Just as a physical injury has a deep psychological effect on your mind, any negative effect caused to your mind has an adverse effect on your physical body as well. A human being is psychosomatic – a complex of both mind and body acting together.
For example, when you suppress your feelings and emotions, your mind is adversely affected, and as a result, it’s effects gets manifested in the physical body in the form of itching, pain, or sometimes, even a chronic disease.
Other than that the discomfort can also be because of tension in the muscles of the lower back and the hip area. We will discuss both of these scenarios in this article and see what can we do about it.
You must have noticed that the discomforts are experienced mostly when we sit down for meditation. This is very normal and it happens as our mind gets quieter, it makes space for the hidden thoughts and emotions to surface up to our conscious mind from the depths of the subconscious mind.
This release causes various types of sensations in the physical body in the form of irritation, aches, itches, pain, or even numbness in certain parts of the body. So what can we do about it?
Don’t fight with discomfort and pain
The problem is that we keep a negative attitude towards these discomforts and want to get rid of them at any cost. But this is the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish through your meditation.
Be more accepting towards the pain and other discomforts in the physical body. You will notice that once you accept them the discomforts starts to go away. That itching in your arms and legs or that pain in your lower back is a form of release and it must be dealt with love and kindness.
Just as you observe your breath in mindfulness meditation, observe the area of discomfort and bring your awareness to it. However, don’t try to fight with it. If the pain or discomfort is way too much to bear, adjust your posture to comfort yourself, or in extreme cases come out of your meditation and seek help from a medical professional.
The idea is not to fight with yourself but to accept whatever is happening. This kind of practice makes us more resilient in life. This is one of most important teachings of Buddhism and many people fail to grasp this concept.
Let me elaborate a little more on this. When we experience a headache our initial thought is that it should go away as soon as possible. The easiest option at that moment is to pop over the counter pill and make it go away.
But the result of this suppression is that we start getting headaches more frequently and they come back with greater intensity. It’s important to address the root cause of these headaches if you truly want them to go away.
First step is to accept the pain, let it come and just keep watching it. The more you watch it, the better it starts to get. Remember that the headache is a symptom or the effect of a cause. The cause can be anything like stress, anxiety or suppressed emotions, and it’s important to address the very cause that is giving you the headache.
Meditation is one way in which we can get to the cause of our pain and discomforts. All that is required is observation and patience.
However, if your headaches are unbearable, it can be a serious medical issue. In such a case don’t rely on meditation alone to help you out. If any discomfort or pain in your body is becoming unbearable please consult your medical healthcare practitioner as soon as possible.
There are certain pains which require medical intervention and should not be ignored at all. Some of them are as follows:
- Any kind of shooting pain should not be managed on your own by observation.
- Constant (sharp) pain in any area of the body like knees and back should be immediately brought to the notice of your doctor.
I have personally seen some people acting very stubborn when it comes to meditation. Despite shooting pain they are not willing to compromise on their posture. This kind of attitude can be very dangerous and can lead to permanent damage of some body parts like knees and lower back.
What else can we do to reduce the pain?
Apart from all the suppressions, there can also be flexibility issues with your legs, hips and hamstrings. Most of us spend a lot of time working on chair, and as a result, we develop issues with flexibility in the lower part of our body.
One most common problem which people face while meditating is their leg going to sleep while sitting in cross-legged position. This happens because of lack of flexibility in the hip area. Tightness in the hip stops the blood flow to the leg, and as a result, your leg goes off to sleep.
In order to open up the hips one can practice the following yoga postures:
- Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
- Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
Practicing these yoga asanas on a regular basis will develop the required flexibility in your hips to sit in cross-legged position.
In addition to the above, you can also buy a Zafu. Zafu is a very comfortable meditation cushion designed specially for meditation. It eases the pressure on your legs by relaxing your hips.
If you have any serious issue with your knees or lower back, you can checkout this article I wrote sometime back on How to Meditate with Knee and Back Pain.
Also, if you are beginner, don’t attempt to sit for a very long period of time, and avoid complicated sitting postures like lotus or half lotus. What matters is not the length of time but the intensity with which you meditate.
As a beginner, our focus should be to form a daily meditation routine, so just 10 – 15 minutes everyday is good enough to get started.
The reason why meditation doesn’t work for some people is because they attach an expectation with it. People want to accept happiness and reject misery. The objective of meditation is to enable you to rise above joy and sorrow and experience the world as it is.
You seek pleasure in material things. And frankly speaking, there’s nothing wrong in that. But if you set a thought in your mind that you’ll be happy only when you acquire material, or that you’ll be happier only with less material, that is a trap.
Your possessions and accumulations in life has nothing to do with your being happy. You can be truly happy or joyful when you learn the essence of the present moment, that is the ‘now’.
All of your discomforts like aches and itches are the result of those suppressions you have accumulated over the years and whenever you meditate they get expression in the form of pain and itches.
With regular meditation practice the frequency of these discomforts will reduce and you will start experiencing bliss.
As I have mentioned above, the best way to handle discomforts is to simply accept them with love and kindness and allow them to play their part. Just observe how they come and go (unless the discomfort gets too unbearable).