Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Lower back pain

  1. #1

    Lower back pain

    So I'm increasing my zazen amount for Ango, and I'm already noticing an increase in lower back pain. Is there something in particular I might be doing wrong in my posture that would cause this? Maybe my zafu is too hard (it's filled with buckwheat hulls, not kapok) or not wide enough? Or maybe this is just par for the course?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Posts
    671

    Re: Lower back pain

    I'm sure there is someone more knowledgable that will have some other ideas. But for me I had an increase in pain because I simply have bad posture and the muscles weren't used to me holding myself completely upright like that.

  3. #3

    Re: Lower back pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Shinkai
    So I'm increasing my zazen amount for Ango, and I'm already noticing an increase in lower back pain.
    Few follow up questions come to mind immediately. How do you sit, do you use the full lotus or half lotus position or something else? Is the pain present constantly, all the time when you sit or does it build up gradually while*sitting (some times would be nice) and end when you get up or flex? Is it centered in the low back area or does it radiate elsewhere? Can you describe the pain (dull, stabbing, burning...)? And lastly, "internet diagnosis" is never easy - best would be if you got someone to check your posture out. Perhaps some of the more experienced sitters who have Skype can help with that?

  4. #4

    Re: Lower back pain

    Hi ZenDave and Mika, thank you for your replies.

    Mika, to answer your questions, I sit in quarter lotus as pictured here. The pain is dull, builds slowly, is centered in the low back and I notice it more when I'm sitting in other positions later after my sittings.

    It's definitely a possibility that my muscles just aren't used to the position. It's not like I have a super rock-hard core or anything. Maybe I'll just give it a bit more time. I may also need to get my cushion a bit higher up off the ground.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Posts
    671

    Re: Lower back pain

    Maybe a lil stretching before and after will help? I still get the knee and leg pains from sitting too much or too long. Incorporate small doses of sitting maybe? I try to keep it to no more than 10 minutes twice a day . Usually once. Increase slowwwww. I have hurt my leg a couple times just doing that "one last floor sit..because i'm fine and my leg doesn't hurt anymore". Over the past few months and as I get more flexible I kind of experiment with what i can do. I'd like to maximize the time w/o the limping the next 3 days.

    Dave _/_

  6. #6

    Re: Lower back pain

    Try to adjust your posture, but slightly. Align your head. Sometimes if we are a little out of balance it can cause back pain. Sometimes the muscles aren't relax also. Check your shoulders. Are they up or loose?

    If it continues, then switch positions. It might be a matter of just relaxing.

    re: the Zafu. Can your knees touch the ground or are you struggling to hold them there? Maybe an extra cushion under your zafu is in order, or maybe it's too high even.

    Gassho

  7. #7

    Re: Lower back pain

    Hi Guys,

    THIS BECAME A BIT OF A LONG POST ... WITH SEVERAL RECOMMENDED LINKS

    This has been and remains the most difficult issue here at Treeleaf, because we cannot see and reach out to adjust the physical posture of how another person is sitting. Even the skype camera, I found, with its convex lens and such ... very misleading.

    So, here are the "work-arounds" I have come to appreciate about this problem ..

    1- You and your body are the best expert. Move, change positions (even during a sitting ... give a little Gassho, and quietly change your leg position, which leg is on top, etc. Alternate which leg is on top.). Experiment. When you find the position that feels comfortable, balanced, that lets you "drop thinking about the body", and lets you sit without trouble for all (or most) of the period ... it is probably a good one. You and your body will know best. You can switch whole positions during a sitting or, even when sticking to one position (for example, Burmese), experiment with making micro-changes that can have big effects. In all cases of a Lotus Posture or Burmese, make sure your knees are not raised up off the floor, and your legs are flat. (Getting one's knees on the floor flat is important, and if you can't, try temporarily (emphasis added) putting pads or cushions under the knees until you can by stretching the groin muscles and such to get the knees down.)



    As Will said, "Align your head. Sometimes if we are a little out of balance it can cause back pain. Sometimes the muscles aren't relax also. Check your shoulders. Are they up or loose? "

    Sitting posture is a bit like postures for making love ... if they feel right, they probably are. :shock:

    Now, as I have written about "sitting with pain" ... be free to change position, but also do not change position too easily. It is a fine line. Sometimes we move, sometimes we "just sit" with the pain ... Please look at the following link about when to move, when to sit with the distraction or pain.

    viewtopic.php?p=26759#p26759

    2- I still think the Full Lotus, Half Lotus (Quarter Lotus), Burmese are optimal, in that order. After that Seiza or a chair. But you can switch positions among those even during a sitting. I sometimes switch to Burmese from Full or Half Lotus during the last 10 minutes of a sitting (so I do not fall over trying to stand up). Some Japanese lineages (much more than the Koreans, Chinese, Tibetans and other Buddhists), tend to obsess about holding a stern, rigid, optimal Lotus Position. (I have spoken about this before). Please read this link too, about Japanese and "Kata" (and some other misconceptions about Shikantaza) ...

