Numbness and discomfort are common sensations that nearly everyone who meditates has experienced for some period or as an ongoing condition. For some, the sensations dissipate over time as their bodies adjust to the meditative postures they adopt. And yet for others, they never seem to be able to get beyond the numbness and discomfort.
So, it’s natural to want to know what’s the best way to deal with any unwanted sensations, including numb legs, while meditating.
There are several approaches, and which one is best for you will depend mostly on your temperament. The extremes are that you either move to relieve the discomfort or you sit through it and accept that the numbness is just another valid part of your practice.
Let’s explore these options and more in more detail.
Firstly, Is The Numbness In My Legs and Butt a Problem?
It’s important to understand that the numbness you experience does not cause any lasting damage to your body.
According to an article on vipassana.com, “The numbness in the legs is nothing to worry about. It is caused by nerve-pinch, not by lack of circulation. You can’t damage the tissues of your legs by sitting. So relax. When your legs fall asleep in meditation, just mindfully observe the phenomenon. Examine what it feels like. It may be sort of uncomfortable, but it is not painful unless you tense up. Just stay calm and watch it.”
So, the feeling of numbness is not detrimental to the health of your body…. unless you give it undue attention by freaking out and making it a big issue. You could instead just stay in your meditation posture for the whole time and experience the numbness while suffering no ill effects.
Therefore, it’s only a problem if you wish to perceive it as a problem.
What Are Some of the Causes of Numbness in the Legs While Meditating?
- Your Nerves May be Compressed: Numbness in the legs during meditation can be caused by nerve compression, which is often temporary and not harmful.
- You may Have Poor circulation: Sitting in one position for an extended period can lead to reduced blood flow to the legs, which results in the sensation of numbness.
- Maybe your Posture is not Correct: Sitting in an improper posture or putting excessive pressure on certain body parts will contribute to the feeling of numbness.
How To Overcome Numbness and Discomfort While Meditating
As I mentioned, how you best deal with any uncomfortable sensations while meditating is going to be dependent on you…. This is because we are all on a journey and are currently in different places mentally, emotionally, and physically along our path.
In some cultures, sitting on the floor in a cross-legged position is quite normal. They have been doing it since they were born. Therefore, compared to a westerner who hasn’t sat on the floor since five years old, they are a lot less likely to experience any numbness or pain in their physical bodies.
However, what about someone who is stressed out because of living under the constant threat of violence or someone who has anger issues? They will naturally be more mentally, emotionally, and physically ‘highly strung’ than someone who has a relaxed easy lifestyle. So they will face different challenges when meditating.
All this means is that you should find a solution that works best for you…. And just because something is working for everyone else that you know doesn’t necessarily mean that it is also the best solution for you. So read on to find out what options you have to help you deal with a numb leg while meditating.
1) Adjust Your Posture
Some people suggest that meditation is just a ‘mind-orientated’ practice. And therefore, you should do everything you can to be as comfortable as you can be throughout the practice so you will not be distracted by numbness and other intrusions in your physical body.
This means that it’s ok to move when you feel uncomfortable…. as long as you do it slowly and with mindfulness so that you do not break the mental focus you are building up during your practice.
It also means that you should be aware of the potential issues you may encounter before preparing to meditate and have your space set accordingly. Therefore, the use of props like pillows, blankets, sitting in a chair, or even lying on a bed is all OK as it can help you stay in your posture longer without going numb.
And when you do become aware of any numbness distracting you, simply move to alleviate it as often as you need to…. and then mindfully return your attention back to your mantra, breath, candle gazing, etc.
2) Take A Break If The Sensations Are Distracting You From Your Purpose For Meditating
If you are getting stressed out over your inability to get into a deep meditative state, maybe the best idea is to take a break. Do the minimal necessary to return your body and mind back to where you can once again begin to meditate effectively.
This may mean just stretching your legs out in front of you for a minute, getting up and walking around for a minute or two, or going and doing something else for a couple of hours.
The important thing is not to use the discomfort as an excuse to give up your practice….. so always come back to it. And if you don’t give up, you will find over time that the numbness gradually disappears as your body gets used to the meditative posture you have adopted.
3) Focus On Your Breath, A Mantra, A Candle Flame, Or Any Other Suitable Prop
Some meditation teachers advocate that you do not move once you are in your meditative position. And this is a great way to develop strength and discipline within the mind. and for them…
…things only exist when we give our attention to them. Therefore, if we remove our attention from the numbness in our legs and butt, we will ‘have no awareness of it!’ And I know it’s easy for me to say this…. and you’re thinking ‘yeah but it hurts!….
…. and this is what the journey of meditation is about. It’s about developing the ability to focus your mind on the things that you want to, without distraction. And believe me, it is an ongoing journey…. it’s not something you can achieve overnight or in a few short sessions. But with time and dedication, you will discover hidden strengths in your that allow you to do things you currently think you are incapable of…. like sitting for an hour while your bum and legs are completely numb.
4) Become Mindfully Aware of the Sensations of Numbness and Discomfort
Become mindfully aware of the pain? Yes, why not?
Mindfulness is just being fully aware of an object or sensation, and one is just as good as another. So instead of focusing your attention on your breath, why not just focus on the sensation of numbness?
In this way, instead of letting the numbness ruin your meditation session, you can place your attention fully on the experience of it.
When you know that no damage is being done to the tissues in your body because of the numbness, you can decide to explore it further.
“What is this sensation I am experiencing?”
“Where exactly is it located?”
“How big is it?”
“Does it have any color and shape?”
Don’t form any opinions about it or try to attach any thoughts or emotions to it, rather, just let it be as it is. My experience has been that just by becoming aware of the sensations at a deeper level, it takes away its power to overtake my mind with thoughts of distress and pain.
I’m sure you will come to learn, as I have, that all pain is temporary and that when we look deeply into it, it tends to back off!
5) Give Your Body A ‘Tune Up’ By Exercising Before Meditating
A short 5 to 10 minutes of cardio exercise followed by some yogic stretching will get your blood flowing, warm up, and oxygenate your muscles and joints. And as your body becomes stronger and more flexible, it will be easier for you to sit comfortably for longer periods.
In Conclusion, What is The Best Way To Deal With Numbness While meditating?
– Pain is something that we don’t enjoy but you will experience it from time to time during your practice.
– There is nothing wrong with taking a break if you are too distracted to benefit from this session. Coming back and starting again when you are in a ‘better space’ mentally, emotionally, and physically, is always going to benefit you more than if you try and push through when you are not in a good frame of mind.
– You can try to minimize pain as much as possible by properly preparing your body with exercise before meditating and preparing your meditative space with cushions and props if necessary.
– If the discomfort persists, you can make it the object of your mindfulness meditation. This helps to strengthen your mind’s resilience and ability to focus under pressure.
– The numbness is not causing any physical damage to your body, and will with time, become less of a distraction…. either because it’s diminishing or because you’re not paying attention to it.
Meditation is a practice that is beneficial for all aspects of our well-being. So, please, take the time to learn how you can best make meditation work for your benefit. And if this means sitting through discomfort for a couple of years or moving to alleviate any discomfort you may feel during your sessions, so be it!
Just do whatever suits you best at this time…. and you can be sure that, as with all things, they will change over time…. because it is you who are changing for the better!