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Finally got a zafu. I recommend for others with numb legs?

JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
edited December 2012 in Meditation
I've been meditating for over 12 years and I always had my legs go numb within 25 minutes such that I felt bad going to my local Zen center because I would be numb at the middle of the floor while everyone else was doing walking meditation. I had been working trying to fiddle with my legs this past fall trying to get it to work out. I didn't want to sit in a chair because I've built a shamata stronger seated on the floor than a chair.

Anyhow the zafus at the center didn't help, but my mom got me one from santa that was quite fat and the elevation I guess has allowed me to have my first and second 30 minute meditations with no numb legs. Yay :)

So I recommend a zafu for those with numbing problem...


  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited December 2012
    it's amazing how personal the meditation experience is :). I fixed my legs going numb problem by getting off a cushion actually ( I meditate on concrete), but I came to peace with the numbness before that. Congratulations on finding some comfort.. but don't forget that you will always have pains and issues in meditation... the less we run away and observe, the more we see things as they truly are, and these things we formerly had so many issues with disappear.
  • Yeah the numbness was no problem. I just like being able to participate if I go to the Zen center in town. That is to say now I can join the walking meditation. I don't have many pains in meditation. Maybe just sleepiness from my meds or boredom/restlessness sometimes. To be honest a lot of my meditation I am having fond daydreams. Even daydreams of kung-fu fighting haha!
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    haha I know all about daydreams of kung-fu fighting..

    are you able to do the walking meditation before sitting? that usually enhances my sitting meditation, especially if you can calm the mind while walking and go right into sitting.
  • Yeah I often do sitting then walking in my own home. But the Zen center does sitting always before walking. Walking is a good transition to sitting though, I agree.
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    Jeffrey said:

    Yeah I often do sitting then walking in my own home. But the Zen center does sitting always before walking. Walking is a good transition to sitting though, I agree.

    Bhavana sort of teaches sitting before walking too.. more like walking is " ok you can't sit anymore so you can stand now".. which I disagree with! lol..

    this works out well for me though because I walk in the beginning anyways.. and by the time everyone is up to walk, I'm ready to sit down. Do you have those dudes that go about with the ruler? I suppose if that were the case and I was doing Zen I dunno how easily I'd be able to break the rules :P.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited December 2012
    I didn't experience the rulers. Ouch! Not sure how much they hurt, probably not much more than a blood test.

    I also do walking when I need more flowing subtle energy in my body. Like a mood enhancer, but without running from any particular body feeling, a paradox.
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited December 2012
    @Jeffrey I had to give public zen med instruction once or twice a week for over 25 years.
    An experienced meditation instruction teacher should be able to show a student how to sit in a way that minimizes the pressures that cause blood circulation restrictions and nerve issues.
    There is a basic blueprint to follow, with the teacher then modifying it according to the students feed back and the observation of their body type. Full lotus/half lotus/Burmese/ zaza/ zafu height/ zafu width/ zabuton thickness/zafu positioning/ coccus positioning/ dominant leg choice/ and on & on.
    Choosing a zafu over a chair is only associating a physical stability with the meditation.
    It is only an association which chair choosing folks do get over soon enough.
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Simply, on the path. Veteran
    edited December 2012
    Jeffrey said:

    […] but my mom got me one from santa that was quite fat and the elevation I guess has allowed me to have my first and second 30 minute meditations with no numb legs. Yay :)

    So I recommend a zafu for those with numbing problem...

    My wife bought me a set two Christmases ago and it's made a world of difference. For me as well, some added height on the zafu made a huge difference. I have a zafu/zabuton combo which is kapok filled, and after two years of daily use they remain firm and comfortable.
  • Ha, I meditate in a chair at the doctors office, @how
  • I recently had access to a rocking chair. Was able to rock and meditate.
  • Hi old thread!

    I have the same issue. I have tried the famous 'gomden' cushion and that one was pretty good because its size and elevation. I currently have a "cheap copy" made of buckwheat instead of foam and my legs go numb after 10-20 minutes. It is really annoying because it is always the left leg. I think it has something to do with the posture and the fact that my ass gluteus is quite large -nice Spanish genetics from my mother and bicycle-.

    I haven't tried a zafu and was actually warned at the meditation centre that zafu's were not so practical for Western audiences due to its size and height. I guess here lies the importance of a good posture and the correct material, as well as learning, like @BhikkhuJayasara mentions, to deal with the pains.

    However, it is quite annoying to feel how your leg becomes completely numb and that any readjustment will lead to pins and needles.

    Also...why the h*ll are gomdens so expensive? Man, even the shipping costs are extreme :(

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    The reason your left leg goes numb is that you're trapping a section of the sciatic nerve in your lower back. You probably have a disc slightly misplaced... In your shoes I would hie me to a chiropractor.

  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited June 2020

    Having your legs fall asleep in 10 -20 minutes is crazy.
    Your nerves or blood circulation are somehow being impinged upon by either improperly sitting, an incorrectly used support structure or you've chosen the wrong meditation posture for your body limitations. Find someone who is qualified to give you proper sitting instructions and hopefully not anyone from where they said that zafu's were impractical for western audiences.
    If that isn't possible then there are endless u-tube instructions by experienced meditation instructors that might give you an idea of what is causing this numbness.
    The most common cause of numbness (because it's only happening in one leg I assume you are using a cross legged position & from the amount of difficulty you've been going through- probably in the Burmese position) is from sitting too fully on top of the meditation cushion instead of just sitting on the front 1/3rd of it.
    You usually just need your coccyx to be supported, not your entire buttocks because that pressure can often limit blood circulation in your legs.
    Buckwheat as a cushion filler is often found to pack too tightly to be comfortable for long for many. Kapok tends to be the preferred filler. We used to get it from old lifejackets before it became a more commonly available product. Japanese zafu's usually have a hidden pleat that allows you to easily add or subtract your filler of choice to customize it to what you want.
    & there are alternative postures to consider if a cross legged posture is not for you.

