Back pain during Zazen

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  • Jakugan
    Member
    • Jan 2013
    • 303

    Back pain during Zazen

    Hello everyone.

    I was wondering if anyone else suffered back pain during Zazen?
    I'm usually OK when I sit for a short time but when I sit for over fifteen minutes I start to get pain in my upper back mainly and my neck sometimes.
    Does anyone have any posture tips for what I might be doing wrong?

    Gassho,

    Simon.
  • Kyonin
    Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
    • Oct 2010
    • 6742

    #2
    Hi Simon,

    In my humble experience, there are some things that we may do or oversee without realizing.

    -Check your zafu's inclination. I found that when I don't properly adjust it, my back suffers.

    -Check your zafu for small bumps and try to straighten them.

    -Maybe you are trying to be too straight? Try to relax a bit.

    -Check your legs. Maybe they are too tense in order to keep you balanced.

    -See if your neck and shoulders aren't too tight.

    Hope this helps.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

    Comment

    • Jakugan
      Member
      • Jan 2013
      • 303

      #3
      Hi Kyonin,

      Thanks for the advice. . I shall try it next time. I think another problem may be that I haven't actually purchased a Zafu yet. At the moment, when I sit Zazen I sit on two pillows stacked on top of each other (although I have also experience back pain when sitting on an actual Zafu). Perhaps that is one reason for my discomfort?
      I think I'm probably a little bit too tense sometimes when I sit (especially when sitting Google + in front of other people!). I shall try to be more relaxed next time.

      Gassho,

      Simon

      Comment

      • RichardH
        Member
        • Nov 2011
        • 2800

        #4
        Hi Simon. I just listened to this talk posted by Taigu http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...m-Issho-Fujita . It gets straight at that.


        Gassho
        Daizan

        Comment

        • Daitetsu
          Member
          • Oct 2012
          • 1145

          #5
          Very good advice by Kyonin and Daizan here!
          Even a small thing can lead to a kind of "chain reaction" in the body that leads to back pain or another problem.

          Perhaps you could also do a short body scan after the first five minutes to identify any tensions in your body. You might be surprised.
          It was just yesterday when I sat at my desk (during work, not zazen) when I realized how tense my facial muscles were; really tense for no reason. So now I do a quick body scan at my desk now and then to see if this is the case and relax. You could try that in the next few days when you sit, although it is a short interruption.

          Gassho,

          Timo
          no thing needs to be added

          Comment

          • MyoHo
            Member
            • Feb 2013
            • 632

            #6
            I think not having a zafu is the problem?

            Your pelvis is probably not in the ideal position, so your back muscles are forced to compensate? The zafu does that for you. As I understand it the center of gravity must be in the abdomen region. What happens if you completey relax, suddenly? Do you fall backwards? Try to sense after ten minutes if your head is tipping? Your ears should naturaly be perpendicular to your shoulders ( or as far as possible).

            Hope it helps?

            Enkyo
            Mu

            Comment

            • Taigu
              Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
              • Aug 2008
              • 2710

              #7
              It is typical misuse. Go Fujita, go Alexander, go Pilates, explore how much you overdo things and then stop.

              The back should not ache in sitting.

              Gassho


              Taigu

              Comment

              • Myoku
                Member
                • Jul 2010
                • 1487

                #8
                relax, Simon,
                easy said, not so easy as long as you not even feel where you are tense.
                Having said this I'm quite tense, I used to have back pain too, more than
                15 minutes it used to start, zazenkai was terrible for the back. These days
                I'm a bit better, mainly thanks to Taigu, teaching the un-doing, the un-correcting,
                just allowing the body to come to its natural position. I used to over-correct
                (or actually correcting already is too much, just allowing), pushing myself
                into a tense sitting. As you said yourself, relax is the most important. As
                others said, the sitting height matters too, experiment with height. And
                watch the sitting videos here at treeleaf, e.g. starting at

                Gassho
                Myoku

                Comment

                • Jakugan
                  Member
                  • Jan 2013
                  • 303

                  #9
                  Thanks for everyone's advice. I didn't know there were so many different angles to look at it from.

                  Gassho,

                  Simon

                  Comment

                  • Kyonin
                    Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
                    • Oct 2010
                    • 6742

                    #10
                    Originally posted by simon
                    I think another problem may be that I haven't actually purchased a Zafu yet. At the moment, when I sit Zazen I sit on two pillows stacked on top of each other
                    I have also don't have a zafu! Y use a folded sleeping mat as zabuton and 3 folded blankets as zafu. That's because I'm a tall guy and all zafus here are made for short people. With blankets I can adjust the height to whatever I'm comfortable with.

                    I have been sitting on my blankets longer than I remember (10+ years) and I haven't had a problem so far. I found that pillows are too unstable!

                    BTW, I'm in the process of having a zafu custom made.

                    Gassho,

                    Kyonin
                    Hondō Kyōnin
                    奔道 協忍

                    Comment

                    • ZenHarmony
                      Member
                      • Feb 2012
                      • 315

                      #11
                      I have a zafu I've made myself, stuffed with buckwheat hulls, but Myoku is right, Taigu's talk on body position is what stopped me from hurting so much. It's either the "Sikantaza 1" or it's "How to use a Zafu"

                      Gassho,

                      Lisa

                      Comment

                      • Jishin
                        Member
                        • Oct 2012
                        • 4820

                        #12
                        I have 3 zafus, 3 zabutons and 2 seiza benches. I tried to use various zafus because I felt the need to do things right but I am too used up to sit on anything but a seiza bench. I have read in the forums that other members use seiza benches too. That makes me feel I am not such a wimp for using a bench. My back likes it so I am sticking to it!

                        Gassho, John

                        Comment

                        • Jakugan
                          Member
                          • Jan 2013
                          • 303

                          #13
                          I listened to the Fujita link yesterday. A lot of his emphasis seems to be on having the correct natural posture during Zazen. Should the same attitude/posture carry over into the rest of our everyday lives or is this just for sitting?


                          Gassho,

                          Simon

                          Comment

                          • Jakugan
                            Member
                            • Jan 2013
                            • 303

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Jenell
                            Try to rest your hands on a big towel or something like that. When you have upper back, shoulder and neck pain, it often stems from your hands kind of suspended and thus putting strain and pulling on the back and neck. I think if you set your hands on something, it will ease the pressure and the strain.
                            Gassho,
                            Jenell
                            I hadn't thought about it but I always tend to have my elbows kind of pointing out rigidly, which does actually make my hands a bit suspended (kind of the posture the AZI told me to adopt when I once went to one of their lessons). I'll try a towel and see if that's any better.

                            Gassho,

                            Simon

                            Comment

                            • Emmet
                              Member
                              • Nov 2011
                              • 296

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Jenell
                              Try to rest your hands on a big towel or something like that. When you have upper back, shoulder and neck pain, it often stems from your hands kind of suspended and thus putting strain and pulling on the back and neck. I think if you set your hands on something, it will ease the pressure and the strain.
                              Gassho,
                              Jenell
                              To expand upon what Jenell suggested, try moving your hands in close to your belly. If they're too far out in your lap, often people feel acute pain right between the shoulder blades.
                              Emmet

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