10 day Vipassana retreat at the end of the month and am a little worried about back pain from the long sits. I have done long days before, but this particular brand of Vipassana sits for up to two hours at a time, which I've not done.

I have had lower back and mid back pain issues before and was wondering if you could recommend any preparatory yoga postures (or any exercises in general) that I might try both now before the retreat and also perhaps during the retreat (during the private time).

I do have a regular exercise routine, but feel that anything I can do to try and strengthen my back could be of benefit.

Thanks again for the discussion.

CatorShachoy's picture

HI Sdewitt -

thanks for your comments. Stretching your back regularly is a good idea. Some simple poses/ movements that can help alot include:
* Cat/ Cow pose - on hands and knees, breathing in the belly drops down, the pelvis untucks, and the chest opens - like an indian style sway back cow (think sway back horse) and the head lifts. this is spinal extension. Breathing out, the back rounds, the pelvis tucks, the head drops - think of a halloween style "fraidy cat" with arched back. this is spinal flexion. Move back and forth between these two several times, letting the breath lead the movement. begin to feel the movement like a wave that goes the length of your spine, pelvis and head.
* Puppy Pose - from above (hands & knees), curl your toes under, push your hips back towards your heels, and stretch the arms forward bringing the chest close and belly close to the floor. Since the buttocks are a little higher, this is pose looks like a puppy ready to play.
* Downward dog pose - from here, straighten the legs and arms, lift the hips, drop the head.
move between these three poses several times.
- and just one more - a lying down twist:
*lie on your back on the floor. bend knees to chest. arms on floor, straight out from shoulders. exhale, release knees to the floor on the right side, near to your shoulder. turn to look over opposite shoulder. exhale bring knees back up over your chest. repeat on second side.

When sitting, notice your posture. Try to keep the torso and head as upright as possible, over the hips. when the head drops forward and/or the torso leans forward, this can cause extra tension and strain. When correcting your posture, be kind with yourself. Try not to judge yourself for slouching or losing focus.

When sitting, if back pain arises, see if you can breathe into it. If it becomes a little less solid when you gently place your awareness there. Try and do this in a way that is not aggressive or focused on making something go away.
and... remember to enjoy the retreat - a rare and precious opportunity!
Namaste,
Cator

erik.engberg's picture

I have lived with chronic pain in my left leg for over twelve years and am incapable of sitting in the "traditional" position. In my training of employees in business settings, much of my time is spent de-mystifying meditation for potential practitioners. I have to believe that there are thousands and thousands of people who choose not to take advantage of the medically-confirmed benefits of practice because of, what I consider to be, a stringently orthodox portrayal of the meditation process. By pushing back against the so-called Westernization of Buddhist practice, we turn away a significant number of people who otherwise would have experienced some degree of well-being improvement.

Having said that, there are times when it is healing to sit with our pain and work with it. The key is to individualize your practice as each person deems necessary.

CatorShachoy's picture

HI Erik

thanks for your comments. It sounds like you are doing your part to try and make meditation and buddhist practice available to others. I am glad to hear you are working skillfully with your meditation to not cause harm to your body. The buddha taught 4 postures for meditation - sitting, walking, standing, & lying down. It is beneficial to explore all of them, or even some, "in between" postures to find our way in this practice. The Buddha also emphasized Sila, or ethical conduct as a form of practice. This is something we can keep with us at all times, whether we are able to sit or not. By practicing the 5 precepts - ie the principles of non-harming, generosity or non-possesiveness, conscious sexuality, wise speech, and conscious consumption - we can make this practice a continual part of our lives, and invite others into it.
Namaste,
Cator

moonaysl's picture

As someone who lives with disc degeneration and who for a long time was put off of meditation because it made my life worse, physically, I think it's time for the meditation community to move away from fundamentalist ideas about "the right sitting position" and even encouraging people to sit through the pain because "pain isn't always a bad thing." Pain is often there because it is a signal. It is mindful to pay attention to that signal. If you can meditate in a way that does not set this signal off or that weakens it, I think it is a mindful practice to do so.

Of course, sometimes no matter what you do, the pain is there. I think returning to one's breath can be a practice that will help one cope with that. But again, there is no need to push your body to achieve that. I don't think the goal of meditation is to push your body. I think each person has to make a personal decision about whether they want to push themselves, and this decision has to involve an honest conversation about whether someone _should_ push themselves.

