Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

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

Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby Mkoll » Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:22 pm

Dear friends,

I'm interested in the biomechanics (I think that's the right term here) of meditation postures, specifically the various cross-legged postures. I currently don't have any serious knee or hip issues but I've heard stories of people damaging their knees in meditation. I don't wish to experience this. I sit cross-legged and stretch every day: eventually I would like to be able to sit half or full lotus and I want to do this safely and armed with knowledge. Does anyone know, have recommendations, or can point to where are the following:

*Studies on the meditation postures, specifically the cross-legged posture: peferably peer-reviewed, in meditation or otherwise: long-term effects of the various cross-legged postures on knee health, ankle health, hip health, pain, mobility, etc.

*Web sites or books on the subject: all I've seen so far are very general recommendations, nothing explaining the actual mechanics of sitting.

*Teachers on the subject: I'm guessing a few yoga teachers are versed on the complex anatomy and physiology of this subject but I'm sure not all are. What other professials would be experts in this subject?

By the way, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area so if anyone has a reference to a truly outstanding knower of the human body in California, especially in relation to this subject, I would love to know! That is my real goal in this regard: to find a master of the human body who can expertly diagnose you then tell you exactly what you need to do to relieve pain, achieve a certain posture, etc. based on your own personal situation. I think I met a person like this a long time ago but sadly I do not have their contact information.

Metta.

:anjali:
Peace,
James
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby m0rl0ck » Sat Sep 21, 2013 8:20 pm

Mkoll wrote:Dear friends,

I'm interested in the biomechanics (I think that's the right term here) of meditation postures, specifically the various cross-legged postures. I currently don't have any serious knee or hip issues but I've heard stories of people damaging their knees in meditation. I don't wish to experience this. I sit cross-legged and stretch every day: eventually I would like to be able to sit half or full lotus and I want to do this safely and armed with knowledge. Does anyone know, have recommendations, or can point to where are the following:

*Studies on the meditation postures, specifically the cross-legged posture: peferably peer-reviewed, in meditation or otherwise: long-term effects of the various cross-legged postures on knee health, ankle health, hip health, pain, mobility, etc.

*Web sites or books on the subject: all I've seen so far are very general recommendations, nothing explaining the actual mechanics of sitting.

*Teachers on the subject: I'm guessing a few yoga teachers are versed on the complex anatomy and physiology of this subject but I'm sure not all are. What other professials would be experts in this subject?

By the way, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area so if anyone has a reference to a truly outstanding knower of the human body in California, especially in relation to this subject, I would love to know! That is my real goal in this regard: to find a master of the human body who can expertly diagnose you then tell you exactly what you need to do to relieve pain, achieve a certain posture, etc. based on your own personal situation. I think I met a person like this a long time ago but sadly I do not have their contact information.

Metta.

:anjali:


I know nothing of the biomechanics of cross legged postures from a scientific or medical point of view, all i know about is gained from my experience and the expierence of others over 2 decades or so of sitting, so if that is not of interest you can stop reading now and skip to the next post :)

I have heard of people damaging their knees trying to sit full lotus but dont actually know of anyone having done this. The stories i have heard have actually put me off sitting that way very long even when i was doing yoga everyday and was flexible enough to do it. I have sat in the half lotus and burmese posture quite a bit over the last 20 years or so and the only long term effect i notice is that i seem to be generally more flexible than my counterparts of similar age. I wouldnt recommend sitting in the traditional western cross legged posture for very long, having the one leg resting on the ankle doesnt seem like a good idea.

If your hips and thighs arent very stretchy there is a very good yoga pose to address that, called the butterfly. If that isnt already in your stretch routine you might want to add it. I wouldnt recommend jumping into the full lotus, but the burmese posture has served me very well over the past 20 years or so and if both knees dont touch the ground easily put a small cushion under the knee that doesnt. Also make sure you have a good cushion, i would recommend buckwheat at least 5 or 6 inches high to start. If that seems a little too high later on you can always take out some of the buckwheat hulls.

I think the main things you want are comfort and stability. Having one leg on top of the other compressing nerves and limiting blood flow doesnt seem to me to be conducive of comfort at least.

I came across this http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthre ... attainment
I guess it is possible to hurt yourself in burmese posture if you push it.
"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."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby Mkoll » Sat Sep 21, 2013 9:42 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:I know nothing of the biomechanics of cross legged postures from a scientific or medical point of view, all i know about is gained from my experience and the expierence of others over 2 decades or so of sitting, so if that is not of interest you can stop reading now and skip to the next post :)

I have heard of people damaging their knees trying to sit full lotus but dont actually know of anyone having done this. The stories i have heard have actually put me off sitting that way very long even when i was doing yoga everyday and was flexible enough to do it. I have sat in the half lotus and burmese posture quite a bit over the last 20 years or so and the only long term effect i notice is that i seem to be generally more flexible than my counterparts of similar age. I wouldnt recommend sitting in the traditional western cross legged posture for very long, having the one leg resting on the ankle doesnt seem like a good idea.

If your hips and thighs arent very stretchy there is a very good yoga pose to address that, called the butterfly. If that isnt already in your stretch routine you might want to add it. I wouldnt recommend jumping into the full lotus, but the burmese posture has served me very well over the past 20 years or so and if both knees dont touch the ground easily put a small cushion under the knee that doesnt. Also make sure you have a good cushion, i would recommend buckwheat at least 5 or 6 inches high to start. If that seems a little too high later on you can always take out some of the buckwheat hulls.

I think the main things you want are comfort and stability. Having one leg on top of the other compressing nerves and limiting blood flow doesnt seem to me to be conducive of comfort at least.

I came across this http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthre ... attainment
I guess it is possible to hurt yourself in burmese posture if you push it.


Do you switch the front and back legs or use the same position all the time? How are your knees?
Peace,
James
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby m0rl0ck » Sat Sep 21, 2013 9:56 pm

Mkoll wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:I know nothing of the biomechanics of cross legged postures from a scientific or medical point of view, all i know about is gained from my experience and the expierence of others over 2 decades or so of sitting, so if that is not of interest you can stop reading now and skip to the next post :)

I have heard of people damaging their knees trying to sit full lotus but dont actually know of anyone having done this. The stories i have heard have actually put me off sitting that way very long even when i was doing yoga everyday and was flexible enough to do it. I have sat in the half lotus and burmese posture quite a bit over the last 20 years or so and the only long term effect i notice is that i seem to be generally more flexible than my counterparts of similar age. I wouldnt recommend sitting in the traditional western cross legged posture for very long, having the one leg resting on the ankle doesnt seem like a good idea.

If your hips and thighs arent very stretchy there is a very good yoga pose to address that, called the butterfly. If that isnt already in your stretch routine you might want to add it. I wouldnt recommend jumping into the full lotus, but the burmese posture has served me very well over the past 20 years or so and if both knees dont touch the ground easily put a small cushion under the knee that doesnt. Also make sure you have a good cushion, i would recommend buckwheat at least 5 or 6 inches high to start. If that seems a little too high later on you can always take out some of the buckwheat hulls.

I think the main things you want are comfort and stability. Having one leg on top of the other compressing nerves and limiting blood flow doesnt seem to me to be conducive of comfort at least.

I came across this http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthre ... attainment
I guess it is possible to hurt yourself in burmese posture if you push it.


Do you switch the front and back legs or use the same position all the time? How are your knees?


For 58 and having had a pretty active life i think they are pretty good. I dont notice them most of the time. A while back i jumped off a bus too quick and one of my knees hurt for a while, a couple of months maybe. Sometimes i remind myself to switch legs but i usually do it with my right leg in front if i just sit down and dont think about it.
The butterfly is great stretching excercise and if you want to sit in burmese posture dont force your knees down, use support cushions under the knee that wont go down and i have heard it will come down by itself.
Just dont do anything that you have to force or that hurts. A meditation posture to be successful at what its meant to do needs to be comfortable. Not so comfortable that you can fall asleep easily but enough so that nothing hurts too much.
"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."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Sep 21, 2013 10:35 pm

By coincidence, Ven. Dhammika has posted about full lotus on his blog just a few days ago.
http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/2013/09/t ... sture.html

the term padmasana (full lotus) occurs nowhere in the Tipitaka


In the Satipatthana Sutta and other places the Buddha refers to sitting cross-legged, but no where specifically states full-lotus as being necessary or required.

In spite of this, many Buddhists desire and aim to sit in full-lotus. As I and others here have mentioned in other threads, it matters more what you do with your mind than what you do with your legs.
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby Mkoll » Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:07 am

Well for me the goal is more a matter of opening up the hips, strengthening the back and abdomen, stretching the hamstrings, etc. in order to get to the point where I can sit for very long periods without the body complaining as much. Being able to sit lotus would just be an added benefit of that work.

I'd like to eventually be able to sit in the "Happy Posture" like Ven. Rahula shows in the first video in this post: viewtopic.php?f=41&t=17113

:D
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby Samma » Sun Sep 22, 2013 4:22 pm

The yoga or physical therapy community would be the best bet for things like this and understanding the mechanics.

Maybe something like this would help to get a look at the bones and muscles while sitting.
http://www.functionalanatomy.net/yoga_a ... cribe.aspx
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:55 pm

Mkoll wrote:Well for me the goal is more a matter of opening up the hips, strengthening the back and abdomen, stretching the hamstrings, etc. in order to get to the point where I can sit for very long periods without the body complaining as much. Being able to sit lotus would just be an added benefit of that work.

I'd like to eventually be able to sit in the "Happy Posture" like Ven. Rahula shows in the first video in this post: viewtopic.php?f=41&t=17113

:D


Its not a good idea to push or force anything, as when he is pushing his knees down. Also, when he is bending forward and saying to do this "if its not too painful", if you are doing stretching excercises and feel pain, stop what you are doing. If you are feeling a stretch thats one thing, but if it crosses the line into actual pain, you are likely gaining no benefit and flirting with possibly severe injury. I think the above poster was correct, a yoga forum might be a good place to ask these questions.
"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."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby SarathW » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:08 am

it matters more what you do with your mind than what you do with your legs.
:goodpost:
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby Samma » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:28 am

After doing some stretching with butterfly aka Happy Posture my take is putting back up against a wall feet close to groin my knees are a around 3 inches off the ground resting. I'll try to do this a couple times a day and report my results. For example, maybe this will allow me to do longer sits in half lotus comfortably.

I doubt you are doing anything really wrong, just search butterfly stretch on youtube and follow some of the advice a couple times daily. It is a pretty unpleasant stretch and that you are likely are not doing it enough. Just bounce your knees some and you'll probalby quickly realize that holding the stretch easily gets painful. The thing is that this is not all that pleasant and can take awhile to see much results...kind of like meditation eh?
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Re: Biomechanics of Cross-legged sitting

Postby dude_different » Tue Oct 01, 2013 6:12 pm

Hey, i have found the following very helpful in learning about the body: http://www.zygotebody.com/. You need a recent browser(i recommend chrome) and a decent computer to watch it properly. You can watch both female and male versions. You can see where the various nerves and veins/arteries goes. I know it's a bit strange perhaps, but it worked for me(well that and some heavy-duty thinking :P)
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