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Thread: Back pain during Zazen

  1. #1

    Back pain during Zazen

    Hello everyone.

    I was wondering if anyone else suffered back pain during Zazen?
    I'm usually OK when I sit for a short time but when I sit for over fifteen minutes I start to get pain in my upper back mainly and my neck sometimes.
    Does anyone have any posture tips for what I might be doing wrong?

    Gassho,

    Simon.

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Hi Simon,

    In my humble experience, there are some things that we may do or oversee without realizing.

    -Check your zafu's inclination. I found that when I don't properly adjust it, my back suffers.

    -Check your zafu for small bumps and try to straighten them.

    -Maybe you are trying to be too straight? Try to relax a bit.

    -Check your legs. Maybe they are too tense in order to keep you balanced.

    -See if your neck and shoulders aren't too tight.

    Hope this helps.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  3. #3
    Hi Kyonin,

    Thanks for the advice. . I shall try it next time. I think another problem may be that I haven't actually purchased a Zafu yet. At the moment, when I sit Zazen I sit on two pillows stacked on top of each other (although I have also experience back pain when sitting on an actual Zafu). Perhaps that is one reason for my discomfort?
    I think I'm probably a little bit too tense sometimes when I sit (especially when sitting Google + in front of other people!). I shall try to be more relaxed next time.

    Gassho,

    Simon

  4. #4
    Hi Simon. I just listened to this talk posted by Taigu http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...m-Issho-Fujita . It gets straight at that.


    Gassho
    Daizan
    大山

  5. #5
    Very good advice by Kyonin and Daizan here!
    Even a small thing can lead to a kind of "chain reaction" in the body that leads to back pain or another problem.

    Perhaps you could also do a short body scan after the first five minutes to identify any tensions in your body. You might be surprised.
    It was just yesterday when I sat at my desk (during work, not zazen) when I realized how tense my facial muscles were; really tense for no reason. So now I do a quick body scan at my desk now and then to see if this is the case and relax. You could try that in the next few days when you sit, although it is a short interruption.

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  6. #6
    I think not having a zafu is the problem?

    Your pelvis is probably not in the ideal position, so your back muscles are forced to compensate? The zafu does that for you. As I understand it the center of gravity must be in the abdomen region. What happens if you completey relax, suddenly? Do you fall backwards? Try to sense after ten minutes if your head is tipping? Your ears should naturaly be perpendicular to your shoulders ( or as far as possible).

    Hope it helps?

    Enkyo

  7. #7
    It is typical misuse. Go Fujita, go Alexander, go Pilates, explore how much you overdo things and then stop.

    The back should not ache in sitting.

    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.

  8. #8
    relax, Simon,
    easy said, not so easy as long as you not even feel where you are tense.
    Having said this I'm quite tense, I used to have back pain too, more than
    15 minutes it used to start, zazenkai was terrible for the back. These days
    I'm a bit better, mainly thanks to Taigu, teaching the un-doing, the un-correcting,
    just allowing the body to come to its natural position. I used to over-correct
    (or actually correcting already is too much, just allowing), pushing myself
    into a tense sitting. As you said yourself, relax is the most important. As
    others said, the sitting height matters too, experiment with height. And
    watch the sitting videos here at treeleaf, e.g. starting at
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...19-Sikantaza-1
    Gassho
    Myoku

  9. #9
    Thanks for everyone's advice. I didn't know there were so many different angles to look at it from.

    Gassho,

    Simon

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simon View Post
    I think another problem may be that I haven't actually purchased a Zafu yet. At the moment, when I sit Zazen I sit on two pillows stacked on top of each other
    I have also don't have a zafu! Y use a folded sleeping mat as zabuton and 3 folded blankets as zafu. That's because I'm a tall guy and all zafus here are made for short people. With blankets I can adjust the height to whatever I'm comfortable with.

    I have been sitting on my blankets longer than I remember (10+ years) and I haven't had a problem so far. I found that pillows are too unstable!

    BTW, I'm in the process of having a zafu custom made.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  11. #11
    Senior Member ZenHarmony's Avatar
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    I have a zafu I've made myself, stuffed with buckwheat hulls, but Myoku is right, Taigu's talk on body position is what stopped me from hurting so much. It's either the "Sikantaza 1" or it's "How to use a Zafu"

    Gassho,

    Lisa

  12. #12
    I have 3 zafus, 3 zabutons and 2 seiza benches. I tried to use various zafus because I felt the need to do things right but I am too used up to sit on anything but a seiza bench. I have read in the forums that other members use seiza benches too. That makes me feel I am not such a wimp for using a bench. My back likes it so I am sticking to it!

    Gassho, John

  13. #13
    I listened to the Fujita link yesterday. A lot of his emphasis seems to be on having the correct natural posture during Zazen. Should the same attitude/posture carry over into the rest of our everyday lives or is this just for sitting?


    Gassho,

    Simon

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jenell View Post
    Try to rest your hands on a big towel or something like that. When you have upper back, shoulder and neck pain, it often stems from your hands kind of suspended and thus putting strain and pulling on the back and neck. I think if you set your hands on something, it will ease the pressure and the strain.
    Gassho,
    Jenell
    I hadn't thought about it but I always tend to have my elbows kind of pointing out rigidly, which does actually make my hands a bit suspended (kind of the posture the AZI told me to adopt when I once went to one of their lessons). I'll try a towel and see if that's any better.

    Gassho,

    Simon

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jenell View Post
    Try to rest your hands on a big towel or something like that. When you have upper back, shoulder and neck pain, it often stems from your hands kind of suspended and thus putting strain and pulling on the back and neck. I think if you set your hands on something, it will ease the pressure and the strain.
    Gassho,
    Jenell
    To expand upon what Jenell suggested, try moving your hands in close to your belly. If they're too far out in your lap, often people feel acute pain right between the shoulder blades.
    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.

  16. #16
    Got a zafu delivered to me yesterday. Didn't realise how much of a difference it would make to my sitting. I also put my hands close to my belly as Piobair suggested. There is much less pain now.

    Gassho,

    Simon.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by simon View Post
    Got a zafu delivered to me yesterday. Didn't realise how much of a difference it would make to my sitting. I also put my hands close to my belly as Piobair suggested. There is much less pain now.

    Gassho,

    Simon.
    Very good Simon ... enjoy.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

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

  18. #18
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Hi,
    No pain, no gain ... but I don't mean that in the normal sense.

    As Taigu said, there should be no pain in Zazen. As for the 'no gain' part ... well, there is nothing to attain.

    Pay close attention to your body and see where the pain originates from.

    Enjoy your Zazen.

    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."

  19. #19
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myozan Kodo View Post
    Pay close attention to your body and see where the pain originates from.
    I have found this to be true as well...it's amazing what you discover when you can begin to calm your mind.

    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.

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