Part of what we do during meditation is give ourselves permission to just be, to let go of what we're holding onto and come back to our breath. I think it's okay to give yourself permission to meditate lying down, if that's what works for you. Or meditate in a chair if that's what works for you. Consider meeting your body where it actually is, not where you or some meditation teacher thinks it should be. For years, I looked for advice about meditation when you have a disability, and I've been really disappointed at the dearth of literature addressing it. It feels (and I think it is) very ableist.

CatorShachoy's picture

HI Moonaysi -

thanks for your comments. I can imagine that with disc degeneration, sitting would be very uncomfortable for you. In my private practice as a craniosacral practitioner I work with people with this condition. You are wise to listen to your body and respect its limitations. I suspect lying down meditation would be very beneficial for you. In addition you might enjoy the body scan or sweeping practice. It is an interesting point your bring up, about the lack of information available for meditation practice for those with disabilities. When I trained in Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) at the worcester medical center many years ago now, we frequently taught the body scan while lying down for those who had chronic pain.
Compassion practice can also be of tremendous benefit when there is alot of pain in the body. Cultivating an attitude of kindness and generosity towards oneself is always beneficial, but I think it's really necessary when we are in pain - physical or emotional. This can be done in a few ways - either through reciting phrases, or through bringing to mind an image that evokes a quality of compassion. Phrases that might help include:
*May I be safe & protected
*May I be free from pain
*May I be healthy and happy
*May I be peaceful & at ease
Namaste,
Cator

compassionatechick's picture

I experience sciatic nerve pain due to an old back injury which resulted in surgery. I have a good medtation cushion (Gomden and Zabuton) which reallly help as it puts my posture and hips in a good position for sitting. But, there are days when numbness, tingling and shooting pains are just too uncomfortable. When that pain happens, I just change positon and try to do it as mindfully as possible. Sometimes, I'll get up and do a little walking meditation then return to the cushion. On really bad days, I'll lie down which works well since I don't fall asleep during meditation (at least not yet anyway).

CatorShachoy's picture

HI Compassionate chick -

thanks for your comments. Sciatica can be tricky. I am glad to hear you have found some solutions. There are a few stretches/ yoga poses that can help with sciatica. one issue is - are you aware of whether you are prone to hyper mobility? or, are you more prone to tight and stiff joints?

Pigeon pose can help to relieve sciatica -
begin on hands and knees on the floor. bring the right knee forward, just inside of the right hand. let your shin cross in front of your body, so the right heel is near to the left hand (a little behind it). begin to straighten out your left leg, lowering your hips to the floor - the right heel ends up near to the left hip bone. you can keep the torso upright, resting on your hands, or begin to lower the torso towards the floor, resting on elbows, or even lying with the face to the floor. come up, and repeat on the second side.

standing wide leg pose forward bend can also help. stand with feet a leg length apart. bend forward from the hips. place hands on the floor or onto your legs. twist your torso, drawing it first towards one leg (e.g. - both hands on right leg, draw torso towards leg), then towards the other. pay close attention to the sciatica, and notice what is bringing relief. If anything aggravates it, do not continue. come out of the pose.

If you meditate lying down due to sciatica, having some support under your knees and thighs is a good idea. this will help to relieve the sciatica. a couple of folded blankets or firm pillows can work well.
Namaste,
Cator

Laurice.henry's picture

I feel that one of the reasons for my discomfort is that I can't seem to maintain an upright posture and end up slouching. Any recommendations?

CatorShachoy's picture

HI Laurice -

thanks for your comments. I would look closely at your posture. I encourage you to read some of the earlier posts as I comment on this in some detail. A few basic pointers - make sure you are sitting high enough. if you sit on the floor, think of a tripod of support - eg hips and both knees. If you sit in a chair make sure that your feet can rest firmly on the floor, your thighs are level - eg knees are not higher than hips - and you can have a sense of lifting up out of the hips. Play with the chair and/or floor height in order to create this - you can raise the chair seat by putting a blanket or firm pillow on it if you are tall. YOu can raise the floor by doing the same under your feet. It is important to balance the torso over the hips, so that the head and shoulders are not falling forward. try shrugging your shoulders up and down a few times to relax them. you might also try some back stretches/ openers as listed above.
Namaste,
Cator

mongo2's picture

One of my teachers went to a Thai forest monastery and was appalled by the terrible posture of some of the monks as they sat for long periods of time. He asked the abbot, who told him that as long as you can maintain a posture it doesn't matter what it is. So, I would say don't worry about it.

However, if you feel compelled to maintain an upright posture and find you have melted into a slouch, it's OK. Bring yourself back slowly to your preferred position without criticizing your slouchiness.