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Thread: Sleeping Limbs

  1. #1

    Sleeping Limbs

    Hi all,

    I don't mind the discomforts of sleeping limbs, but lately, especially in sesshin or after longer sits (45 to 60 minutes), I have trouble doing kinhin - at least the first few steps, when there's no feeling in my leg and I simply fall over, which is really not very practical .

    Can anyone point me in the direction of some useful yoga or other exercises to loosen the knees or ease the bloodflow during zazen?

    gassho

    Vincent
    For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.

  2. #2
    Hi Vincent,

    Sleeping libs are part of the game I'm afraid. Discomforts are a s diverse as the people sitting. I too have this. My left leg alleyways goes numb after 20 minutes ( that's how I tell sitting time, lol) but I have learned not to mind that and to just leave it be. Sit through it! Of course if there is actual pain, there is nothing wrong with adjusting your position a bit and this can be done without interrupting the spirit of your sitting. In my opinion, wiggling about and getting distracted worrying about these things is worse then shifting your pelvis once after 30 minutes. While sitting, the cushion sinks in a bit and this also has influence on the posture. After all those years of sitting, I never found a real solution but now it does not bother me so much anymore. Sitting shinataza, all that stuff is but is not there. Someone who knows these things told me once that if the feeling returns quickly, there is no problem. If it takes a long time ( hours), then something is really wrong and you should be careful not to do nerve damage. Perhaps you could try and adjust the height of your zafu by adding or taking out a bit of the stuffing. In my case, I have a folded towel under the zafu so it is a bit higher. Other then that you might have a look at Alexander Technique, very interesting stuff! Also, sitting for a full hour and only getting annoyed by sleeping legs or shifting around all the time, is not the point of sitting ( although a bit of ,a struggle with the self is also good practice). Why not sitting two periods of say 25 minutes with 10 minutes kinhin in between? I'm sure you will find sitting less of a burden and makes sure you keep it up. In time you will find you wont be bothered by this anymore or at least not so much.

    Hope it helps a bit?

    Gassho

    MyoHo

  3. #3
    Hi MyoHo

    Thanks for your message
    It's not so much a question about how to get rid of it because of possible discomfort, that is part of the deal and I'm fine with that but it presents a problem when I need to walk and can't due to falling down again, like a young deer on ice.

    But you are right, perhaps I should just wait a little before standing up

    Gassho

    Vincent
    For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Vincent,
    I'm not sure which posture you sit in, but seiza works best for me. I don't use a bench, although many do. If my legs fall asleep, I adjust the cushion, gassho and sit. My legs used to fall asleep all the time, now rarely ever. My advice, for what it's worth, is to experiment until you find out what works for you. There was also some yoga instruction, I believe for Rohatsu, that may help.

    Gassho,
    Entai / Bill

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

  5. #5
    When I feel my legs falling asleep, I'll make some adjustments. If that doesn't work I do standing meditation.



    Kind regards. /\
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Engineer Seimyo's Avatar
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    Hi Vincent,
    Like the others I'm only good for about 25 minutes before my left leg starts to give me issues. I generally straighten that leg and tilt myself to the opposite side just long enough to relieve the pain that starts to nag. Once I can feel my toes again, I recenter and get back to it. I've tried different cushions and postures to see if it makes any difference but so far it has not been all that beneficial. For myself, I'm sure losing some ballast would help.

    Yoga is great for the hips but doesn't seem to help the bum as much in my experience.

    Gassho
    Seimyo

    明 Seimyō (Christhatischris)

  7. #7
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Yup, the same form me....I keep telling my right leg that zazen is so awesome, but she says "booooooring" and goes to sleep always at 20 or 25 minutes.... Sitting seiza with the zafu turned sideways or a bench resolves the problem, and rarely I feel discomfort in such position, so I try to sit longer periods seiza, shorter burmese..... still trying to find a way to overcome sleepy leg...and trying to find an Alexander Technique teacher around, as my general posture sucks, sitting or standing

    Gassho
    ______________________________
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    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  8. #8
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Hello Vincent,

    My sitting zazen is much easier when I also include a daily workout of ashtanga yoga. I have chronic pain in my hips, without yoga, sitting is really, really difficult for me; so I hope this helps you as much as it has me.

    Here's my favourite videos...







    Gassho,
    Joyo

  9. #9
    Senior Member Genshin's Avatar
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    Hi Vincent,

    I would listen to your body. Try a different position, swap legs, change the height of your zafu (if using one), do some exercises (as suggested). To quote Koun Franz:

    If not full lotus, half lotus. If not half lotus, rest the foot of the raised leg across the calf of the lower leg. Or kneel. Or sit on a chair. Remember that this body is the buddha’s body. Do not harm it. Also, do not underestimate it.
    Gassho
    Genshin
    Last edited by Genshin; 01-25-2014 at 09:22 AM.

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Hi Vincent,

    Like all the fine friends have said, sleeping limbs is part of the game. However, in my experience, the more you sit the more time you get to go before your legs sleep.

    Yoga helps a lot indeed.

    And I found that after quitting bread I can even sit longer (for about 1 hour).

    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 Genshin's Avatar
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    Hi,

    An interesting post from a while back, posting as I feel it would be useful here:

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ns-and-needles

    Jundo quotes another teacher, Rev. Nonin Chowaney:

    There are many ways to sit zazen: full-lotus, half-lotus, quarter-lotus (with foot on calf), burmese (with both feet on the floor), seiza (Japanese kneeling posture) with the zafu on it's side, seiza on two zafus (one on top of the others), seiza on a bench, and sitting in a chair (this is frequently necessary for those who have injured themselves or with joint replacements). Also, some people with severe physical problems or illness sit zazen lying down.

