Friday, March 1, 2013

My Physical Therapy for Zazen (sitting meditation)

I'm fascinated by the way our bodies adapt to their circumstance.

Back view of sitting with the BodyBlade
Back view of sitting
with the BodyBlade
As I described previously I have had 2 injuries that effected my posture (click here to read the 1st injury and click here if you want to read about the second injury.)

Judging by my father's build I probably would naturally tend toward my shoulders rolling forward.  My injuries have exaggerated the effect as part of my body's response to minimize injury pain.  The weird thing is that by minimizing injury pain my body created long-term physical stress and chronic back pain issues.

When I started doing zazen I could no longer ignore dealing with the back pain but I wasn't sure what to do. I love to experiment and so I have been trying a number of solutions, most of them didn't work.  However, this rather bizarre solution has been surprisingly effective for me during zazen and I continue to realize the physical benefits throughout the day.

I stumbled into this solution at the gym.  As I was stretching I noticed a strange looking device over in the corner.  It caught my eye because it was about the size and shape of something I had been designing for my next back pain sitting experiment.  The device is called the BodyBlade.  Its design purpose is as a momentum based exercise device.
BodyBlade Lite (32" model)
BodyBlade Lite (32" model)
I was planning to build a thin flexible bamboo strip of roughly the same dimensions to sandwich between my lower back and my arms just above the bend in the elbow.  The concept was to position my arms and shoulders correctly during sitting meditation and to provide a slight pressure against my back in the process.  The pictures will help you visualize what I had in mind.

So I grabbed the BodyBlade and tried it sitting on the mat at the gym.  It was fantastic.  The highly flexible blades and the rubber center grip were perfect for the support I was trying to create.  It was so comfortable that I kept testing it on the mat...5...10...20...30...minutes.  I kept waiting for it to get uncomfortable or for my typical back pain to kick in.  The only thing that happened were a number of strange stares.
Profile view of sitting with the BodyBlade
Profile view of sitting
with the BodyBlade

I don't use the BodyBlade every day; partially because I am trying other experiments; partially because it is really like physical therapy and you need to give your body a break.  Now I use it about every 2nd or 3rd day.  I can tell you that on those days my back feels fantastic; much better than on the in-between days.

There are several different BodyBlade models.  The materials are basically the same.  As far as I can tell the major difference is the length of the blade and probably the weighting of the tips.  I bought the "Lite" model because the length was perfect for me (32" long tip to tip.)  The model at the gym was the next size up and the additional length might get challenging at a sangha sit.  With zabutons placed side by side you could easily slap some "instant awareness" into your neighbor with the longer model.

The BodyBlade is sold in lots of places.  I bought mine from Pro Therapy Supplies.  They had a good price and free shipping.

In the next week or two I should complete my next experiment and I'll share the results which look promising so far.

Friendly Bows _/|\_

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