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Thread: Burmese Position

  1. #1

    Burmese Position

    So, I notice that when I sit in the Burmese position that when my right leg is on the outside that the whole lower part of my leg goes to sleep. Once it became completely numb!

    When I sit with the left leg on the outside, I feel a little prickliness in both legs when I get up.

    Sometimes I sit in a chair, and this is more comfortable.

    Do any of you have any thoughts?



    klb

    Sat today

  2. #2
    I am sure some more of the experts around here might have other views. Sitting in a chair is not ideal, though acceptable if you are in pain and cannot sit another way. If the Burmese position is too difficult can you do half lotus? That might be more suitable.

    Gassho
    Ishin
    Sat/lah
    Grateful for your practice

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
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    Jan 2010
    Location
    San Diego County, California
    Perhaps you need a higher or lower cushion? Are you very tall?

    Gassho
    Sat today, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  4. #4
    Cushion height has been a factor for me so definately try higher and lower and see if it makes a difference. Also take time in the day to stretch out your legs, hips, and back. Stretching has become an important part of my day and now allows me to sit longer and more comfortably.

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

    Sent from my Pixel 3a using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Thanks Ishin and Geika.

    I am 5'6".

    I sat Burmese today and just had some sharp tingling in my feet when I got up.
    It only lasted for about 4 minutes.

    Sat for about 20 minutes.

    Is there a reason why the floor is viewed as ideal?

    <Gassho>

    klb.

    Sat today

  6. #6
    Hi Kevin,

    Again, I am certainly no expert but I have recently been doing a bit of reading on the subject. 2500 years ago, there were fewer chairs!

    But in all seriousness, my understanding is that full lotus, then half lotus, then Burmese, then chair is the order of "Best" to "Least good" for sitting. This is because the full lotus then the half give the most stability to the back, helping it to stay erect and the spine straight, they also then to take the most weight and place it onto the hips.

    From what I have been reading, numbness and pain is usually a result of tight tendons and muscles along with incorrect sitting posture. Cushion height certainly plays a roll as well.

    For example I used to experience a lot of lower back pain in my sitting. By raising my cushion up (using an addition flat cushion) and leaning just slightly forward, I was able to transfer a lot of the weight off of my lower back and place it on my hips. It had the added benefit of "driving" my knees more firmly into the floor which has helped make my posture more stable.

    The stable posture is important and it directly effects the stability of the mind (according to my reading) slouching etc, lends to sleepiness and a lax mind.

    Make good use of stretching. Take time to stretch your legs, hips, and back every day. It will help loosen them up and reduce tingling and numbness as well. This is something I have to hound my Karate students about constantly!

    I can post up a few stretches if you like and you can give them a try.

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

  7. #7
    Another option is to try the Seiza position. This is what I use and I think Jakuden does as well. You can do it using your cushion or a bench.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  8. #8
    I had to give up even seiza a couple of years ago. But, then, this is a damaged body in its twilight years.



    gassho
    doyu sat today
    特別な人ではない

  9. #9
    Hi Kevin, have you watched the beginner videos? Jundo goes over the different positions in those. Here at Treeleaf we sit however we can, and no position is magically ideal... it is supposed to be a nice stable position in which it is not particularly easy to fall asleep! In a typical Western Sangha, Lotus, Burmese, Seiza and chair sitting are all common. Yes as Shinshi says I sit seiza because my legs also get numb when I cross them in any way, to the point that I will not be able to stand up for Kinhin if the sit goes past 20-30 minutes. And I have found that if my cushion is not high enough, that makes it even worse, so I use a pretty high firm cushion. (Unfortunately, however, it is easy to fall off of it when in slippery robes, LOL) Some people like to use a seiza bench, there are even different kinds to try.