    I recommend to all beginners that they sit as close to full lotus posture as they can for as long as they can. I also suggest that they sit somewhere between wimp and macho. Sit until it becomes uncomfortable, and then sit a few minutes more before you change postures. If you change too soon, you won't stretch out. On the other hand, don't tough it out for so long that you do yourself damage.

    Also, learn the difference between soft tissue or muscle pain and nerve pain. Everyone's legs fall asleep from time to time. Sometimes bending forward will take the pressure off the sciatic nerve and the legs will wake up. If your legs are asleep at the end of a sitting and they come back quickly as you stretch them out and get up, I wouldn't worry about it. If they don't and the numbness persists for some time, don't sit the way you have been. You can damage nerves. If you damage 1/8" of a nerve, it can take months to heal.

    Anytime you hold the body in a specific position, it will hurt. Just try holding your arm out parallel to the floor for any length of time. Sitting zazen for any length of time will hurt most people, although some can without pain. I have never been very limber, and I sat seiza for three years when I first started while I did exercises and stretched out. Then, I was able to sit burmese style. Eventually I was able to sit quarter-lotus and then half-lotus. I've never been able to sit full-lotus, and as I've aged, I've gone back to quarter lotus. Also, I have a knee problem, and when it flared up severely a couple of years ago, I spent six months sitting in a chair.

    Hands palm-to-palm,

    Nonin
    Like others, I tend to get discomfort, but only after sitting for a long time. Rohatsu was a big struggle. When I started sitting some time back, I'd get cramp, dead leg pretty much within the first 10 minutes. Over time it gets better as others have said.

    Gassho
    Genshin

  12. #12
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    I would also say, don't feel any pressure to stand up and start kinhin right away. We certainly don't want anyone falling over and hurting themselves just so they can stay on the same schedule as the group. When I sit with a group, I always make that very clear, if your leg(s) are asleep, DO NOT STAND UP. Stretch it out, massage, and join us quietly when you can.

    Chuck "Daijo"

  13. #13
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    One more thing. Something I like to do before a longer sitting period is the 8 forms moving meditation. It's a Ch'an practice that I like blending with my shikantaza if I'm going to sit for a long period of time. If anyone is intersted and with Jundo's permission, I'd be happy to share the technique. It does take a minimum of 30 minutes (it like kinhin is a meditation itself) but it really helps to minimize the pain, limbs falling asleep etc. In fact, the monks at Dharma Drum retreat center start every day of their lives with these movements.

    Gassho,

    Daijo

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Daijo View Post
    One more thing. Something I like to do before a longer sitting period is the 8 forms moving meditation. It's a Ch'an practice that I like blending with my shikantaza if I'm going to sit for a long period of time. If anyone is intersted and with Jundo's permission, I'd be happy to share the technique. It does take a minimum of 30 minutes (it like kinhin is a meditation itself) but it really helps to minimize the pain, limbs falling asleep etc. In fact, the monks at Dharma Drum retreat center start every day of their lives with these movements.

    Gassho,

    Daijo
    Hi Daijo,

    Please share it.

    Another thing I saw when I sat at monasteries in China and Vietnam is that the sitters massage the face, arms and legs quiet well for a minute or two before and after sitting. They also sometimes cover their legs with nice blankets when sitting in cool weather. Both are nice ideas I have not seen in Japan.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Thank you all for your advice

    Gassho

    Vincent
    For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Daijo,

    Please share it.

    Another thing I saw when I sat at monasteries in China and Vietnam is that the sitters massage the face, arms and legs quiet well for a minute or two before and after sitting. They also sometimes cover their legs with nice blankets when sitting in cool weather. Both are nice ideas I have not seen in Japan.

    Gassho, J
    Yes, there is actually a very specific (Surprise!) ritual involved with the massaging as well. I have been tought the technique but I don't exactly remember those steps. One thing you'll find at every cushion in the local monastery here is a folded towel (folded very specifically of course), to be used to cover the legs. I'll try to do a recording of the 8 forms this week.

  17. #17
    Hi Daijo,

    Please do . it sounds very interesting and i would love to learn it!

    Gassho

    MyoHo

  18. #18
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    I will record on Thursday and post it here.

    Gassho,

    Daijo

  19. #19
    When I sit half lotus left leg up, I'm usually good for about 40 minutes. My right hip is much less flexible, so I completely feel ya man! I can't offer any better advice than what has been offered, but I'll just say keep truckin'

    Gassho,

    Risho

  20. #20
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    Due to some technical difficulties I wasn't able to capture the 8 forms last night. I'll get them recorded this weekend though. It was a nice trial run last night though as I was able to teach the movements to 9 other people.

    Gassho,

    Daijo

  21. #21
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Thank you Daijo, definitely will have a look at the vid

    Gassho
    ______________________________
    Kōshin / Leo



    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  22. #22
    Let me mention that our Yoga Instructor, William, provided some good exercises for our Rohatsu Retreat, and you might take a look and contact him for some pointers too.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ohatsu-Retreat

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  23. #23
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    As I understand it, ONE of the reasons that Bodhidharma encouraged things like marital arts practice among monks at Shaolin is because of some of these very issues. I personally find regular Kung Fu and Tai Chi practice, as well asYoga, keeps me pretty limber even at 46. I am not suggesting everyone needs to do martial arts however. I am suggesting that any kind of regular exercise might help. It has made a big difference for me.

    Gassho C

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