Back problems

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Greg_the_poet
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Back problems

Post by Greg_the_poet » Mon Oct 06, 2014 1:04 am

I've never had the greatest posture in the world and one of the reasons why I haven't been that consistent with going to the zendo is because an hour's sitting is almost torturous for me. I can't even imagine what it would be like to do a whole sesshin, now that would be torture.
My teacher has recently suggested that I put a scarf around my waist, tie it round the back and use the front of it to harness my hands up higher for the cosmic mudra, because I've been doing the cosmic mudra resting on my thighs, which has meant that I naturally slump. Has anyone used this approach and has it helped with any back pains?

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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Back problems

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Mon Oct 06, 2014 1:24 am

Where in your back is your pain?
Which posture do you sit? Do you use a cushion, bench, or chair?

Greg_the_poet
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Re: Back problems

Post by Greg_the_poet » Mon Oct 06, 2014 1:31 am

Cushion, I sit in the Burmese position. My pain is the mid back area. The muscles really tighten and twist there.

krodha
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Re: Back problems

Post by krodha » Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:21 am

Greg_the_poet wrote:Has anyone used this approach and has it helped with any back pains?
That method is commonly used by yogins doing practices that involve sitting for extended periods of time. They use meditation belts [gom tag] though rather than tying fabric. You can also get a meditation stick [gom ten] to lean on as well.

I'm not sure where you're located but here in the U.S. drug stores like Walgreens carry walking canes, retractable metal ones and or the full size wooden kind. The retractable metal ones are generally the right size for sitting when fully collapsed (the handle tucked under the armpit), however the wooden canes can be cut to the right size as well.

As for the belts I know certain online stores carry them, or perhaps certain dharma events (I bought mine at a retreat).

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yan kong
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Re: Back problems

Post by yan kong » Mon Oct 06, 2014 6:03 am

I'm not sure how bad your back problems are but I have/had bad posture in the past and have had to endure back pains during meditations and services.

I find half lotus and full lotus help me to keep my back straight much more easily. I think this comes with its own pain in the beginning but I think it's worth it. Thus also gives an elevated place for the meditation mudra.

Yan Fa
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun

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Kaccāni
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Re: Back problems

Post by Kaccāni » Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:11 am

If the tendons/muscles in your spine are too long, then you will cramp in a position that for others is utterly comfortable. The cramp produces that pain.

There's not much more you can do but accept it, and use a different posture. A meditation posture is supposed to be stable in itself, so you can rest in yourself. Some people's bodies just aren't able to do this.

Hmm ... you could, of course ... accept it as a sign of your body that you've meditated enough and it is time to move the body. So you're done much sooner with meditation than most other people. :-)

If it hurts, it ... hurts.
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Anders
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Re: Back problems

Post by Anders » Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:30 am

There are a number of options here. Ideally, I'd suggest making use of all of them.

Number one is working your way towards some kind of half/full lotus. This will do wonders for your posture. Stretching and opening the hips is alpha and omega for this.

Secondly, consider a weight lifting regimen of some kind to strengthen the back significantly, such as Deadlifts and pullups. This will go a long way towards building a better posture.

Consider using a backbelt to support your posture when sitting (also consider using it when deadlifting for double the use of it).

Lifting the mudra is generally good advice for all but perfect lotus sitters, but I find that this has more impact on the shoulders than the back.

A good precursor to any sort of change in your back regimen would be a few visits to a chiropractor. He can put your back "back to normal", for a while anyway, which will give you a much better foundation for strengthening your posture from there.

If I had to recommend an abbreviated program, I'd say go to a chiropractor and learn how to deadlift. A few months from now, your back will be unrecognisably strong and solid from what you are used to.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

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Kaccāni
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Re: Back problems

Post by Kaccāni » Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:57 am

... if your tendon's aren't simply too long in the first place. Then all of those solutions will be of no help, and deadlifting may even make things worse. That pain in the middle of the back is what some piano players experience from prolonged practice sessions. If it is it. There can be many other reasons.

If you insist on sitting for long periods in an upright posture although your body tells you: "I hurt!", maybe see a good doctor of manual medicine. And if he tells you "well, your tendons seem to be long", then mere exercise won't "fix" the problem.

Otherwise, well, you can also continue doing what your body wants not. Nobody will prevent you.
Shush! I'm doing nose-picking practice!

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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Back problems

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Mon Oct 06, 2014 6:51 pm

I sit Burmese also. Here are some ideas that may help your back discomfort.

