Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

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Rick M, modified 8 Years ago.

Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 100 Join Date: 1/1/13 Recent Posts
Since I started sitting for longer (1.5 - 2 hrs) times, the top of my right foot has been numb. I sit in half lotus, and I think I'm compressing a nerve between my ankle bone and the carpeting. What's a little worrisome is that the numbness doesn't go away during the day, nor did it go away during the week I was in France and was doing primarily lying down meditation.

Should I be worried about this? I had thought that this was just something my body would adjust to, but it has been 1 1/2 months now, and the numbness hasn't gotten any better. Or worse.

I've tried sitting half-lotus with my other (left) foot on the bottom, but I can't tell whether that will be any better. Certainly takes a bit of getting used to.

Has anyone else encountered this?
Lara D, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 54 Join Date: 1/29/13 Recent Posts
I haven't had that particular situation happen to me, before but...

If the numbness is lasting for a long time after you do your meditation (as it sounds like it is), then there is something wrong with the way you are sitting and you should change it up. Can you invest in a meditation bench or some better cushioning? The issue is probably with the asymmetrical posture (half lotus).

You say it's lasted for a month and a half... have you seen a podiatrist about it? Your dedication is commendable, but you don't want to damage your body. :/
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The Xzanth, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 71 Join Date: 12/28/12 Recent Posts
Rick M:

I've tried sitting half-lotus with my other (left) foot on the bottom, but I can't tell whether that will be any better. Certainly takes a bit of getting used to.


I think that, in the case of asymmetrical postures (all of the cross-legged postures) it is a good idea to alternate legs. I would not hesitate to stop using 1/2 lotus all together. Worry is highly problematic to a meditation practice. IMO as long as the spine is kept straight and one is not doing advanced pranayama the choice of sitting posture is quite open.

My suggestion, try the adept's pose.

http://www.howcast.com/videos/386-How-to-Do-the-Adept-Pose
Jigme Sengye, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 188 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I started out sitting cross-legged on a very thin cushion or folded up blanket. I mostly just wanted some padding for my ankles. After about a year and half sitting an hour and half to two hours a day, this started messing up my knees. I switched to Burmese posture and was fine. In both postures, my right leg would go numb after 30 minutes every time I sat (I typically sat for 45 minutes to an hour per session), but it would go back to normal a few minutes after getting up. I kept on doing Burmese at a bunch of retreats and found that sitting on a mat rather than on a chair was giving me back pain. I half-heartedly did back stretches to deal with this with varying results.

Nearly a year ago I gave up and started consistently sitting in a chair every day. It's the best thing I've done for my practice. It doesn't have the same intensity, but it's easier to stay absorbed, since I don't have to deal with back and leg pain. It's dramatically easier to sit for longer periods.
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Chris med, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 54 Join Date: 5/31/12 Recent Posts
Jigme Sengye:
...

Nearly a year ago I gave up and started consistently sitting in a chair every day. It's the best thing I've done for my practice. It doesn't have the same intensity, but it's easier to stay absorbed, since I don't have to deal with back and leg pain. It's dramatically easier to sit for longer periods.


I'm happy to read this. I have a bad knee and can't keep it bent past 90 degrees for longer than a few minutes without experiencing severe pain.

I've been sitting in a chair up to this point, I was afraid I was going to have to figure out how to sit cross-legged on the floor somehow, to take my practice further.

Does anyone have a comment about how chairs are viewed at retreats, are they allowed? I couldn't find any info on the dhamma.org website.
Jigme Sengye, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 188 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
chris .:


Does anyone have a comment about how chairs are viewed at retreats, are they allowed? I couldn't find any info on the dhamma.org website.


I think I remember a few people at the Goenka retreat I went to 2005 sitting in chairs. One guy at the retreats I went to at Tathagata Meditation Center also sat in a chair. If I were to redo those retreats there is no way that I'd sit on a cushion again. As for how they're viewed, if you end up having better meditative experiences using a chair, the retreat's teachers aren't going to argue with a practice that delivers results. I hope that most of them have enough practice experience to be sympathetic to people with back and knee issues.
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katy steger, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Does anyone have a comment about how chairs are viewed at retreats, are they allowed?
It depends on where you go. In North America and Europe: I feel that it's generally viewed as sensible here.

Sitting in a chair or seiza will also bring their own issues, so it helps if you take up body-health practices, too, e.g., don't make this relatively new, meditating mind be responsible for the circulatory system in the legs, etc. A good work-out will also focus the mind and help discipline its wandering. The idea here is pervasiveness, but that's a tall order!
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Pablo . P, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 378 Join Date: 3/21/12 Recent Posts
I do half-lotus and nowadays have no problem. You may try this:

- stretch back and legs before sitting
- stack up three soft thin pillows plus a (dense) zafu on top, on the bed
- sit in half-lotus and alternate legs every 50 to 60 minutes

In this position, your hips/groin will be higher than your knees, and as the legs will eventually relax all the way, you'll have much more surface in contact with the ground (the bed), so less stress will be near the ankles.

Added: "dense" for clarification
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katy steger, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Rick,

I fully agree with the "chair people". Please consider not beating up any aspect of your body to develop meditation. Chair/lying down-on-right-side (without slumber) will not hinder the mental development at all.

At some point in life the challenge of physical pain and declining body parts will arise without our deliberate construction. So truly consider not creating a problem in your being for this endeavor.

Just sitting and breathing in a chair is perfect.

And I also second the stretching idea: consider taking up a stretching practice or finding a good teacher. I use the yoga books of Ray Long, MD, among others. What I have consistently learned about physical yoga:
[indent] -- applying long, slow, deep breathing to any stretch (at least 5 seconds inhale and 5 seconds exhale; if this cannot be done, reduce the stretch until the long, slow, deep breathing can be applied)
-- staying in with that stretch (increasing and/or decreasing it) and that breathing for 2-3 minutes (keep the mind in the stretches, not wandering)
-- abiding proper alignment (you can see this in a number of videos by Krishnamacharya and his students, but Ray Long, MD, has plenty free on his website and his medical simplicity can be very helpful).[/indent]

With careful, attentive body training perhaps you can get that sensation back. But, yes, one can do "permanent" nerve damage. I like to keep in mind that lots of conditions have been considered "permanent" or "incurable" and then we learn otherwise for ourselves. Best wishes.
C C C, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Sensation to the top of the foot is supplied by the superficial peroneal nerve. Tucking your foot down and under (inversion) in the lotus position can overstretch it. Alternatively it may have been compressed against the floor or opposite thigh. Prolonged overstretching/compression can cause neuropraxia, which is probably what you have. Takes a good 8 weeks to recover fully. If it's still a problem after 10 weeks, get a neurologist to perform a nerve conduction study. These are a quick and easy way to determine where the nerve has been damaged. You may have caused an axonotmesis which is where some of the tiny nerves fibres have been torn. This will still recover but take a fair while longer. Generally there are no long term issues with this.

Go the chair...or bed!
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Joshua .., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 86 Join Date: 9/28/12 Recent Posts
It is actually not in the western dna to contort the legs. Don't bother.
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Rick M, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Top of my feet are numb. What should I do?

Posts: 100 Join Date: 1/1/13 Recent Posts
Thanks for all of the great suggestions, everyone!

I do, in fact, do yoga stretches every day, which has helped a lot with being able to sit for long periods of time, but doesn't help with the numbness.

I'll try the chair sitting. I'm impressed by the fact that so many serious meditators sit this way; I had thought that it was only for beginners.

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