Back Pain

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

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:14 pm

As I've recently begun to try out postures outside of my usual bench setup, I've realized that by even the ten or fifteen minute mark, my back hurts terribly if I sit half-lotus. Recently I have been trying out full lotus, and although it fully relieves my back pain, I'm not proficient enough to maintain the posture for any long period of time without hurting my knees or ankles. I have very flexible hips, flexible at least enough for half-lotus, but I fear that perhaps I am doing it "wrong" so to speak. I've been looking at guides online and I can't seem to figure out what about my posture is causing this pain. Obviously many people spend hours in half-lotus every day without incident, so there must be some "fault" to my approach. Does anyone have any tips for reducing back pain while trying out the half-lotus, or any links to more reputable sites that can maybe show me what I'm doing wrong? My meditation has stalled somewhat but I don't want to admit defeat and go back to the bench because I know that at some point I will have to learn other positions.

Thank you very much.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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daverupa
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Re: Back Pain

Postby daverupa » Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:24 pm

Misalignment, weak lumbar lordosis, or a skewed sense of biofeedback (thinking you're sitting straight when you're slouching, etc.) are possible culprits here, since hip flexibility isn't of note.* Mirrors or another knowledgeable person can help in both cases, but a hands-on environment seems best for solving this.

(*It occurs to me that knee pain shouldn't occur in full lotus if you are properly rotating your legs to the outside and pointing the soles of the feet correctly, and placing them on the right spots on the thighs; some additional instruction on these poses is probably warranted. It's possible your hips are flexible enough such that the tightness leading to pain is a function of the muscles of the lower back and inner thigh; most people give undue attention to the psoas when thinking about hip flexibility, which isn't correct.)

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Alobha
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Re: Back Pain

Postby Alobha » Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:59 pm

I rememer talking with one anagarika in training years ago about pain during meditation. He meditated without a cushion and told me that there was pain for weeks before his body got used to the posture without a cushion. During this period, he made that pain his meditation object during sitting meditation. Pain surely is a great teacher!

Perhaps there is no "fault" with your approach, just like there is no fault in the approach when a person wants to lifts an object with his arms while the arm muscles are too untrained for the weight.
However, get your posture checked by another experienced meditator and check the mirror, before you consider just going for it.

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: Back Pain

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:27 am

I feel that without proper instruction, I should probably hold off on experimenting with new techniques. I may seek out a yoga instructor here if I can or just stick the bench until I can find one. Do you think this is the best idea?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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daverupa
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Re: Back Pain

Postby daverupa » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:54 am

It seems best to me. After all, this body has to be suitable for striving, and chronic pain secondary to pretzeling is hardly helpful.

:heart:

(What of this ...aversion to the bench? :stirthepot: )
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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marc108
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Re: Back Pain

Postby marc108 » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:36 am

i think it has alot to do with how your ligaments & tendons 'set' when you were growing up... the postures you were used to. i would be especially careful about pain in the knee. Bhante Sujato, spoke about his own, and many other senior monks having to have knee surgeries and whatnot because they destroyed the tendons in their knees by forcing themselves to sit in postures that were not suitable for their body. fitting in by sitting low lotus wont be much good if you're cripple, keep that in mind.

that being said, re: your knees

the higher you put your butt in lotus the greater the angle at your knee joint and the less stress on the tendons, for me
around 18 inches high is best which is much higher than you would get on most cushions. you should try to touch the top of your knee to the floor and not the external side. also, you what i think does most of the damage to people is having the femur rotate externally while the tibea rotates internally. what you want is rotation at the hip joint and not in the knee. if you can assure that the rotations of both leg bones are in the same direction, and the same degree then you should be able to relax that knee pain. see attached.

re: your back

likely why full lotus is relieving your back pain is because you are causing forward rotation of the pelvis. think of the difference between a cat putting its tail up vs tucking it between its legs. what you can do to train yourself on proper pelvis position is put a towel on the floor, and sit duck butt (cats tail up) so you can clearly feel your 'sit bone's(2 bones in the bottom of your butt) touch the floor and pull the towel back slightly. your lumbar spine should push forward, and have nice natural arch... it should not pull downward. you will have to experiment to find the best position.

read:
http://gokhalemethod.com/how-it-works#howitworks

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afY5__sHB3o
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeaFQxg-Vr0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGMO8X9559Y
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"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."

danieLion
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Re: Back Pain

Postby danieLion » Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:58 am

If you're as sedentary as most of us geeks are these days, you really should consider making the bulk of your mediation activity motion based. In my particular case (spinal arthritis, scoliosis, bone spurs, hypermotility), stillness, and especially sitting still, is not generally conducive to calm because too much of it increases my overall pain levels (the older one gets, the more important not being still too much becomes important). And you don't have to be still or sitting to get calm or even practice insight. I know my body well enough by now to know the difference between mediation posture based pain and pain from my affliction, and it's helped me skilfully modify as I go. And when I do meditate with stillness, it seems like I appreciate it more than when I was doing it 2-3 hours daily. And when I appreciate it more, the results seem to come quicker, deeper, and with more clarity.

danieLion
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Re: Back Pain

Postby danieLion » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:04 am

daverupa wrote:It seems best to me. After all, this body has to be suitable for striving, and chronic pain secondary to pretzeling is hardly helpful.

:heart:

(What of this ...aversion to the bench? :stirthepot: )

Brilliant, Dave, as usual.
Yes, LY, why the aversion to the bench? My aversion to such things is they decrease my ability to meditate anywhere the bench isn't.

danieLion
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Re: Back Pain

Postby danieLion » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:09 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:I have very flexible hips, flexible at least enough for half-lotus...,
I may be imputing my own issues onto your situation, but I know from personal experience (I'm hyper flexible) that too much flexibility can cause pain issues, and there's some suggestion that stretching in general doesn't work (in my case, it causes me even more pain...chiropractors kill me).

Just something to think about.

Maarten
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Re: Back Pain

Postby Maarten » Fri Sep 07, 2012 11:23 pm

I also have back problems in my meditation. I haven't found a permanent solution but what helps to make the meditation less painful is to do some situps before meditating and try to exert those muscles that are painful during the meditation. Also doing yoga stretches that target the painful areas helps me.

With metta! :)


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