Sitting for long hours

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Sitting for long hours

Postby Dazzy » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:06 am

My legs get numb after 10 mints sitting in meditation no matter how I sit. But I can't sit on a chair in the class and in retreats. Kind of not facilitated. This problem is an obstacle to my practice. :cry:

How do you overcome this please? If I practice more will my legs get used to sitting long hours?
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:20 am

Dazzy wrote:My legs get numb after 10 mints sitting in meditation no matter how I sit. But I can't sit on a chair in the class and in retreats. Kind of not facilitated. This problem is an obstacle to my practice. :cry:

How do you overcome this please? If I practice more will my legs get used to sitting long hours?
Every retreat i have gone to, sitting in a chair is an option. See if there is something in these Gioogle options that might help:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22leg+stretches%22+for+meditation&btnG=Search&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Dazzy » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:26 am

But I don't like to get used to sitting on a chair so that I won't be able to sit on the floor at all
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Ben » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:29 am

Try to appreciate the fact that numbness is just a sensation - nothing more, nothing less.
If you have a chronic ailment or injury, then I think you should look into either a chair, low-folding chair or other sitting/posture device to make your meditation a bit more fruitful. But in the interim, try to maintain your focus on the object of meditation for longer and longer periods irrespective of any numbness in your legs.
kind regards

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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:32 am

Dazzy wrote:But I don't like to get used to sitting on a chair so that I won't be able to sit on the floor at all
But it is the "sitting" - the meditation - that matters, not whether it is on the floor or in a chair. Basically, doing leg stretches daily will help you towards your goal, but don't push it; take your time.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:33 am

Ben wrote:Try to appreciate the fact that numbness is just a sensation - nothing more, nothing less.
But the question is, what is causing the numbness?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Dazzy » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:34 am

Ben wrote:Try to appreciate the fact that numbness is just a sensation - nothing more, nothing less.
If you have a chronic ailment or injury, then I think you should look into either a chair, low-folding chair or other sitting/posture device to make your meditation a bit more fruitful. But in the interim, try to maintain your focus on the object of meditation for longer and longer periods irrespective of any numbness in your legs.
kind regards

Ben


Will it kill my legs? :jawdrop:

I mean it is not healthy to deny blood circulation for long hours
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Ben » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:39 am

Dazzy wrote:
Ben wrote:Try to appreciate the fact that numbness is just a sensation - nothing more, nothing less.
If you have a chronic ailment or injury, then I think you should look into either a chair, low-folding chair or other sitting/posture device to make your meditation a bit more fruitful. But in the interim, try to maintain your focus on the object of meditation for longer and longer periods irrespective of any numbness in your legs.
kind regards

Ben


Will it kill my legs? :jawdrop:

I mean it is not healthy to deny blood circulation for long hours


When I go on retreat I sit cross-legged for up to 16 hours a day and my legs are fine.
Use your common sense. If there are such unpleasant sensations that it is dominating your awareness - move, but move slowly and with awareness.
But if your numbness is just a distraction to practice, then maintain your focus on the primary object of meditation!
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Dazzy » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:54 am

Ben, was it hard for you at the beginning? I am a beginner so all I want to learn from experienced practitioners is

1) Is this normal?

2) Will it be fine with practice once my legs gradually get used to it?

3) Will it be a health risk (which obviously is not as you say)?

Thanks
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby lojong1 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:06 am

For the first month, my legs hurt after 5 mins., numbed by 15 mins. and I was quite worried about health risks of sitting too long. When I stopped worrying about it, 3 hour comfortable sits were doable. Sit through and feel all you can handle, then shift them or stand a bit, no guilt. Watch how quickly and fully you recover each time. The cause is mostly mental. It gets easier.
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby elcfa » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:47 am

1) Is this normal?
Not sure for others, but it was for me. It went from numbness to mild pain to excruciating pain so much so that my clothes were full of sweat and my body was shaking.

2) Will it be fine with practice once my legs gradually get used to it?

Yes. Your body will get used to it and suddenly one day you no longer experience it.

3) Will it be a health risk (which obviously is not as you say)?
No. Not that I am aware of having sat regularly 12-14 sessions *1 hr /day for countless months of retreats.

Some tips for you: it is ok to move slowly if the pain is unbearable while being mindful.
Pain (numbness is the start of it) is actual an invaluable help for you to focus the mind and to see the impermanence nature of all things. Observe the pain/discomfort and you will see that the feeling/pain is not constant as you thought, but changing and composed of actually tiny (but powerful), fast moving, fast dying sensations like a powerful wave is nothing but a collection of fast moving water drops. It would be difficult to see to begin with since your mind would not be able to concentrate but with practice you can see. You may want at first try to differentiate different "tastes" of pain: sharp pain, slow cooking pain, vibrating pain,... (I still remember that I counted sth like 20 different tastes in one sitting) or different locations of pain to focus/calm the mind.
Good luck.
You may want to read achan Mun's account of pain meditation or The Science of Enlightenment: Teachings & Meditations for Awakening Through Self-Investigation from Shizen Young who explains a bit about meditation about pain.
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Shonin » Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:01 am

Dazzy wrote:Will it kill my legs? :jawdrop:

