Ouch! What to do When Meditation Hurts

buddha statue

 

Bring a little peace to your meditation with today’s discussion of the perfect meditation posture.

The most common question I get regarding meditation is, “how do I make it stop hurting when I meditate?”  My answer, “don’t sit like that.”

Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch and Allow.  These form a foundation for a meditation practice.  Meditation, to be effective, requires all of them plus relaxation, self-awareness and self-compassion. To relax, you need, at least at first, to be comfortable. So today we’re talking about how to get comfortable.

From a young age we’re told to sit up straight, stand up straight, don’t slouch, etc.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but no one ever explained to me what that meant.  The same happened in meditation for quite some time.  I imagined a picture of the “perfect” meditation position: legs crossed, spine straight, shaved head, orange flowing robes. Thinking this was the best and only way to meditate I of course tried to replicate it.  The problem? I was really uncomfortable.

So let me dispel this myth right now: the perfect meditation position is the one that encourages you to meditate.

Over time I learned that there is no one “right” way to meditate.  Meditation can be done in any comfortable position. This includes running, walking and other activities, but for now let’s stick with stationary meditation.

Sitting on the floor with legs crossed is the traditional lotus position is certainly an option, but so is lying down, sitting in a chair, sitting on the floor with your legs out straight, sitting outside on a rock, lying on a towel on the beach. Simply place and any position that’s appealing to you. The key is comfort. (For absolute beginners, or those with previous bad experiences, I recommend lying down.)

Find your favorite position.

Remember in Relax, when I discussed the difference between being relaxed and relaxing? Great. Today we go deeper.

Lay down on a firm but comfortable surface (floor, rug, yoga mat, etc.).  From this position analyze (without judgment) how it feels to lay in that position. Scan your body noticing any tight, cool or cold places. This is a good time to look for particularly warm places as well and make note of them. Do you feel like adjusting anything?  Does anything feel pinched or kinked in anyway?

From wherever you are, line your body up so that there are no side to side curves.  Open the feet hip width apart and let the feet flop open.  Bring the hands to the side of the body, arms at roughly a 45 degree angle with your palms facing up.  Gently lift your head, stretch your neck to make it longer and gently rest it back down so that you are looking straight.  Take three breaths with the exhale being slightly longer than the inhale.  And once again scan your body.  Does this feel the same or different?  Have any of those spots you noticed earlier changed or disappeared?  Are there new spots that draw your attention?  Does this feel more or less comfortable than your original position?  No right or wrong answers, just how do you feel at this moment?

Comfort in action.

This week try out several different places and positions to sit or lay in. Spend a few minutes breathing and then see how each suites you.  Since meditation can be done anywhere, I recommend trying out places that produce more stress for you.  Take the time to find the most comfortable position in each place. This opens the door to relaxing, and later meditating, in these places.  The key points to remember; keep the spine stacked, not rounded; hands and legs relaxed and you should be as comfortable as possible.  Be playful, remembering that recognizing uncomfortable positions is valuable experience and should be treasured because now you know something does not work for you.

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