    Best of luck with getting decent instructions and let us know how it goes.

  • @federica

    Hi. I actually had a terrible posture for years... and once a physiotherapist in Spain informed me that my lower back / waist was...well, not good. I will definitely book an appointment as soon as I find a good specialist.

    However, apart from this issue, I suspect I've been sitting wrongly as @how has pointed out. I do not sit on the front 1/3rd of it, in fact, I was doing the opposite.

    Thank you for your advice! I shall report back :hurrah:

  • AlexAlex UK Veteran

    I sit in a chair, especially after a pal of mine got DVT, which was attributed to long periods in full lotus 😱

  • I sit crossed legged. Maybe I should try the burmese too and probably try the zafu. For some reason I was told not to bother with them at all...

  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited June 2020

    Meditation is a demanding enough process on its own without adding un necessary physically painful highlights to it. If you do want to keep trying a cross-legged position then experiment with different cushion heights to see what works best for you.
    Some folks find multiple cushions were initially needed to comfortably sit, at least until there bodies adapted to a new position. Calf & thigh length, mass and girth can be limiting factors with a cross legged position. Choosing soft non restrictive clothing is another factor for not un necessarily restricting blood flow when twisting oneself up like a pretzel.
    If you do have some physical weakness in your lower back, you should also understand that a cross legged position usually puts more strain on one the side of the lower spine that the other. For that reason, many monastery's have found that recommending long term meditators incorporate some means of regularly alternating which leg is inner most with their cross legged positions, balances out the potential lower back strains that can arise from not doing so.
    But... because Meditation is about learning how to stop attaching to everything, it is useful to include our chosen meditation body postures in that grouping of stuff that we might need to let go of.
    After many years of sitting very erectly on a tiny zafu in a tradition that has opinions about every conceivable part of physical meditation posture, an injury forced me to sit in a chair for a while....which absolutely made not a whiff of difference to my meditation.
    So even though many Sangha's will have feelings about the worth of one posture over another, let that go with all the other endless opinions that we can drag into a practice and just be comfortable with what ever one can allow you a stable platform that is somewhere midway between having you unduly hurting and dozing off. Kneeling (seiza) and chairs should be considered as well.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    I'll admit that I hate sitting meditation because my legs and feet always fall asleep within the first 30 minutes, and they have my whole life regardless of how I sit, what kind of cushions I use, etc. It has always been uncomfortable and painful.

  • AlexAlex UK Veteran
    edited June 2020

    I used to sit in Burmese. It looks good and made me feel all Buddhisty.

    Daily yoga helped my flexibility and allowed me to. I couldn’t have done it otherwise.

    I did find that sitting cross-legged hugely detracted from the quality of my meditation, no question. Made me wonder what on Earth I was doing.

    Why didn’t I just do what made sense for me and be comfortable ?

    So I stopped. Quality of my meditation rocketed.

    There used to be a golfing phrase.....”Drive for show and putt for dough”.

    I always use a chair now.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 2020

    I’m a very lazy meditator... I sometimes sit, but more often I lie on my bed. And these days I meditate very irregularly. I know, wicked of me, not setting a good example. But at least my spine is straight. 😴

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Comfortably attentive. o:)

    We can walk. We can sit. We can asana. We can stand. Dukkha/discomfort may be for mindless masochists, tsk, tsk ... something to avoid ... (I read somewhere that is the whole purpose of Buddhism) ;)

    I personally find cushion sitting comfortable and attentive.
    I find yoga postures are best held comfortably and attentively. Very useful as @Alex mentions ...

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 2020

    I seem to think now (but it might not be correct) that in posture on a zafu cushion there are several balances and one of them is leaning forward versus leaning back.

    If you lean forward your weight pinches your legs and this is good in keeping you upright. The pinching means you can lean forward and not worry about falling over forward. But the pinching can make legs fall asleep or it can be conducive to feeling more mentally sleepy during meditation.

    Leaning forward is balanced versus leaning backwards. Leaning backwards you relieve the pressure on your legs but you can actually (feel you might) fall over backwards and it can be distracting providing your lower back muscles to have tension to balance you since you are less pinched forwards. This can feel uncomfortable and distracting but is less prone for sleepiness.

    That's just how it seems to me. I might have read it somewhere but I'm not positive that it's true. But the idea is to find an acceptable sweet spot between leaning forwards and backwards?

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    I normally would not intentionally set up a spine to lean in any direction if what I wanted was a comfortable sitting posture. Everything above the waist hangs off the spine and the more off dead center it leans the more muscular tension that is required to maintain it in that position.

    The spine needs only to be arranged relatively straight and supportively in line with the neck and head. From here it all gets positioned in the most upright direction possible from the base of your spine to the top of your head. This is the mid point between having it leaning forwards or backwards or to either side so if you were to stop holding it up in that particular position, it would not immediately fall away in any one specific direction.

    Some folks find that position by swaying back and forth between the four directions to find that mid point while others do it by tilting around in ever diminishing circles.

    The purpose of all of this is to find that point where one needs to exert the minimum of abdominal muscular tension to maintain the spine comfortably in an upright position, or
    where one doesn't have to activate shoulder, arm & hand muscles down to your lap
    to compensate against an unintended upper body leaning.

    This is just one spinal blue print option for a relatively common form of sitting but it doesn't take long to try out alternative views to let those results determine what's best for you.

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