    viewtopic.php?p=12161#p12161

    Some Japanese teachers and lineages can be a bit too focused on the sitting posture itself, as a fetish ... as if the posture of the Lotus itself has some mystical power. Shikantaza has a wider meaning than that, that sweeps in all of reality. It is Shikantaza, even if one is sitting in a chair or standing on a train.(I mean, it is a wonderful posture conducive to balance and Zazen ... but not alone the central point of Zazen. This has become a point of disagreement between Nishijima Roshi and myself)

    The basic principle is that balance of body is hand-in-glove with balance of mind, one nurturing the other, truly just body-mind. For millenia, the Full Lotus, and to a lessor extent, the Half Lotus have been considered positions of great poise and balance. The Burmese position is also very balanced. The lifting of the rump, straightening of the back with slight curvature of the lower back, the stability of the legs with good circulation, the comfortable head position ... all lend themselves to our forgetting about the body during Zazen. Once mastered, they are intended as incredibly comfortable and stable positions ... not torture

    My teacher, Nishijima, is against Seiza and, even more so, chairs. They do not provide such balance in his view, and furthermore, were not the tradition in the Zen schools. Now, the official "Soto" school line (for Westerners, at least) is that chairs, Seiza and Burmese are acceptable ... if not ideal.

    Nishijima makes the valid point that many Westerners give up on the Lotus postures for lack of trying, lack of giving it time and stretching. He is right. He may be a little stubborn in not yielding on this issue to people's needs who have legitimate physical issues, and I sometimes think so (this is a very Japanese attitude). But most westerners give up much too easily.

    So, you should try many ways and make up your own mind. However, if you are physically capable of Lotus or Half Lotus (or Burmese), that is the best I think.

    The philosophy around Treeleaf Sangha about sitting is that everyone should try out for themselves, and adjust, the fine points of sitting Lotus (Full and Half) and Burmese. Seiza and chair sitting, is tolerated as maybe necessary in some cases, if there is a true and uncorrectable physical need.

    So, please tinker away with the Full/Half Lotus and Burmese in minor ways. You will know when you are balanced because, quite simply, you will feel balanced, and generally comfortable in sitting for long stretches day after day. The proof is in the pudding. Just make sure you are not sagging in the back, that the back is straight, that the chin is tucked in and the head not dropping forward, and that you are not leaning to the side.
    Instead of worshiping the Lotus Posture, I believe that the position is best which lets us forget about the position (and the rest of the body) during sitting.

    3- Also, make sure you are not sitting too far back on the Zafu. Ideally, the back of you body should fall at about the center line of the Zafu (as in this picture), but experiment with coming foward or back just a little.



    And if you can, experiment with various heights of Zafu to find which works best (If you only have one at home, you may need to experiment with taking out of adding stuffing. You need to do some sewing to do that.)

    4- Another trait of Japan: No pain no gain. That is a Japanese cultural trait. I wrote about that at the above link ...

    There is a great cultural tendency in Japanese culture to just "bear up" with pain and disturbances, and I have rarely if ever seen an experienced Japanese sitting move, shift legs or scratch during Zazen. In fact, my Japanese dentist tells me that there are two main difference between his Western patients and Japanese patients: (1) Westerners ask a lot more questions about the dental procedure and everything else; (2) Westerners moan and scream much more easily. :shock:
    Again, this is the Samurai mentality showing through. I believe that sometimes we sit with pain (especially when we have no choice) ... sometimes we seek to avoid the pain.

    5- The various stretches and Yoga moves that some around here recommend have been reported to have great results. Even many Japanese young priests have started doing that more and more. (Can someone post the links to those?)

    Because I cannot help with posture because of the distance (one of the few things we cannot do in this Sangha because of distance), I am recommending folks to consult with a local Yoga instructor in your area about getting in a good Lotus or Half-Lotus, or Burmese posture (just bring your Zafu when you do, as some Yoga folks do it slightly differently, sitting directly on the floor or a tiny cushion). (Of course, if there is a Zen Sangha somewhere near you that you can visit, the teachers there will help with posture).

    6 - One thing I find helpful for back pain is to ever so slightly move my spine 10 degrees forward or back ever few minutes if pain starts. I may slightly (I mean very slightly) lean alternately to the left or right ... just a tad (this also takes pressure off the sciatic nerve and circulatory system if I get a "pins and needles" feeling in the legs. When the pain relieves, I move back to sitting straight up). I may even alternate tightenting or relaxing the muscles in my back during a sitting.

