Some Advice With Sitting Posture

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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LittleMammith
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Mar 09, 2024 2:43 am

Some Advice With Sitting Posture

Post by LittleMammith »

Hello all,

I've been meditating off and on for years now, but I'm coming back to the practice after about a year where my practice was very weak. I'm making good progress on the actual meditation side of things, but I'm having some difficulty with how I sit.

Most of my life, I've used a meditation bench. However, recently I've started to experience a very painful pinching feeling on my upper right side (under the shoulder blade) after even a few minutes, and it greatly interferes with my focus. I've switched to using a meditation cushion and have no pain whatsoever, but I do have an issue with my foot falling asleep after twenty minutes or so. My two questions would be:

First, it's very surprising to me that I experience an intense pain in my back while using a bench but not at all while using a cushion. Does anyone have any insight into what this might tell me about a possible injury or other issue? It must have something to do with the tilt of my pelvis, I think. Or could it be that I'm holding my knees too close together when I sit? Any advice here would be helpful.

Secondly, I would love some advice on dealing with feet falling asleep. I look online, but many resources suggest stretches that I can do very easily. This makes me think that I may have some other issue beyond flexibility. But I don't know what it could be. Does anyone have any insights they could share here?

Thank you very much!
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Goofaholix
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Re: Some Advice With Sitting Posture

Post by Goofaholix »

If you are only experiencing the pain in the shoulder when meditating on a bench and it disappears soon after you get up then it's unlikely that it is causing you damage. It doesn't need to interfere with your focus just make it the primary object, see if you can notice the tension you are creating and relax it, see if you can breathe through it and let go of it. See if you can observe the pain without reacting to it.

If your foot is falling asleep when sitting on a cushion there is a good chance that the cushion is too firm, or your pants are too tight, so experiment with adjusting these. Keep up the stretching exercises too, it's important that your knees are on the ground taking some of your weight.
Pronouns (no self / not self)
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.”
― Ajahn Chah
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Mkoll
Posts: 6594
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: USA

Re: Some Advice With Sitting Posture

Post by Mkoll »

LittleMammith wrote: Sat Mar 09, 2024 2:53 am Hello all,

I've been meditating off and on for years now, but I'm coming back to the practice after about a year where my practice was very weak. I'm making good progress on the actual meditation side of things, but I'm having some difficulty with how I sit.

Most of my life, I've used a meditation bench. However, recently I've started to experience a very painful pinching feeling on my upper right side (under the shoulder blade) after even a few minutes, and it greatly interferes with my focus. I've switched to using a meditation cushion and have no pain whatsoever, but I do have an issue with my foot falling asleep after twenty minutes or so. My two questions would be:

First, it's very surprising to me that I experience an intense pain in my back while using a bench but not at all while using a cushion. Does anyone have any insight into what this might tell me about a possible injury or other issue? It must have something to do with the tilt of my pelvis, I think. Or could it be that I'm holding my knees too close together when I sit? Any advice here would be helpful.

Secondly, I would love some advice on dealing with feet falling asleep. I look online, but many resources suggest stretches that I can do very easily. This makes me think that I may have some other issue beyond flexibility. But I don't know what it could be. Does anyone have any insights they could share here?

Thank you very much!
I've used a meditation chair for years since I have problems with a knee and an ankle and can't sit cross-legged for long without impairing my ability to walk without pain. I experience upper back pain similar to yours but it doesn't happen as often these days. I think this is due to a few things:

1) Back muscle strengthening. Things like face pulls, band pull-aparts, lat pulldowns and rows focusing on contracting upper back musculature and bringing shoulder blades together. And rotator cuff exercises. Also lower back and core exercises like bird-dogs, side planks, planks, etc.

2) Checking posture while meditating. I often check in to make sure my posture hasn't slumped and it often does. So I correct it, perhaps by tilting pelvis and/or lifting ribcage, tucking chin, etc.

3) Having my hands slightly elevated. I use a light blanket that is folded on my lap so my hands are slightly elevated. This gives them some support so they're not pulling my torso down quite as much as when they are lower.

4) As Goofaholix said, it could be unwarranted tension. When feeling tension there, it may help to take a deep inhale and on the exhale relax, bringing attention to that area to especially relax it.

One more thing, I use a slightly forward-tilted meditation chair that changes pelvis position compared to a level chair. I have one of these which is similar, https://zafu.net/tilt-seat, but the one I use regularly is slightly larger, more robust, and height adjustable. Unfortunately I can't find it in my email or google search. This may or may not help since I've experienced upper back pain on both the tilted chair and level chairs.

It's also possible you may have a rotator cuff or other musculoskeletal issue in which case you could see a physician.

Hope some of that helps and good on you for getting back into meditation! Like you, I've had periods of on and off for meditation and I'm finding that as time goes on, the more I recognize how life has less friction when I'm "on" rather than "off." :smile:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
EmptyShadow
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Jan 07, 2011 3:34 pm

Re: Some Advice With Sitting Posture

Post by EmptyShadow »

LittleMammith wrote: Sat Mar 09, 2024 2:53 am However, recently I've started to experience a very painful pinching feeling on my upper right side (under the shoulder blade) after even a few minutes,
Few years ago, I had exactly the same experience with pain, as you describe it. After some research online I realised that it's a condition called "mouse shoulder". It's caused by prolonged and incorrect use of the computer mouse. To me, I was using the mouse with extended arm from the body, for many hours every day, which cause the muscles in the back to get streched out and strained. After adjusting my arm posture, by keeping my upper arm parallel to my body while using the mouse, the pain eventualy disapeared. There are also some simple exercises that are supposed to correct this condition, although I didn't found them very useful and gave up on them after a week or so.

What's interesting is that I wasn't feeling the pain while I was using my computer, but when meditation or in some other situations the pain was very sharp and impossible to ignore. This might explane why you only feel the pain only in certain posture.
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