Back pain and other types of pain are common issues that can end a meditation session early. It is difficult to focus on being mindful if the only thing your mind is focused on is the ache in your lower back. According to Anne Ihnen, LMHC, “A common chronic pain condition—one that perhaps could serve as a model for other pain conditions—is low-back pain. According to recent statistics, about 80 percent of Americans will experience chronic low-back pain in their lifetime, and 25 percent of Americans are currently experiencing it. And yet—as with other chronic pain conditions—definitive treatment is lacking.”
If you have problems with back pain or other pain during meditation, here are some alternative meditation poses that may be a better fit for you.
“Clearly, mind and body practices, like yoga, meditation, deep breathing and prayer help to reduce stress and improves stress-related nervous system imbalances.” – Deborah Khoshaba, PsyD.
- Corpse Meditation Pose
The corpse meditation pose is exactly what it sounds like, it requires you to lie down like a corpse. Lie down on a flat surface with your arms next to you and your palms facing upward. Place a pillow underneath your head and one underneath your knees to help your spine maintain its natural position. If you need to, you may also place a small pillow or towel underneath your lower back to help support it if pain or discomfort continues.
You may fall asleep in this position since you will be lying down. If this is the case for you, either attempt another position that helps to ease your pain or meditate during the time of day when you feel the least tired.
- The Sleeping Buddha Pose
This position tends to be one of the more comfortable positions for anyone dealing with back pain or body aches. Begin by lying down on your side in a comfortable position. Take the arm closest to the floor and use it to support your head with the elbow and upper arm supporting the floor. Place your other arm on top of your body and keep your legs on top of the other. Place a pillow under the armpit of the arm that is supporting you in order to help you support your weight.
- Standing Meditation Pose
Standing meditation is great because it can be practiced almost anywhere and it doesn’t put too much strain on your back or your other body parts. Begin your session by aligning your feet with your hips and slightly bending your knees. Place your arms out in front of you in a circular fashion as if you were hugging a large pole or tree then separate your fingers. Focus on your breath as you remain in this stance and begin to meditate. If you find this uncomfortable, you may want to still try standing meditation but in its walking form instead.
- Walking Meditation
Walking meditation may be a more comfortable version of standing meditation for those who experience discomfort from bending their knees. Walking meditation is similar to pacing. Begin by taking around 10-15 slow steps forward, intently focusing on each of the sensations and movements that accompany walking. When you’ve reached the end of your steps, take a break and breathe for as long as you feel is necessary. Once you are done breathing, turn around and take another 10-15 slow steps back towards where you came from, still focusing on the sensations of walking.
This is what Patty Thomas Shutt, a licensed psychologist, has to say: “Walking can be both a formal and informal mindfulness practice. During walking meditation, we bring present moment awareness to the movement and sensation of the body as the feet rhythmically alternate between lifting and making contact with the earth.”
- The Astronaut Pose
The astronaut pose requires a chair and a pillow. Lie down on your back with your head against the pillow and your hands beside you. Put your legs on the seat of the chair, making sure that your thighs and your calves are perpendicular to each other and form a 90-degree angle. This meditation pose will relieve back pain but may also cause you to fall asleep if you find it too comfortable. Much like the corpse pose, you should either meditate in this pose when you feel the least tired or you should find another pose that is not comfortable enough to fall asleep in.