Zen meditation can have a variety of psychological and emotional benefits for many women, both short and long term. However, the physical pose for zen meditation can be taxing on your body. Sitting in a zen meditation pose can tighten the muscles of your legs, and you may experience pain in your lower back. One of the worst sites of pain pay be in your hips, including your hip flexors, abductors and rotators. Try experimenting with a few exercises to strengthen and stretch your hips for prolonged periods of meditation.
Causes of Tightness
If you're going to practice zen meditation, you might as well go about it the right way. Traditionally, zen mediators sit in a variation of the lotus position, whether it be the full, half or quarter lotus, with your butt on the mat and your legs criss-crossed in front of you. Your posture should be rigid and your breathing controlled. Slouching or forcing your legs into a position they're not comfortable with can result in tightening of the hip flexors, hamstrings and calves, and sitting for a long time can result in a stiff spine.
If your hips or lower back lock up on you as a result of zen meditation, try looking to yoga for relief. According to Yoga Journal, stiff hip flexors are responsible for lower and midback pain, but the damage of sitting or meditating for long periods of time can be offset through yoga stretches. The bound angel pose -- sitting in a butterfly stretch with your knees to the sides and your feet flat against one another -- is a good place to start. Arching your back on your knees in the cat pose can relieve stress in the lower back and stomach above the hips, and there are plenty more you can research or experience first-hand in a yoga class.
If yoga isn't for you, or if some of the hip-centric poses are too much, try some traditional hip stretches to relieve tension. The hip flexors can be stretched effectively with bent-over and kneeling lunges, while the external rotators can be stretched with a lying hip stretch. Lie on the floor with one leg straight and the other bent at 90 degrees with your foot out to the side. Lower the bent knee to the ground and hold the stretch. A good stretch for the hip abductors is the seated pretzel stretch, where you sit with one leg out straight and the other crossed over it with your foot flat on the floor. Turn your torse toward the side of the bent knee. Hold your stretches for 30 seconds at a time.
There is No Pain
There is no doubt that zen meditation poses can be hard on your hips, glutes, calves and all the other muscles of your legs and lower back, but some experts claim you can escape all of that pain without stretching or yoga poses. A recent study in Psychosomatic Medicine suggests that the practice of zen meditation itself alleviates pain, as zen meditators have lower sensitivity to pain than those who do not meditate. This might be due to the intense focus and concentration of experienced meditators, or due to their more relaxed mindsets.
Steven Kelliher is an experienced sports writer, technical writer, proofreader and editor based out of the Greater Boston Area. His main area of expertise is in combat sports, as he is a lifelong competitor and active voice in the industry. His interviews with some of the sport's biggest names have appeared on large industry sites such as ESPN.com, as well as his own personal blog.