* Alternate which leg is in front when you sit, to help maintain a flexible, strong base.
* Make sure your cushion is high enough, so the hips are higher than the knees. I need two cushions for this usually because I'm pretty tall.
* Most of the posture comes from the positioning of the pelvis, which should be tilted forward slightly, and very wide/open with respect to the legs. When the back is aligned and loose on such a base, it feels more like a supple sapling than a straight line. Therefore, when you find yourself slouching, tilt the pelvis before adjusting the back... that usually fixes it. The back should have almost zero tension.
* To help with arranging the upper body, while you're seated, lean forward as far as you can to lengthen the spine. Then straighten up, leading with the top of your back. Second, let your head fall forward, lengthening the neck and muscles in the upper back, then lead with the crown until your ears align with the shoulders.
* Remain very aware of your shoulders and tension in them. The arms should be supporting the frame of the upper body, yet remain completely relaxed, and they shouldn't curl forward. Tension in the shoulders can press down into the back, causing pain there, too.
* If there is pain in the body somewhere, I've noticed I tend to tense up around it, which of course worsens the pain. Mindfulness of the body will help you loosen tension, and often doing so will alleviate the pain.
* I've found keeping attention on the tanden can relax any upper body issues. Sometimes, focusing on the nose or having no specific focus at all can cause tension or poor posture in the base of the body to go unnoticed.
* Finally, if you do use mindfulness of the body as your sitting practice for a week or two, you can familiarize yourself with what your body feels like when it's truly settled, stable and devoid of tension. For me, I can feel the ground supporting every inch of my flesh, as though I'm laying down in a seated position. I've also read it compared to being charged with electricity, as if anyone who touches you will get a shock!

If all else fails, try a meditation bench! They are wonderful for aligning the body with ease.

Good luck :)

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_Q_
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Re: Back problems

Post by _Q_ » Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:56 pm

All useful suggestions, but if your pain is chronic I would start with chiropractic adjustment.

At my age I am not very limber, and have found sitting Seiza helps to keep my back straight without strain.

Teachers in the White Plum Asanga allow students to sit in a chair, sitting up straight, not leaning back.
Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.
The Dharmas are boundless, I vow to embody them.
The Buddha Way is unsurpassable, I vow to follow it.

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Re: Back problems

Post by DGA » Fri Oct 10, 2014 7:56 pm

before taking any advice from anyone online who hasn't seen you physically, go get checked out professionally. Here are some things that may be going on:

*muscle imbalances. that is: weak glutes & abs, strong pecs pulling you forward, thus straining muscles in your mid-back
*poor alignment or inefficient use of the body
*tension
*injury

someone mentioned a chiropractor. I've seen a chiropractor before for meditation-related injuries (long story) and benefited from it. That could be a good place to start.

Greg_the_poet
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Re: Back problems

Post by Greg_the_poet » Sat Oct 11, 2014 2:01 am

Thanks a lot for all your suggestions. To be honest I don't think it's my back itself that is the root problem. My back feels fine the majority of the time, but after 20 minutes of sitting in Zazen my muscles really start to ache. I think it's more of a mental issue. I suffer with anxiety and depression, and sitting for long periods can get me stressed, when I get stressed, my muscles tighten, then my zazen really starts to hurt. When I am am feeling calm and relaxed, I don't tend to feel much pain in zazen.

muni
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Re: Back problems

Post by muni » Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:09 pm

Greg_the_poet wrote:Thanks a lot for all your suggestions. To be honest I don't think it's my back itself that is the root problem. My back feels fine the majority of the time, but after 20 minutes of sitting in Zazen my muscles really start to ache. I think it's more of a mental issue. I suffer with anxiety and depression, and sitting for long periods can get me stressed, when I get stressed, my muscles tighten, then my zazen really starts to hurt. When I am am feeling calm and relaxed, I don't tend to feel much pain in zazen.
:namaste: Greg,
Depression is the best cured by meditation I heard, not sure.... since such state is often tighten so strongly with negative thoughts/feelings so that the wish to be able to practice is only increasing anxiety/stress. We can easely talk about not being conditioned by the ups and downs but it is less easy to apply this by a stressed mind. The depression can use some cure/listening ear, so that the tense it creates decreases, making relaxation possible.

Keep back straight, is said, but this can by support.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves” H H Dalai Lama

"Relax."

Losal Samten
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Re: Back problems

Post by Losal Samten » Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:16 pm

Greg_the_poet wrote:Thanks a lot for all your suggestions. To be honest I don't think it's my back itself that is the root problem. My back feels fine the majority of the time, but after 20 minutes of sitting in Zazen my muscles really start to ache. I think it's more of a mental issue. I suffer with anxiety and depression, and sitting for long periods can get me stressed, when I get stressed, my muscles tighten, then my zazen really starts to hurt. When I am am feeling calm and relaxed, I don't tend to feel much pain in zazen.
Try Bimala and Semde medicine. Yantra yoga can also help.
Lacking mindfulness, we commit every wrong. - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔
ཨཱོཾ་མ་ཏྲི་མུ་ཡེ་སལེ་འདུ།།

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