    Some pain or numbness is to be expected in any sitting position, though, especially if you sit for longer and longer periods. There is value in learning to sit with this too, but if you are forcing too much discomfort on yourself early in your practice it may be discouraging. Maybe experiment with how much discomfort you can sit with, but don't try to push too hard.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  10. #10
    Member Anna's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    I'm mostly 'sitting' in a reclined position in a chair, laying on my back or laying in the reclined Buddha position on my side that the O.G. Buddha had to adopt when his back would no longer accept sitting upright.
    I used to beat myself up about this stuff until I first went to a bricks and mortar Sangha and the teacher said that a bit of discomfort is ok but pain is not and that by 'sitting' how I needed to I would be in any way a distraction to others.
    When I was directed to discovering Treeleaf by the ever amazing Kokuu after no being able to make the journey to the bricks and mortar Sangha Jundo made it perfectly clear to me that I was more than welcome to 'sit' however I needed and supported me wholeheartedly to do so.
    Be kind to yourself comrade.
    Gassho
    Anna
    Sat today

    Sent from my Lenovo TB-8304F1 using Tapatalk
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously.
    No Gods No Masters.

  11. #11
    Thank you all for your replies.

    I will synthesize and apply.

    Here is a mundane question: I don't see my photo that I uploaded. Can you all see it?

    Gassho

    klb

    sat today

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Benbow View Post
    Thank you all for your replies.

    I will synthesize and apply.

    Here is a mundane question: I don't see my photo that I uploaded. Can you all see it?

    Gassho

    klb

    sat today
    No, it's a common issue... you have to upload the photo as your avatar on your profile page, I think. I forget exactly how it's done, someone smarter than me will know :-)

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  13. #13
    On prickly legs. it is basically an issue with the pressure being place on the sciatic nerve (although I remember one of our medical folks once correcting me on which nerve it is technically, not the sciatic?). Maybe the Zafu is biting into the legs putting pressure on the nerve? Here is what I have posted in the past, and it applies to the Burmese posture as well as the Lotus. Nothing dangerous if just for a time. I just lean a little to the side, like the Tower of Pisa, when it happens, taking the pressure of the nerve and it usually vanishes. After that, I may straighten up again.

    More here ...

    =====

    This book on posture during Zazen is highly recommended around here ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...itting+johnson

    Usually, legs which tingle or "fall asleep" are due putting some pressure on the sciatic nerve ...

    My friend, Rev. Nonin Chowaney (Nebraska Zen Center) writes this ...


    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.
    When my legs begin to "fall asleep", I lightly shift my weight on the Zafu to the left or right (or front or back) as needed to slightly take my weight off the top of my thigh. That seems to work. Also, if sitting in Full or Half Lotus, I will "gassho" and untangle my legs (usually into Burmese) about a minute or two before I need to stand up. The feeling is usually back by that time.

    If not, I usually do what I call the "butt shift" , gently putting my weight slightly more on one butt cheek or the other, while lightening the load on the other, or subtly shifting slightly back or forth. It tends to take the pressure of the nerve. If you really need too, you might also try untangling the legs a bit about a minute before the bell will ring.

    Also, is you underwear too tight, your pants pinching your upper thigh or circulation? (This is one reason that we wear loose fitting trousers in Zazen ... and avoid Jeans and such).

    I might just add that our Zazen is often practice in microcosm for experiencing our whole life. Our lives are sometimes pain, including physical pain. Zazen recognizes that fact. We have to embrace that fact.

    So, nothing wrong with trying to make the pain or other unpleasantness go away. We move our legs, shift our posture, do whatever we can. Still, we accept it is there, whether it goes away or not (acceptance without acceptance). No running from the pain, even as we try to walk away from it. If it really will not go away no matter what we do, that is just our life. We just sit with it.

    We also learn that, in all cases, there is a great degree of "mind over matter" to pain. Our minds magnify the pain, focus on it. Our minds can also do the opposite. It may not make the pain go away, but mind and body are one.

    Remember, pain is not suffering without more ...

    All that being said, we also do not do Zazen to the point that there is a real risk of damage to the body. If you overdo with the pain, nerve damage and the like is possible. Even if you need to stand up in the middle of Zazen and do Zazen that way, as walking meditation, no problem. But, to be with a reasonable bit of pain now and then is part of Practice.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Hi Kevin,

    I know this issue well. I have knees and ankles like kit kats (thanks army!) so can't get anywhere near either of the lotuses and sit Burmese daily. Quite a few times I've just tried to endure the tingling and nearly taken down a bookshelf when standing, and then falling when beginning Kinhin. As other have said, a little lean to one side when you feel it coming on helps or experimenting with the height of your cushion or shifting forward or back helps.

    Also, avoid skinny jeans. I've learned that I have to put my hipster credentials on hold while sitting zazen.

    Gassho,

    Neil

  15. #15
    Thanks to all of you.

    I sat today in Burmese and from time to time wiggled my toes, leaned a bit, and only had mild tingling after a 20 minute sit.

    I would appreciate it if someone could tell me how to upload my photo as an avatar. Otherwise, I'll just leave the photo of my "true self" posted. Lol!!

    Gassho

    Sat today

    Klb

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by EnlistedHipster View Post
    Also, avoid skinny jeans. I've learned that I have to put my hipster credentials on hold while sitting zazen.
    Oh, avoid any jeans! One should sit in loose, soft, non-conscripting pants or a skirt.



    As to the photo of one's human face ...

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...n-Avatar-Photo

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    I ususally wear samu pants when sitting because they are very comfortable. There is a link between hip flexibility and cushion height. If you're not very flexible and you cushion is too low then you'll experience tingling or your legs might go numb. My first zafu was too low so I got one that's a bit higher, and now I can sit comfortably. Practice does make perfect because I noticed that I feel no more tingling nowadays on the same zafu whereas in the beginning my legs used to go numb during zazenkai.

    Gassho,
    Jack
    Sattoday/lah

  18. #18
    Member Seishin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    La Croix-Avranchin, Basse Normandie, France
    Kevin

    I know what you are feeling. I find that sitting Burmese one heel is too close to my butt potentially causing nerve issues. Half Lotus exacerbates that feeling with more numbness. I preserver with Burmese a few times a week but normally sit a version of the recommended Seiza. I can't sit with a Zafu on its side as I get really bad sciatica pains. So I added extra filling to my zafu and place it in a normal Shikantaza postilion straddling the cushion. Works for me. When I do sit Burmese rising is a challenge as my old legs lodge dissatisfaction. grunting as I stand I tell them to suck it up. Have a seiza bench ready for when the zafu is too much. Take it day by day.

    Sat


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  19. #19
    Thanks. I find that if I wiggle my toes from time to time rust I can manage Burmese with just a little tingling when I get up.

    Gassho

    Klb

    Sat today

  20. #20
    Why is it better to sit on the floor than a chair? I think itís like free weights vs weight machines with exercise. Free weights are superior; you have to fully control the motion of the weight. Weight machines were created for rehabilitation. So if you canít sit on a cushion just sit on a chair, just do your best

    gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  21. #21
    The important factor is that your spine is elongated in it's natural curved position (cervical, thoracic and lumbar) so that your brain can communicate with the 37 billion cells in your body/mind. Get your ego out of the picture and let the unconscious take care of the rest.

    gassho, Shokai
    stlah
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
    The important factor is that your spine is elongated in it's natural curved position (cervical, thoracic and lumbar) so that your brain can communicate with the 37 billion cells in your body/mind. Get your ego out of the picture and let the unconscious take care of the rest.

    gassho, Shokai
    stlah
    I just add "but not stretched to tight" and also " for people who are physically able" (e.g., we have folks who must recline due to health reasons).

    Gassho, J

    STlah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  23. #23
    For those who need to recline I suggest ensuring that you use pillows to find as comfortable and relaxed position so the spline is as close as possible to the natural contours. (can't really over stress the relaxation of the spine tho) Thanks Jundo

    gassho, Shokai
    stlah
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

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