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Thread: Tension

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Tension

    I've noticed lately when sitting, I've been carrying a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders. I have to make a conscience effort to relax my shoulders. Once I do that, my neck will start to ache. After I get my neck relaxed, after a few minutes, my shoulders start up again.

    Any Suggestions?

    Ron

  2. #2
    disastermouse
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    Re: Tension

    I have the same problems.

    Holding the mudra lower in my lap helps. Making sure my jaw is closed and my teeth are touching (but not clenched) also seems to help....

    But I still get the same tension problems when I sit for too long.

  3. #3

    Re: Tension

    Hiya guys
    Had the same issue here for a bit. Im with Chet, I found setting my mudra lower and that helps. I also found that when I "TRY" to sit i get all sorts of tension juggling going on (try meaning... in my head im forcing some Sitting... like MUST SIT/MUST NOT STRAY... or something to that effect).
    I usually take a afew moments when seated to consciously relax myself physically (and mentally too) from the top down... brow, face/mouth/jaw, neck, shoulders arms, right down to fingers and toes... quickly but i do this.
    There Stretching a bit before i sit (which i should heed my own advice there more often) helps too.

    Gassho, Shohei

  4. #4

    Re: Tension

    Hellos to those with tight shoulders posting here!
    If you are sitting in full lotus, the heels of your feet become a handy little shelf for the hands to be placed on, thus the arms are not being held up, they have a support. In this lifetime I don't believe full lotus will ever be accomplished, I just don't have the body for it, but that doesn't mean I can't sit properly. I am able to sit even a multiday sesshin with no major discomfort, and no pain (aside from the chronic, constant pain I have as it is).
    The fact of it is each of us has a very unique body with different ratios of lengths between knee to ankle, knee to hip, width of hip, shoulder to elbow, elbow to wrist, length of torso, width of shoulders, etc. So where different bodies fold up into lotus position is going to be slightly different, and obviously if lotus is not happening, then the seated position is slightly off all the way around. This does not need to cause any problem as far as seated posture goes. The basic formula is 1) erect spine, neck stretched with strength (this is an activity: holding the spine erect, stretching the neck) 2) a balanced, stable 3 point position: base of spine and each leg (unless you are standing, each leg is bent at some fashion at the knee, in a chair or seiza or zafu. For me, the 'balance' of the position comes from the legs pressing down while the spine/neck neck are being held erect upward. Again, for me this is an activity, this seated position. But it is not only active, there is a combination of support and activity. Similar to having someone help someone doing a head stand--the support is minimum, you aren't relying heavily on it, it is a guide.

    So when I sit on my zafu I sit as close to lotus as I can, which means not lotus at all to anyone looking for lotus, my knees are up in the air--to make them touch the zabuton runs the risk of my dislocating them (which happens all too easily, the way my knees are constructed) so, to attain the 3 point position I have a support cushion under each knee. Base of spine and each knee has a support from which I can actively press against.
    The thighs press down against the supported knees, the actively straightened spine pushes away from the zafu.
    Because I don't have that handy little shelf created by feet in lotus position, I use another small support cushion in my lap where my feet would be if they could be, and this is where my hands rest in my lap: I am holding my arms in position, but I am not holding my arms up.

    I certainly do not mean to imply that the above use of cushions is for everyone. I only want to give as an example a way I have come to understand works for me. I would imagine for someone seated in a wheelchair, a bolster or cushion placed at the small of the back (or a little lower) would serve the dynamic role the zafu does: allowing a place for the spine to push up from.

    Anyway, after many years of sitting, I noticed a quantitative difference in the experience of sitting after Nishijima Roshi gave me the instruction to push down on the knees I support with the cushions.

    Sitting is an active state, but no more active than needed to accomplish the activity. If you are more active than you need to be, you will feel it.
    If you are less active, then you are no longer sitting, you are merely seated.

    Of course there are many books out there and I don't presume to explain better what others have done far more eloquently.

    Visually a zendo would not have the same esthetic if it were filled with loads of little support cushions all over the place, but I do most of my sitting at home. When I sit with a group I do bring all my cushions. I've covered them with black material so they blend in.

    I hope this ramble of mine serves to help someone out there. Of course, if you have a teacher you can ask questions about sitting and get guidance from, by all means do so.

  5. #5

    Re: Tension

    Wow thank you very much Keishin!

    Gassho, Shohei

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Tension

    Thank you for your suggestions. I'll give them all a try. I think it's mental though, my wife says I've been kind of a pain in the *#$ lately.

    Ron

  7. #7
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Tension

    Hi Ron and all,

    We can all be a pain the arse at times :lol: Which then bites us back and creates a pain in the neck, shoulders, back, etc.

    I agree with everyone's suggestions here. I stretch alot before and after I sit and especially when I seem to be carrying alot of tension in the neck and shoulder area. I like Dirk's idea of relaxing from the top, down. If your face is tight and tense, chances are so is your neck.

    Hope that helps...take care,

    Kelly(Jinmei)

  8. #8
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Tension

    May I suggest that trying to relax is an extra tension? The fact you are aware of shoulder tension is already a great teaching. Allow them to drop not by working on them, moving them but warming up to them and just doing your thing, sitting. If you don't worry too much about those guys, yjey will probably end up behaving themselves quite well. Remeber the story of Suzuki roshi about the space you give an animal to calm it down, much better than fences and wires...You may also use a towel to support your mudra as you don't have the big sleeves of the kolomo to do so if you don't sit in full lotus.


    gassho

    Taigu

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Tension

    Thanks.

    Ron

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