Author Topic: Meditation chair advice needed  (Read 5286 times)

Offline Timbo

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Meditation chair advice needed
« on: March 12, 2010, 02:37:54 pm »
Greetings,

Normally, I sit on a zen-style meditation bench. I have mixed feelings about it. I like the stability of the posture, and it's easy to keep my spine straight. My low back, which sometimes gets achey, especially on a zafu, does not ache at all when I sit on the bench. (Actually, sitting on the bench seems to improve my low back ache!)

On the other hand, I'm having problems with the bench. Because my legs are kind of short, muscular, and maybe sort of fat, I feel a strong sensation of pressure -- squeezing --  between thighs and calves. It gets more uncomfortable as a sit longer.  I can sit on the bench for maybe half an hour at a time, twice per day. It's possible my body will gradually stretch and adjust if I keep sitting on the bench, but this is far from clear.

(Of course my knees get sore, but as far as I know, this happens to everybody. It doesn't hurt  much when I sit. It's hard to get up at first, but they seem back to normal in a few minutes.)

I have arthritis in my hips. This limits the amount of sitting I can do on a zafu (zen-style cushion).

So, I'm trying to figure out how to sit on a chair. I hear a lot of geezers like me (age 60) sit on chairs in meditation retreats. So, I want to try sitting on a chair at home. Seems like that shouldn't be so hard, but it's unexpectedly complicated.

As I understand it, the ideal meditation chair has a completely flat, level seat. Not many chairs are made that way. Where does one find such a chair?

It might be even better if the chair seat sloped very slightly down hill. But I've never heard of a chair made that way. Anybody know anything?

I understand it's best to sit so your hip bones are resting on the front edge of the chair. That means there's no need for the chair to have a back. In that case, I wonder if I should look for a stool instead of a chair.

I don't have an average body type. Short legs. The height of a standard chair or stool might be an inch or two higher than ideal for me. Does it make sense to look for a stool or chair that has adjustable height?

Has any one experimented with kneeling-type chairs -- funny looking things that are sometimes called computer chairs?

These are serious questions for me. Until I get it worked out, I will not be able to get through a meditation retreat.

Thanks in advance.

Timbo

Javamahasattva

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Re: Meditation chair advice needed
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2010, 04:37:01 pm »
Timbo, although this website is overly commercialized, you might want to check it out:

http://www.alignthespine.net/

I also recall a couple members discussing custom ordered benches in the chat room, so there's difinitely companies out there.

Yeshe

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Re: Meditation chair advice needed
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2010, 03:56:13 am »
I know the seats you mean.  Yes, they do ensure that you sit vertically and shouldn't cause discomfort.  It feels to me to be similar to seiza, but with no pressure on the legs.

A much cheaper option is a gym ball. It ensures good core posture and puts no strain on the joints.  You can cover it with a cloth if you think it looks funny. I sometimes use this as I too have problems caused by excessive joint-wrecking martial arts.




Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Meditation chair advice needed
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2010, 09:18:33 am »
I swear by the "ergonomic" kneeling chair, I have one in both my offices. Although I acquired them for office work, I do actually meditate on them. They have the added bonus that not only can you sit seiza on them, you can also sit half- or -full lotus and it is very supportive.

For short sits (less than an hour), sitting in seiza (or "diamond pose") is my preferred method. For day-long retreats, I alternate between seiza, half lotus, cross legged.

Offline Shi Hong Yang

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Re: Meditation chair advice needed
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2010, 02:21:59 pm »
In walmart or in hardware stores they have foldable bar stools, would that work or be too high?  if you are near a chinatown or asiantown then their grocery stores have stools to use, even wooden ones, maybe theirs are cut a bit shorter in height.  A large ottoman might work for you.  They come in wide seats and are padded for comfort and plus you can get one that has a storage bin inside it.

Chinese Buddhism is the oldest form of Buddhism in the USA, in 2013 it is 161 years old.  The first Buddhist temples were built in California in 1952 & 1854. Second oldest is Korean in 1900 and Japanese in 1902 both in Hawaii.

Offline Timbo

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Re: Meditation chair advice needed
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2010, 06:32:24 pm »

I know the seats you mean.  Yes, they do ensure that you sit vertically and shouldn't cause discomfort.  It feels to me to be similar to seiza, but with no pressure on the legs.

A much cheaper option is a gym ball. It ensures good core posture and puts no strain on the joints.  You can cover it with a cloth if you think it looks funny. I sometimes use this as I too have problems caused by excessive joint-wrecking martial arts.


I swear by the "ergonomic" kneeling chair, I have one in both my offices. Although I acquired them for office work, I do actually meditate on them. They have the added bonus that not only can you sit seiza on them, you can also sit half- or -full lotus and it is very supportive.

For short sits (less than an hour), sitting in seiza (or "diamond pose") is my preferred method. For day-long retreats, I alternate between seiza, half lotus, cross legged.