    The optimal posture for me is to sit as if there is a string running from the top of my head to the ceiling, which is being given a very very slight tug upwards to stretch the neck.

    I gave a talk for "Beginners" here on posture. (I do not think that I am a model of beautiful posture, by the way. I sit like a fat-assed thunder-thighed American in the baseball bleachers).

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/z ... inside.jpg

    Finally, remember too that "Zazen" is not only the times we spend on the cushion. So, sitting, crouching, back flipping, walking, running, skipping, hopping, falling or spinning is also Zazen (we still must spend that time on the cushion however).

    Gassho, Jundo (I used to sit mostly Full Lotus. Now, I mix Full, Half and Burmese)

  8. #8

    Re: Lower back pain

    Hi Shinkai,

    Lots of useful suggestions here already. Just one additional point for consideration: do you do anything on a regular basis to strengthen your back muscles? If you're already doing everything that's been suggested and you find that you're still experiencing discomfort, it may be a simple case of muscular atrophy which just goes along with aging. I used to have lower back pain myself until I started a regular weight training program. Just a thought.

    Gassho
    Bansho

  9. #9

    Re: Lower back pain

    The various stretches and Yoga moves that some around here recommend have been reported to have great results. Even many Japanese young priests have started doing that more and more.
    Don't know if these are what your talking about:

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1034&p=14703&hilit=yoga#p14703

    Actually there's a bunch if you do a Google search. The butterfly pose is one that I know.



    Gassho

  10. #10

    Re: Lower back pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Shinkai
    The pain is dull, builds slowly, is centered in the low back and I notice it more when I'm sitting in other positions later after my sittings.
    Ok, just checking. Sounds like it's muscle related then, as long as it doesn't start radiating to your legs or somewhere else you should be fine. I recommend going with the advice given here, stretches, core strength exercises and just sitting.

    A word of advice for anyone doing stretching though, take it easy. Sometimes the primary cause for perceived "muscle stiffness" it not in the muscles but in the nervous system, and stretching won't help that (it will probably make it worse).

  11. #11

    Re: Lower back pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Al Coleman
    Hi Shinkai,

    I just posted this over on my blog: http://homelesskodo.blogspot.com/2009/0 ... style.html

    I'll try to get up a post about what one can do for the lower back tomorrow. But I'll leave you with this: the best posture for the lower back is the Full Lotus.

    Gassho,

    Al
    Thank you, Al. Very interesting and helpful.

    (The lawyer in me, however, wants me to post a notice that the management is not responsible if people get into the Lotus Posture but can't get out again, or have their tendons "Golgied" My insurance policy says "Lotus Posture at Your Own Risk". Have a phone nearby your Zafu to call for help). :mrgreen:

  12. #12

    Re: Lower back pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Al Coleman
    I just posted this over on my blog: http://homelesskodo.blogspot.com/2009/0 ... style.html
    Interesting. May I ask what kind of a background you have, maybe some education or work history in the medical field?

  13. #13

    Re: Lower back pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Al Coleman
    I have a degree in Kinesiology.
    I hope the real and not the applied kind. :-D

    I run a clinical exercise clinic that specializes in strengthening of the lumbar and cervical spine using this equipment: http://www.medxonline.com . The lumbar machine is a life saver for many. In addition to that I have worked in PT clinics for educational purposes.
    Thanks. I was just asking, as even though I don't necessarily agree with all of the points you make in your blog there are also some good ideas there and you mentioned you had accumulated the knowledge through your education.

    As for my own background, I'm a massage therapist (which is a regulated profession in Finland) and currently studying for a university level degree in manual therapy (evidence based, not CAM), so I too have more than a layman's understanding of the field.

  14. #14

    Re: Lower back pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Al Coleman
    Hi Shinkai,

    I just posted this over on my blog: http://homelesskodo.blogspot.com/2009/0 ... style.html

    I'll try to get up a post about what one can do for the lower back tomorrow. But I'll leave you with this: the best posture for the lower back is the Full Lotus.

    Gassho,

    Al
    interesting reading. my wife has wanted to join in my sitting sessions. Her problem is bulged disks and pinched nerves in her lumbar area. She has been sitting in a modified seiza while straddling a taller cushion, and that seems to work, but perhaps lotus would work better over the long term.

Similar Threads

  1. The pain of loss
    By Stephanie in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 03-14-2011, 05:57 PM
  2. Zazen reducing pain.
    By Shonin in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 05-07-2010, 07:39 AM
  3. Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body
    By Jenny in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 48
    Last Post: 08-05-2009, 04:11 PM
  4. Pain in the ****
    By Shohei in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 10-20-2008, 01:06 PM
  5. Being with pain
    By kirkmc in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: 11-29-2007, 11:46 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •