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Thread: Sitting and Posture

  1. #1
    Senior Member Genshin's Avatar
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    Sitting and Posture

    Hi Everyone,

    Although I've been sitting on and off for a while, I've never really had any guidance regarding posture or sitting positions from any of the groups I've sat with. I've used the Web and one or two books for advice. I often find myself questioning my posture and find this little nagging thought floating around - am I sitting properly? It's a thought that I find hard to let go.

    I tend to sit either Burmese or Seiza. When sitting Burmese I just can't get my legs to sit parallel to each other as you see in some photos. My legs are just too long. I end up with one leg tucked in with my heel close to my groin. I guess similar to the gentleman in this photo (http://www.insightmeditationcenter.o...or-meditation/).

    Generally I find this comfortable and I get sit for 25 - 30 minutes without discomfort or numbness in the legs. However I can't swap legs. When I do it feels like I'm leaning to one side. Stuffing a Zafu under the knee does not feel correct.

    I find Seiza the most comfortable, either with a bench or two smaller Zafus stacked. But I don't always feel as grounded as when sitting on a cushion.

    I've watched some of the excellent videos from Taigu and Jundo regarding posture and they are of great help.

    Do other people have similar issues? Are there any exercises I can do to loosen up what I assume are inflexible joints? Perhaps I'm missing something?



    Matt

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Engineer Seimyo's Avatar
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    Hi Matt,
    Sounds like you are doing things right by trying different sitting postures to find what works for you. Sometimes it takes a while before your hips relax enough to get your knees down. There are a couple of books you might find useful for limbering up some of your joints. I'm in the process of reading 'Yoga For Meditators' right now. Another book that I've seen recommended is 'The Hip Series: Kinesthetic Stretches for the Hips and Pelvis'.

    As for your legs going to sleep, I also have this problem. I've tried a few different zafus to remedy this, but no luck so far. I just have to stretch every 30 minutes. Having said that there are some fancier zafu's available that promise better relief from this, but I've never tried them. You can take a look at them below.

    http://www.dharma.net/monstore/categ...?cPath=104_105

    http://moonleap.com/

    Hope some of this helps. Gassho.

    Seimyo

    明 Seimyō (Christhatischris)

  3. #3
    Senior Member Juki's Avatar
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    I took up Pilates five years ago to strengthen my core and my back because I got back pain while sitting. That worked well, and I liked Pilates so much that I got certified as an instructor. Pilates led me into yoga, which stresses hip flexibility. If you can get your hips to open, you will find that your leg pain disappears. You don't need to take formal classes if you don't want to. Just look online for some abdominal and back strengthening exercise (Pilates) and some yogic hip stretches. I would suggest Pigeon pose and variations thereof every day. Be aware that strengthening the core and obtaining hip flexibility will not happen overnight. Change will be incremental and happen over a long period, usually about a year.

    Gassho

  4. #4
    Hi Matt,

    The most important thing is that you find a stable positon that is not too uncomfortable for you. If that is Burmese or Seiza does not matter IMHO.
    You could try Seiza on one of those meditation benches with double legs in the middle so they are no hindrance.
    The position of your knees and feet and their angle in Seiza can also play an important part concerning stability.

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  5. #5
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattW View Post
    When sitting Burmese I just can't get my legs to sit parallel to each other as you see in some photos. My legs are just too long. I end up with one leg tucked in with my heel close to my groin.

    Generally I find this comfortable and I get sit for 25 - 30 minutes without discomfort or numbness in the legs. However I can't swap legs.
    Same here, and I cannot swap legs either. Don't worry about it. As Timo said, the main thing is to be stable.
    It's only when you do a week long retreat that you run out of postures - because anything will hurt ...
    --- In every moment of our sitting all beings are receiving the ultimate help; they are all achieving perfect peace and perfect rest. --- Norman Fischer

  6. #6
    I sit Burmese, but with long legs, and not as much hip flexibility as I should have, I have also had similar problems. I found that using a 4 inch pad between the zafu and zabutan put me into a perfect position where I can sit stable, both knees on the mat. Also, I notice that my legs tend to go to sleep easier if I am not careful about sitting far enough forward on the zafu.
    Neika / Ian Adams

    寧 Nei - Peaceful/Courteous
    火 Ka - Fire

    Look for Buddha outside your own mind, and Buddha becomes the devil. --Dogen

  7. #7
    I have sciatic and back problems. Also suffer from 'gotta get this right' thing. Seiza is the most comfortable but I try to throw in a little Burmese when I can. If I would just get this thing right I would get it right!
    治 Ji (Healing)
    心​ Shin (Heart-Mind)

  8. #8
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    Hey Matt, I used to be able to sit in the lotus position but was in an accident a few years back and the old legs sometimes wont listen to me any more . Now I sit Burmese and find the same thing as you and Nindo, my left heel is pulled in close to my groin and my right leg somewhat parallel to my zabuton. I have to think if you are sitting 20-30 min without discomfort you are doing something right.
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, “I”. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
    寂道

  9. #9
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    I always repeat the same: if you have a few bucks and a good teacher around, go for Alexander Technique lessons, this is the closest thing I know to Dogen s teachings in the Western world, put into body- mind practice.

