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Thread: back of neck pain and head moving back during zazen

  1. #1

    back of neck pain and head moving back during zazen

    I started noticing that I start getting pain at the back of neck during later parts of my sitting. It intensifies to the end of the sitting.

    So I recorded a video of myself sitting and noticed that I initially start in a straight position but after first 5-10 minutes my head is moving more and more backward. This obviously seems to be putting pressure on my neck. The problem is I don't even realize this during the sitting. It feels I am sitting straight.

    I think I have to focus on tucking my chin and keep readjusting the posture in the middle by say leaning forward completely (this will require me to move during sitting though). Any other suggestions? Just want to share this idea that recording yourself occasionally to check can be beneficial

    Gassho,
    Sam
    Sat Today

  2. #2
    Hi Sam: Without scheduling yourself to check posture every so often, tuck in your chin and check when it comes to mind. after you make a slight adjustment, gassho and be grateful that this is all temporary. Nothing is permanent. It's nice if you can stay real still but, we are human after all; be gentle with yourself. If in a bricks and mortar Zendo, none of these small movements would disturb your neighbors. If it did it would be that they are not paying attention to their own practice

    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

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    I started noticing that I start getting pain at the back of neck during later parts of my sitting. It intensifies to the end of the sitting.

    So I recorded a video of myself sitting and noticed that I initially start in a straight position but after first 5-10 minutes my head is moving more and more backward. This obviously seems to be putting pressure on my neck. The problem is I don't even realize this during the sitting. It feels I am sitting straight.

    I think I have to focus on tucking my chin and keep readjusting the posture in the middle by say leaning forward completely (this will require me to move during sitting though). Any other suggestions? Just want to share this idea that recording yourself occasionally to check can be beneficial

    Gassho,
    Sam
    Sat Today
    I would just be natural, like driving a car. Do you keep your neck so rigid in driving, or let it naturally move a bit, muscles not so taught? I bet you don't! No need to hold a position for so long. I move my head subtly, keep relaxed yet upright, just like when driving.

    So, really, pretend you are driving your car ...

    ... through the universe! ...



    Gassho, J
    STLAH
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4

  5. #5
    I watched the video tapes again closely and it is not the head that's moving back. It is my upper back that moves back. This starts happening progressively and by 10-15 min I have a good curve in the back. Here are the pics: IMG_1887.jpgIMG_1888.jpg

    First pic is when I start zazen and second one is at the end of the sitting. Notice how my upper back is curved back by the end

    Gassho,
    Sam
    Sat2day

  6. #6
    Hi Sam,

    I had the same issue with a curved spine by the end of zazen when I began sitting years ago.
    Frankly, I didn't do anything particular about it and it had just lined up by itself along
    with regular sitting after a while. The only thing I'd echo above is to check and correct
    your posture more often during the sit. Also I wouldn't recommend to focus on tucking the chin
    too hard since it may create another problem with the neck, as I heard.

    Gassho
    Washin
    sat today
    Last edited by Washin; 11-16-2019 at 05:54 AM.
    Kaido (有道) Every Way
    Washin (和信) Harmony Trust
    ----
    I am a novice priest-in-training. Anything what I say must not be considered as teaching
    and should be taken with a 'grain of salt'.

  7. #7
    Thanks for sharing and your suggestion Washin. Since the spine is curving back the head is automatically going back with it. Trying to tuck the chin at the position infact doesn't help much. I believe the chin tuck suggestion was given when I thought it is only the head that's tilting back. I will try not doing that and instead will adjust the posture in the middle as you said.

    Gassho,
    Sam
    Will Sit soon today

  8. #8
    Personally, I have found that I sit the tripod position of chair, foot, foot, and when I had done this in the past, I could not participate in the Sunday sit because my time sitting was limited to about 15 minutes, so I could not sit easily before the computer screen. I found a way to sit with chair before my alter which I had placed lengthwise. This is very beautiful with my 9 electric candles going, through the slit of my zazen eyes, and I placed everything close to my wall, and placed the thick part of my chair Buddha cushion back to help my spine stay erect while I lean my left shoulder against the wall. It is possible for me to sit much longer than 15 minutes in this position. I might call this the modified tripod, or the quad pod. In this way I am able to sit a variation of the traditional tripod using chair, foot, foot, and now, left shoulder. There is an electric socket close to my chair, so I have plans to place my 10 inch (25.4 cm) Chromebook before me on my alter, tilt the screen back, and in this way practice with others of our Sangha.

    Tai Shi
    sat/lah
    Gassho
    "Faith is one with the fruit of enlightenment; the fruit of enlightenment is one with faith." Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist

  9. #9
    I know this may not be particularly helpful, but I found all my physical problems with sitting went away once I was able to sit full lotus. For whatever reason the grounded-ness frees up everything from the waist up. Half lotus was too imbalanced and was giving me SI joint issues, and any other posture didn’t seem to support the back enough for longer sits. In addition my breathing really opened up as a result of the full lotus.

    I say this only because I had all sorts of neck problems while sitting because of injuries I had from a few concussions. I tried everything from massage to Alexander Technique and nothing helped. One day after years of stretching I was able to easily cross my legs and my neck problems went by by.

    Gassho,

    Tohei

  10. #10
    Thanks Tohei. I am not yet flexible enough to sit full lotus for the duration of zazen. What stretches are recommended to be able to sit full lotus?

    Gassho,
    Sam
    Sat2day

  11. #11
    Hi Sam,

    Every change in the body can lead to a chain reaction, so be careful not to do something that might lead to another problem.

    I don't know if this helps you, but at least it's worth a try:
    From time to time - when the thought of posture comes into your mind during sitting - relax and then tense your abdominal muscles for about 1 or 2 seconds. This might pull you upper body into a centered position.
    This is a very small thing that's hardly noticeable from the outside, but it can make a big difference.

    Another thing: When you have your correct Zazen position, right after the three bells and before you start, you can roll your shoulders back. This opens the chest and relaxes the neck.

    When not sitting: Do stretches that relax your neck - but be careful to choose the correct exercises, since the neck is quite sensitive.


    Oh, and another thing: You might want to check your position of the pelvis in your videos.

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu

    #sat2day
    no thing needs to be added

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Thanks Tohei. I am not yet flexible enough to sit full lotus for the duration of zazen. What stretches are recommended to be able to sit full lotus?

    Gassho,
    Sam
    Sat2day
    If you are really set on attempting Full Lotus, I might suggest visiting a local yoga studio and getting direct advice from the instructors there. Bring your Zafu, because they tend to sit on the floor or very low cushions, which I find much harder.

    Also, this is a book which I recommend whenever posture becomes our topic ...

    "THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION" (by Will Johnson)
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...-OF-MEDITATION

    There are various videos of stretches and such that one can find online, but I do not believe that one size fits all. Everybody's body is different, with different flexibility, size and such.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  13. #13
    Thank you Daitetsu and Jundo for your suggestions

    Gassho,
    Sam
    Sat2day

  14. #14
    Just yesterday I stumbled upon an interesting article:
    https://gokhalemethod.com/blog/67213

    An excerpt:

    When we are born, our hip, knee, and ankle joints are not yet made of bone, but rather of cartilage. The cartilage ossifies with a timeline that is specific for each joint. The hip socket, for example, is made of three cartilaginous plates at birth. The first pair of these plates ossifies at age 2; the last pair ossifies at age 16. We know that ossification patterns are influenced by mechanical stresses, so it is a commonsensical argument that the habitual positions a person assumes during the ossification period in childhood will dictate how the hip joints (and other lower body joints) set. Someone who has not sat on the floor since being a baby will have a different hip architecture than someone who sat on the floor to eat and squatted to use the toilet growing up. The shape of the joint will be different, as will its range of motion. Some joints have a “use it or lose it” mentality! Additionally, the muscles around these joints will have resting lengths that are adapted to the habitual positions. With muscles, it is simply a matter of stretching to get them to cooperate and be comfortable in new poses. For the bones and joints in an adult, however, things are more fixed. It is unlikely that any amount of practice could find us comfortable and sitting healthily in the lotus position for the first time as an adult.
    (Highlights by me)

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu

    #sat2day
    no thing needs to be added

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Daitetsu View Post
    Just yesterday I stumbled upon an interesting article:
    https://gokhalemethod.com/blog/67213

    An excerpt:



    (Highlights by me)

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu

    #sat2day
    Thank you for your article Daitetsu.

    In my opinion, just sitting is much more beneficial than attachment to lotus or any other form of sitting.

    We are not built to sit as they did in the past. Trying to sit like out ancestors is delusional and reinforces duality. Me, you and the sitting posture, all different, all dualistic if we make it so. Just sit is what I prefer. If the flexibility is there to sit in a comfortable and stable position then do that, whatever that means for you and me.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  16. #16
    Sam,

    I followed this daily for the last 5 years:




    To do the forward bending I bought and used this:

    CoreStretch - Adjustable Back, Shoulder & Hamstring Stretcher - Includes Coaching Guide https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GAAXGA..._Wgt8DbTZ4C5ZB

    This thing paid for itself after the first month. I love it so much I bought two more to keep at both of my offices.

    Hope this helps!

    Tohei

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by acss1 View Post
    Sam,

    I followed this daily for the last 5 years:




    To do the forward bending I bought and used this:

    CoreStretch - Adjustable Back, Shoulder & Hamstring Stretcher - Includes Coaching Guide https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GAAXGA..._Wgt8DbTZ4C5ZB

    This thing paid for itself after the first month. I love it so much I bought two more to keep at both of my offices.

    Hope this helps!

    Tohei
    Thanks Tohei, I just ordered one for my husband for his birthday lol

    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).

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