Help me kneel down without leg pain
October 11, 2007 10:15 AM   Subscribe

How can I make kneeling down less painful?

I've just started learning kendo, which requires me to sit seiza-style (kneeling down, with my bum resting on my heels), and it's proving difficult. Apart from cutting off my circulation if I sit there for any length of time, I get pains in my calves just trying it, and I can't even get my bum down as far as my heels due to my terrible flexibility, never mind keep an upright posture at the same time.

I realise that most of the answer is to suck it up and practice sitting that way till I can cope with it, but are there any ways I can make it easier or quicker to get to that point? Specific stretching exercises I could do? It's pretty hard to be calm and meditate when I feel like my legs are on fire.
posted by penguinliz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ow. I feel your pain (went through this in Aikido). I'm sure many of the warm up stretches you will be doing in Kendo will help with making seiza more comfortable eventually.

Also, this is kind of counter intuitive, but what helps speed up the acclimation process is to sit in seiza and stretch from that position. For example: are the top of your thighs burning? Sit in seiza (or as much of seiza as you can approximate) and then lean backwards until you can place one hand on the ground behind you. Repeat, alternating sides. Your thighs will feel terrible initially, but in a few weeks you will be much more limber.

Finally, remember to breathe! deeply! both while sitting in seiza and while stretching from that position. If you are tense, not breathing, and thinking "ow ow ow" every time you sit in seiza, it will take much longer for you to become comfortable in that position.
posted by Wavelet at 10:35 AM on October 11, 2007

Some stretches.. maybe Warrior I or high lunge, focusing on dropping your groin toward the floor and stretching the thigh of the back leg.

Otherwise, take a blanket and fold it up, put it either between your feet or on top of your feet to support your rear. As you get more comfortable at one level, unfold your blanket a bit (this process will take a while, not just over the course of a day but over weeks or more). You should always feel stretched but never extreme pain. There's nothing wrong with "cheating" if it helps keep you from being in massive pain/injuring yourself while you practice.
posted by anaelith at 10:48 AM on October 11, 2007

Seconding anaelith, you might try the strap-on pads that baseball catchers use, which keep the back of the thigh and the back of the calf from making contact (i.e., straining the knees).
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:13 PM on October 11, 2007

I know this isn't helpful, but I did kendo for 5+ years growing up and I never got used to the discomfort of seiza. I dreaded the end of training seiza because it inevitably left me limping afterwards with terrible pins and needles! I never tried to actively address the problem though. As some of the others have suggested, certain stretches though will probably help ... I think flexibility does have alot to do with it.
posted by Tsar Pushka at 2:42 PM on October 11, 2007

this is why they invented yoga.
posted by fshgrl at 6:28 PM on October 11, 2007

I've been doing Kendo (well Kumdo, but it's essentially the same thing) for almost two years. It took several weeks, but eventually I was able to sit seiza style comfortable before and after class. During the painful breaking in period, I'd use the meditation time to focus on dealing with the pain and tell myself I was building character and endurance in doing so. One thing that motivated me in that direction was a good friend I had who was dealing with chronic pain issues, so I figured I could deal with a minute or so of some uncomfortable sitting.

Although sitting seiza style is no longer uncomfortable, it still reduces the circulation in my legs. This can be quite uncomfortable after prolonged sitting (~5 minutes), and standing up from that position is a shaky creaky effort. However, once standing, I've never had the unpleasant pins and needles last more than a minute or so. I also happen to be the oldest in my dojang (equivalent to dojo) being a bit over 40 now, so I'm sure if inflexible old me can eventually get the hang of it, there's hope for everybody.
posted by forforf at 6:52 AM on October 12, 2007

nthing lots of stretching before class and between. I eventually got used to it - but once I quit, if I don't do it regularly, its almost impossible.
posted by korej at 8:15 AM on October 12, 2007

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