I'm establishing a habit of sitting. After a few days of it, I've noticed that at the end of each session I have tension in my shoulders and sometimes during the middle of a 30min sit it gets quite uncomfortable. Do you think this is a posture problem or is it that I'm just not used to being in that particular position? I always get tension in my shoulders when under stress, so it could be related to mind wanderings I suppose.
Also, I would be curious to know of a good timer app for iPhone if anybody uses one.
Thanks for taking the time to help.
Welcome to Treeleaf! [wave]
I'm sure other more experienced folk will reply when they read this, but it could be that your hands when in the mudra are pulling your shoulders down. Maybe worth trying a blanket to support your hands. What posture do you sit in?
In terms of timing app, I think quite a few of us use the Insight Timer for iPhone.
PS: It would be nice if you could introduce yourself here:
Yes, Matt is correct in his diagnosis of the likely problem. Unless you are able to sit lotus and rest your hands on your feet, you probably need a support. Usually, folding a bath towel in half and then folding it in half again and rolling it up will be a nice support.
Currently using 'Insight Timer - Meditation Timer' app.
Suggest using search feature onsite regarding discomfort. Discomfort is a privilege sitting zazen. . .Discomfort is a
privilege sitting zazen. . .Discomfort is a privilege sitting zazen. (Ad nauseam)^^
For context, what are you using to sit on? Zafu and zabuton? Your pelvic alignment may be off which may be causing you to tilt. Do you notice your shoulders rising while in practice? This is very common for many people throughout the day. Suggestions above are all wonderful.
I use Zazen Lite timer app on my iPhone.
I had this for a while too, and relaxing my shoulders(letting my shoulders drop naturally when noticing the tension) and sitting in away that was not trying to fit an image of sitting in my mind helped! That sounds odd but it helps :) That and of course sit in a way that you can comfortably, and yes a mudra support under your hands is good, folded up towel or what not.
I use the insight timer on my iphone most sittings.
Two things I have thought of in addition to the wise words above:
1. Do you work a lot at a computer or drive? Sometimes the stress we are carrying around becomes more obvious in meditation and as we relax.
2. How is your posture? It is not uncommon for people, especially beginning in practice, to sit quite rigidly and this can produce tension in the body.
I hope the towel under the mudra strategy works. If not you might want Jundo or Taigu to check out your posture on Skype.
ps. I use the Android Zazen Meditation timer but there may be a similar app for iPhones.
I use I-Qi for iPhone. It's also my alarm clock -- nicer to wake to the sound of a gong instead of the radio...
I have to say I noticed the same things as MattW pointed out, that the stress of my hands not being supported properly affects my shoulders. I've tried to focus on strengthening my shoulders to keep them back and not pulled forward from the weight of my hands has helped me some.
Originally Posted by William
We had another thread recently that pointed to information on Posture. Please have a look.
I agree with what folks have written about how you may be holding the Mudra. It would be lovely to somehow see a photo of how you sit. I would also guess that you may be sitting too stiffly, with too much military rigidity, "scrunching" your shoulders or holding them with tension. As well, perhaps you are also sitting too far back on the Zafu, not on the front portion, spine near the center of the Zafu circle, with the Zafu as a wedge. Here is Taigu on that ...
William, as a side note, might I ask you to post an 'avatar' picture of yourself as mentioned in No. 4 here ...
... and also, since you have been around for awhile, introduce yourself briefly in this thread ...
Let us know what helps. I will ask Taigu to add some comments too.
For apps ... I used the Zazen Meditation Timer for Android. :)
Nothing to offer on Zazen posture, BUT it could be all the above + not used to it.
I also use the Insight Meditation Timer and like it.
Thanks for all of the suggestions everyone.
I'll give them a try and visit the introduction thread and post an avatar.
I use a simple ap called Orin.
Even though I sit regularly, I started to experience some tension this week in my left arm and a little tingling in the left hand. And after I reflected briefly on ruling out the possibility I was in the early stages of a heart attack, I began to see it had to do with posture.
I don't think most problem with sitting are stress, but mostly posture. But it is helpful to check-in with various joints and muscles of the body and recognize if you need to release tension.
If you've had deep tissue massages or done any deep relaxation exercises, you are familiar with recognizing muscle tension that you can consciously "let go" to return the muscle to a relaxed state.
As pointed out already, the meditation mudra can cause the shoulders and arms to come forward and down a little too much; just enough to irritate arms, shoulder and/or back over time. And placing some small cushion or padding under the hands can help to raise them just enough.
There are some yoga postures/asanas that are helpful too that can be done when first getting settled. You're aware of the swaying side to side to get to a center-balance. It's also helpful to
sway forward and back a few times, (some people combine the two and sway in a oval). And, tilting the pelvis slightly forward and back to where you recognize that point where you are directly on your sits-bones.....not tilted too forward or back. Juuust right.
Another one just before settling in..... sit upright facing forward. Cross the left hand over to the right thigh and grasp it gently. Place the right hand behind you with fingertips lightly touching the back of the zafu, bench or floor, while twisting the torso to the right just to the point where it is gently tense BUT does not hurt or induce a spasm. Keep it there and take 2-3 very deep breaths....long slow inhale....and long slow exhale (like 5 seconds for each) Let the air fill your tummy and lungs creating more stretch of the torso muscles. Then, repeat the same pose taking it to the left side. That is, right hand on the left thigh, left hand/arm behind, turning torso to the left. I find this very helpful to do before commencing zazen.
By the way, if that description in my last paragraph was hard to visualize, you can google image " parivrtta sukhasana " to get some good visual description. I wish I was better at attaching links to such things.
Tension in shoulders can be induced by many things: arm placement and tense mudra, neck or head placement, pelvis position, stress being a big culprit.. The basic idea is to say thank you to pain as it teaches you that something is not done propperly, or better said, you are over doing. Yoga is a very precious tool, asana if practiced gently and under careful guidance and appropriate breathing can show you the way, or the non- way of not doing, Alexander Technique is also in my clouded eyes an amazing path, very close to shikantaza, and if you can find the right teacher, you will be blessed.
Now one more thing, I recently suffered a lot, huge pain in my left arm and foot and tension in my back and neck. Rather than being pissed with it or annoyed and obsessed, I kind of learned to live with it, laugh at it or experience compassion, until it vanished altogether after two months of daily companionship.
Don t turn your pain into a drama.
Life is too short. And all this is very very very beautiful.
Thank you for this thread and everyone's response. I have back problems and I am always trying to alleviate the pain associated with sitting. I have zafus of different sizes and seiza benches. One thing that helps me is knowing that nothing is fixed and unchanging. I change my posture to accommodate my pain with less guilt knowing that I never hit the mark when trying to sit 'perfectly' with a rigid posture.
In my case I always seen to go back to the seiza bench because my back hurts less when sitting with it.
As per suggestions, I sat with a small cushion on my lap to rest my mudra while sitting on the seiza bench this morning and voila! Nothingness with no back pain. :)
I've been having the same problem. Will be trying some of this advice!
To follow up, I found some improvement in the shoulders by paying more attention to where I rested my arms. It was really quite simple.
I also have used 2 iphone apps as a meditation timer. The first one I really liked, called Equanimity. It was very simple but it started crashing when I upgraded my phone. So I switched to Insight, which I really like also.