Questions on posture
I have some questions on the posture. The background is that I my back has been a bit messed up the last four years. The last year or so I've developed a semi-regular yoga work out which helps and I´ve met a back specialist who has also given me some work outs which I do every morning so now I can sit as long as I don't do it too much. However Some days I can't sit at all and my overall relationship to posture and sitting is one of uncertainty and skepticism. I've sat in so many strange ways so as to avoid back pain over the years and I have a really hard time knowing when my posture is correct.
I can get in either a decent or awful full lotus depending on which foot i begin with, though it isn't very comfortable yet, I wouldn't say its very uncomfortable either. I think it does improve my posture though but I could be mistaken.
I sit regularly with a christian community in my area which has biweekly "christian" zazen and they sit in seiza on meditation stools which also helps with my posture, only I wouldn't know where to get a meditation stool around here.
Seiza without a stool is also good for posture but my feet hurt quite a bit when I get out of it. Perhaps I mess it up somehow.
I've also sat a bit in the burmese position on a cushion which is comfortable but leaves me clueless as to my posture compared to the above. Perhaps part of my problem is the cushion being too soft.
I've also started doing walking meditation so I can meditate even when my back is messed up - which is great.
Right now I'm thinking I'll just include some extra stretching into my regular exercise so as to make my lotus more stable but then I'm not very sensible when it comes to my back.
All the best,
Yes, a soft cushion could be contributing to the difficulty. You want a stable basis -- whether it is seated on a chair with your feet resting evenly on the floor or whether it is seated burmese style.
Here's a link with photos of various styles as well as some checks: http://www.liverpool-zen.org.uk/zazen-ins.html
I make sure that I have an upright posture so that my chest feels open and relaxed (so I can breathe freely). Spine is straight but the body is relaxed (shoulders down and even/balanced).
It's dead simple to make a seiza bench, if that's the posture you feel most comfortable in. You can also buy them on the internet but they are way over-priced!
Here's some sites with instructions for building a bench: Michigan Buddhist (PDF)
Email me if you have any problems!
We have had several good chats in the past on sitting problems. You may want to review those, and then feel free to ask any questions that they bring you.
I have problems sitting too but for different reasons, Jundo's referrences are worth reading and from personal experience I'd recommend to do what ever you feel comfortable and stable in, so that you can 'forget' about your position.
I also find sitting seiza on a bench most comfortable but sometimes have to lie down.
To add to Paige's post with info to make a bench: mine has only one leg in the middle. I find this better as it means I have to put the pressure down to my knees to be stable (about 3 fists apart), on the 2 legged bench there is the temptation to sit all your weight on your bum and have a saggy back which is not good. The benches are really easy to make and I'm sure you could find some one to cut the wood to make it if you have no tools, the price people charge on the net is exortionate.
Failing that pm me your details and I'll make one and send it to you.
I used to suffer from chronic back pain which was progressively getting worse until I started a medical strengthening therapy program (i.e. weight training with various machines for the entire body) about 2 years ago. Prior to that I had also gone for physical therapy and was doing daily exercises at home, but they really weren't enough to condition the back muscles as needed. Now I go twice a week for a 30 min. training and I'm completely free of back pain. Of course I can't say whether it would be of benefit for you personally, but it might be something worth thinking about.
Well, I am adding my voice to the other BOTs (Backsuffers Of Treeleaf.) Do look over the suggestions for sitting in the links that Jundo sent. I do so many variations of sitting (tall bench, chair, zafu) according to what my back is telling me is healthy for me to do.
That said, I'd like to suggest something called Gyrotonics which I discovered in October and wish I'd known of it years ago. I am now, after only 10 sessions pain free and my body alignment is so greatly improved it's hard to put into words (other than YYYYAAAAAHHHHHOOOOOOO! A truly American expression. :) )
I've tried so many things, including yoga and all the back exercises in my physical therapists bag o' tricks. They have all help for a *limited period of time. Gyrotonics has created space in my joints, flexibility in my muscles, and body awareness unparalleled which has been a *lasting change because of the depth to which it goes to create the change. It is truly a mind, body, spirit experience.
If interested you can find a studio near you here: http://www.gyrotonic.com/findastudio.asp Of course, the homepage will help to explain gyrotonics to you, but, to tell you the truth, you actually have to try it to understand it. :D
Good luck on your quest. Just do your best with what you've got to work with. That is all that is ever truly asked of us.
p.s. Do watch the videos on the homepage. It shows the machine and how people move on it, and a bit about the philosophy behind the process.
Thanks for all the suggestions.
Since full lotus ought to be pretty much in reach and does help me with my posture. I'll try to stretch to make it comfortable in the long run. Sat for 20 minutes this morning and it worked nicely.
When I sat with the christian kids this evening it hurt quite a bit for the first 20 minutes but after i switched my legs around for the second session it got better. Might have been me not being used to that zafu as well, it was quite high compared to was I'm used to. Might also be that I spent the entire day sitting at the library studying.
Putting off bench ideas for now and looking into getting a decent zafu or cushion of my own.
Concerning exercising I'm going to talk with my specialist soonish about extending the work out. I'll see where that takes me.
All the best,