I mean it is not healthy to deny blood circulation for long hours


It's not caused by the blood circulation being cut off, it's caused by the main nerve that runs down your leg being compressed. I'm not aware of any side -effects of doing this long term.
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:45 am

Short term effects in my case include a very wobbly few minutes due to numbness when I first stand...but it soon passes.
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby bodom » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:22 pm

This is from Bhante G:

It is very common for beginners to have their legs fall asleep or go numb during meditation. They are simply not accustomed to the cross-legged posture. Some people get very anxious about this. They feel they must get up and move around. A few are completely convinced that they will get gangrene from lack of circulation. Numbness in the leg is nothing to worry about. it is caused by nerve-pinch, not by lack of circulation. You can't damage the tissues of your legs by sitting. So relax. When your legs fall asleep in meditation, just mindfully observe the phenomenon. Examine what it feels like. It may be sort of uncomfortable, but it is not painful unless you tense up. Just stay calm and watch it. It does not matter if your legs go numb and stay that way for the whole period. After you have meditated for some time, that numbness gradually will disappear. Your body simply adjusts to daily practice. Then you can sit for very long sessions with no numbness whatever.


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:32 pm

Cant say that I have ever reached the point when numbness does not happen at all Bodom... :smile:
But its not a prob.
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby bodom » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:08 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Cant say that I have ever reached the point when numbness does not happen at all Bodom... :smile:
But its not a prob.


Hi Sanghamitta

I find some days there is some numbness while sitting and other days not so much. It is really important, crucial actually, to take a bit of time, a few minutes at the outset of a sitting to really check the posture, to really settle into position. I have found that adjusting the posture just the tiniest fraction can mean the difference between a relatively comfortable sitting and one that that is not so much so.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:51 pm

bodom wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:Cant say that I have ever reached the point when numbness does not happen at all Bodom... :smile:
But its not a prob.


Hi Sanghamitta

I find some days there is some numbness while sitting and other days not so much. It is really important, crucial actually, to take a bit of time, a few minutes at the outset of a sitting to really check the posture, to really settle into position. I have found that adjusting the posture just the tiniest fraction can mean the difference between a relatively comfortable sitting and one that that is not so much so.

:anjali:

I agree.When I start my sitting meditation I spend a little time ensuring that I am sitting as correctly as possible so that certain things don't have to arise.I know exactly how to place my feet when in sitting meditation.Get it wrong and discomfort will come knocking at the door.
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby Individual » Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:38 pm

Ben wrote:Try to appreciate the fact that numbness is just a sensation - nothing more, nothing less.
If you have a chronic ailment or injury, then I think you should look into either a chair, low-folding chair or other sitting/posture device to make your meditation a bit more fruitful. But in the interim, try to maintain your focus on the object of meditation for longer and longer periods irrespective of any numbness in your legs.
kind regards

Ben

Neurons that are over-stimulated become less sensitive over time. So, in the long-term, the tingling and numbness might go away, but only because those nerves aren't functioning with the same degree of sensitivity as before. Other than that, long term effects seem to be pretty negligible.

Shonin wrote:
Dazzy wrote:Will it kill my legs? :jawdrop:

I mean it is not healthy to deny blood circulation for long hours


It's not caused by the blood circulation being cut off, it's caused by the main nerve that runs down your leg being compressed. I'm not aware of any side -effects of doing this long term.

The blood vessels and nerves are connected to eachother.

It might be caused by compression of the basoreceptors of the dermis or the osmoreceptors of the blood vessels, or both. I would definitely think that the latter is definitely involved, because if you put a lot of pressure on your legs for a very long time, the feet can turn bluish, the same as wearing a blood-pressure cuff for too long on your arm.

Nanadhaja wrote:I agree.When I start my sitting meditation I spend a little time ensuring that I am sitting as correctly as possible so that certain things don't have to arise.I know exactly how to place my feet when in sitting meditation.Get it wrong and discomfort will come knocking at the door.

About "sitting as correctly as possible," would you agree with:

-A slight stiffness in the legs
-A slight stiffness in the spine
-Sitting upright (along with the natural curvature of the spine), neither leaning backwards or forwards?
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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:30 pm

It might be worthwhile exploring why you are meditating. Is it to relieve some kind of physical illness or mental illness? Is it to overcome suffering from an existential perspective. Or is to end the cycle of births and death which is called 'samsara'. You will find that different levels of motivation are required for different objectives.

In such a setting how big a problem is, becomes relative to the issue one is trying to find a solution to.

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Re: Sitting for long hours

Postby m0rl0ck » Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:36 pm

I had some numbness at the beginning, sometimes to the point of nearly falling over when i stood. These days its not much of a problem to sit for 45 - 60 minutes with hardly any numbness at all. In the beginning i think my posture was the main problem. Now i sit in burmese posture so that neither of my legs is lying on top of the other, if you can get into it without too much of a problem i recommend it. Be careful of your knees tho as with any of the usual cross legged postures.

One of the things i find important is to get my sitting bones as close to the edge of the cushion as possible, without slipping off of course :) Also in my experience, being relaxed helps.


Burmese posture:

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"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

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