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Genshin's Avatar
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    Thank you all for the advice. Much appreciated.

    Gasho

    Matt

  11. #11
    am I sitting properly?
    I tend to sit Burmese...generally I find this comfortable and I get sit for 25 - 30 minutes without discomfort or numbness in the legs.
    Yes.
    Are there any exercises I can do to loosen up what I assume are inflexible joints?
    Yes; zazen.
    Also, I've found these asanas to be helpful for zazen, having found them recommended in books by Zen teachers I respect. Perhaps you'll find them of value as well.
    May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
    quickly be freed from their illnesses.
    May those frightened cease to be afraid
    and may those bound be free.
    May the powerless find power
    and may people think of befriending one another.

  12. #12
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Hi Matt,
    Cousin Brad also has some suggestions to help with Zazen. Here ye go:



    Gassho,
    Myozan
    Myozan Kodo
    Ordained Soto Zen Priest in Training
    Dublin, Ireland

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.
    "Here the way unfolds."

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Piobair View Post
    Yes.

    Yes; zazen.
    Also, I've found these asanas to be helpful for zazen, having found them recommended in books by Zen teachers I respect. Perhaps you'll find them of value as well.
    I agree ... I do yoga and find it has helped a lot in opening the hips and knees ... Also helps get the blood flowing too.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  14. #14
    My attempts at full lotus have always been temperamental. Although, I have had a lot of success in the last few months by adding Makko-ho stretches to my morning routine.

  15. #15
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Hey Matt,

    All the above suggestions are great, but I will add that for overthinkers like me it is often best to let the mind swirl for awhile and not settle on any particular "answer". It will come, trust me.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Shudo Dosho - Ordained Priest-in-Training
    With your help and guidance from Jundo & Taigu
    I am learning, but please take what I say with a
    grain of salt, especially in matters of the Dharma.

  16. #16
    Senior Member YuimaSLC's Avatar
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    You might try a YouTube video called "Developing Lotus Flexibility" YogaVidyaEnglish to learn three preliminary exercises to help in
    achieving the lotus posture over time: Butterfly, Rocking Child and Sitting Triangle.

    Please don't be in a rush to get into either a half or full lotus, or Burmese for that matter until your regular stretching exercises tell you it's comfortable enough to do so. Painful endurance as some kind of merit-badge is not The Way of kind and loving practice.

    At age 60, having very stiff muscular/skeletal/joint conditions with hip rotation problems, I am comfortably using a meditation bench. But, also taking Restorative Yoga 2-3 times a week to help the body.

    I am also looking into Taigu's recommendation (gassho) of the Alexander Technique.

    Gassho,

    Richard

  17. #17
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Hi all, well I have been sitting in half lotus, alternating left and right foot on the thigh for the past seven years but last year I started developing real pain in my pelvic area. I had to see a chiropractor specialising in pelvic imbalance and there was a real problem developing particularly when driving.
    Anyway I have been trying to sit full lotus since starting sitting and I have always found it impossible as putting both feet on my thighs seemed to force the knees to twist weirdly and my legs appear to be short from the knee down!! Well due to this back pain I have had to find a way. My solution is a kind of Burmese lotus position, whereby my feet rest on the calf muscles and this gives a stable (sensationally so) seat. I don't know why I didn't try this before, but necessity being the mother of invention triumphed again. I must admit full lotus does make the spine 'sit' more naturally and the breath seems to go deeper and the hara area feels more comfortable too.
    Good luck in finding your lion seat!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
    Heisoku
    平 息

  18. #18
    Like Taigu says, not try to force too much and have after several years body problems remaining. To be confortable without to be too lax.

    Gassho
    Myoshin 妙 心
    "A person who receives the Buddhist Precepts enters the state of Buddha at once. They stand at the same level as Gautama Buddha. We can say they are a child of the Buddha." Jundo

  19. #19
    Senior Member Genshin's Avatar
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    Hi all,

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful suggestions.

    I'm going to look at yoya for the time being and take it from there.

    Gassho,
    Matt

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