In walmart or in hardware stores they have foldable bar stools, would that work or be too high?  if you are near a chinatown or asiantown then their grocery stores have stools to use, even wooden ones, maybe theirs are cut a bit shorter in height.  A large ottoman might work for you.  They come in wide seats and are padded for comfort and plus you can get one that has a storage bin inside it.

Thanks Yeshe, Anusaya and Shi Hong Yang. Many good comments and suggestions.

Yes, the meditation bench I'm talking about is called a seiza. One can just alter a seiza bench to be a bit higher, but that puts more weight on the knees, which can make things worse instead of better.

A few follow-up questions, if I may.

--Does the body gradually adjust to the seiza bench if it's used daily for many months? Does anyone know?

--If I show up at a meditation retreat with a gym ball, "ergonomic" kneeling chair, or modified folding bar stool, what kind of reaction will I likely get? Will retreat teachers and sponsors allow me to participate? Will I be regarded as a freak by other participants?

--Some traditions seem to teach that the pain that arises from sitting on a meditation cushion, such as a zafu, is a feature, not a bug, so to speak, and is a necessary part of the training. Such a teacher or organization might not encourage ergonomic chairs, gym balls, and so on. How common is this point of view, in the U.S.? (It might be different in Japan and other places.)


Hugs and puppies,

Timbo

Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Meditation chair advice needed
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2010, 07:08:48 pm »
A few follow-up questions, if I may.

--Does the body gradually adjust to the seiza bench if it's used daily for many months? Does anyone know?

--If I show up at a meditation retreat with a gym ball, "ergonomic" kneeling chair, or modified folding bar stool, what kind of reaction will I likely get? Will retreat teachers and sponsors allow me to participate? Will I be regarded as a freak by other participants?

--Some traditions seem to teach that the pain that arises from sitting on a meditation cushion, such as a zafu, is a feature, not a bug, so to speak, and is a necessary part of the training. Such a teacher or organization might not encourage ergonomic chairs, gym balls, and so on. How common is this point of view, in the U.S.? (It might be different in Japan and other places.)
I learned seiza from a martial arts background, so I don't know about its acceptability in meditation circles. No one has ever corrected me and told me not to sit in seiza, and I am usually not the only one who brings my own bench. Yes, the body does adjust, but as I said before if I am at a day long retreat I will alter between seiza and 2 other postures.

I suggest ergo chair or ball for home meditations. If you are going to a retreat or workshop, I suggest calling ahead and speaking with the instructor about your physical limitations and finding out what accommodations are customary. Personally, if the retreat is a day or less, I bring my seiza bench and a zafu, and call it good. I have been on 3-day, 5-day, and 10-day retreats. After injuring myself on a 10-day retreat, I have invested in some meditation equipment, including a back support that wraps around my knees. I also wear a back brace for longer sits. At the 10-day retreat, these types of accommodations seemed normal, but I don't recall seeing much of this at 1-day retreats.

As for using pain as some type of tool... I'd love to hear other's responses to this, from perspectives of different traditions. In both the Zen and vipassana traditions, I have heard the old adage: "If you feel an itch, explore what happens if you choose not to scratch it. If the itch becomes uncontrollable, then by all means scratch it." My personal experience is that I have often encountered meditators that have some macho need to withstand great pain. But during a group sit, if I move a little to adjust for my comfort, who knows and who cares?

PS- my first and favorite "zafu" was a soccer ball.

« Last Edit: March 14, 2010, 07:12:04 pm by Anusaya »

Offline Shi Hong Yang

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Re: Meditation chair advice needed
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2010, 02:11:26 pm »
People have invented meditation assistive tools since it began, yoga straps to keep the posture and pose come to mind.

changing the pose helps you and I for one am not a fan of going past the pain, i get up and move about if my feet fall asleep and rest from long sits, if i need to

what you describe pressure from your legs being pressed together means you need a different fit for a bench or something else entirely

padding wouldn't take the stress for you, so why not try asking a physical therapist for some ideas on modifications if you can't come up with your own?  they are a creative lot and very good at this kind of thing

Ven. Hong Yang
Chinese Buddhism is the oldest form of Buddhism in the USA, in 2013 it is 161 years old.  The first Buddhist temples were built in California in 1952 & 1854. Second oldest is Korean in 1900 and Japanese in 1902 both in Hawaii.

Yeshe

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Re: Meditation chair advice needed
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2010, 02:24:29 pm »
I used to have to sit for long periods in seiza for martial arts.  And then be required to leap up and be athletic.

Some teachers would give you a little time to stretch out. Others would laugh at anyone who looked stiff or staggered etc.

I was once told that the circulatory system compensates for the leg compression problems in (Japanese) people who sit in seiza habitually.

If that is true then westerners adopting the practice will obviously be at a disadvantage compared with someone who has used that posture all their life.


 


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