My tendency to practise on the floor came from having a strict routine, this was the place I could get into the zone. Although it became apparent I was leaving little room for adaptation, especially for my body.
So why not lye on the bed? I’ve always told myself not to lye on the bed in the daytime, after all, it can increase sleepiness and the tendency to stay there too long. Telling myself this constantly meant I never truly felt relaxed in my practise and meditation is about relaxing into the experience. There are so many different positions and aids we can use to help our body. You have probably seen the pictures of people sitting crossed legged, being the perfect mediator? This is so untrue, there are so many ways to make meditation more accessible for everybody and need. I know how daunting meditation can be with chronic pain, so let’s get into the many ways we can practise.
Trying to be a perfect meditator
So I want to tell you to ‘throw out the rule book’ Meditation is suppose to be relaxing not a stamina test to see how long we can lye in discomfort. You might be wondering how we tell the difference between pain caused through difficult posture or the pain we usually experience? This one is tricky, often for me a pain caused by strain is different than what I would normally experience, I only get a strain in my back if I’m sitting upright for a long period of time. Distinguishing between what pain to listen to and sit requires us to sit with different experiences over different periods of practise. I am still learning and adapting my positions and it will change frequently with my body. Take time over your posture and know you will have to adapt and change. Awareness is not the same as endurance and sitting with pain is not an endurance test, if you are feeling an increase in pain due to position you are likely to feel more stressed and frustrated.
True or False
- ‘You have to sit cross-legged to meditate’, FALSE. Sitting like this is the worst for me, my feet go numb, my back hurts and my leg often cramp. for a long time, I thought I was doing something wrong when the discomfort posited. I never was I just believed that was the only way.
- ‘Sitting upright in meditation allows the breath to flow’ TRUE but you can do this effectively lying down, your spine is still straight and if anything I find feeling the breath a lot easier in this position.
- ‘You can not meditate on the bed’. FALSE, this one I’ve already touched on above. I believed the bed was not a good place to meditate after all I need focused awareness to meditate, but If you are in pain lying on the floor it is more beneficial to feel comfortable and relaxed.
- ‘I can not fall asleep, I’m meditating wrong’ ‘ FASLE also. My mentor said if you fall asleep your body needs it! and that doesn’t mean you need to sleep hours, just set an alarm in case you fall asleep but sometimes accept that your body needs the rest.
- ‘You can not move during your meditation’. FALSE, this one took me a while to realise if you need to shift your position or get up and stretch do that! You can still practise this mindfully by tuning in to the body, moving or just hit pause on the meditation if you need a few minutes.This is especially important dont try to grit your teeth through the pain.
A good place to start
I’m going to dive a little into some guidelines you can use to get started, and some aids you can try to help you find a good position to meditate. For the purpose of this section, I will refer to chapter 11 and 12 from the book living well with pain and illness by Vidyamala Burch. If you wish to refer to the book or learn more about the approach mentioned in this post . You can find a book link here
The information provided in this post is for educational and informational purposes, it is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Always seek medical advice relating to your specific circumstances as needed for any and all questions and concerns you have now and in the future. You should always consult your physician before making changes that could affect your medical condition.
The lying down position is a simple effective way to meditate, it only requires a couple of easy considerations below,
- Check your head and neck are neutral, neither to low so your not extending the neck, with your chin up, or your chin is sitting too far on your chest blocking natural airflow. A good way to tell is if you feel your neck is constricted or arched.
- Legs can be bent in a semi-supine position, to reduce lower back strain or use a rolled blanket under the knees to support the back with legs straight.
Sitting down positions
The key is a balanced pelvis, I was interested to learn that the pelvis aligns the whole neck, head and spine, which is why when we have sat at a chair too long our pelvis rolls backwards, creating tension in the spine and neck. This certainly makes sense for the increase in pain.
Sitting on a chair
- A straight-back chair allows the spine to curve naturally, you can use a cushion to support the back.
- Try tipping the pelvis back and forth a few times to get a feel for when the pelvis is rolling back, slouching, or rolling forwards. The pelvis should feel balanced with a naturally curved spine.
- Another way to check for a balanced pelvis is if your neck feels long and relaxed and the weight should be carried through the bones in the buttocks, not the fleshy part.
- Make sure the feet are flat on the floor or use a cushion to support them
- Try with the hands resting on the lap, palms up, use a pillow underneath to help the shoulders be open.
The kneeling position may require a little more set up, this position can suit those suffering from back pain, although it can put a strain on the ankles.
- Use a firm mediation cushion, yoga block or meditation stool for balance
- Play around with the height, so the pelvis is balanced. If the cushion, block or stool is high it will create overarching in the back, too low will cause the pelvis to roll back. A easy indication of this is a feeling of strain and increased back and neck pain
- Try using rolled-up socks or blankets under the ankles
I understand misconceptions can often lead people to not try meditation and when I started I thought ‘sitting with pain, why on earth would I want to do that’. So in a future post, I will discuss what I’ve found out from working with pain, the benefits of meditation and what to expect from a chronic pain point of view. I understand what it is like to go through this journey with pain so hopefully I can provide some help for you on your journey.
I would love to know if you have any questions regarding this post? Or whether there is anything you would like me to discuss or mention in the future regarding meditation posts. Leave a comment below!