Have you ever meditated for a few minutes only to be met with your foot falling asleep? Well you’re not alone, according to a recent poll of 34 meditators nearly 71% of them have experienced foot or leg numbness during their meditation practice before.
Foot and leg numbness during meditation is caused by increased pressure to extremity nerves. A foot falling asleep during meditation is extremely common and not something to be too concerned about, despite the discomfort it may cause you.
I’ve personally experienced numbness during meditation and it really can be uncomfortable, but what exactly causes it and what can you do about it?
What causes foot and leg numbness during meditation?
When you sit in a meditation position that puts pressure on your lower extremities you temporarily compress the nerves there. This extra pressure on the nerves in your feet and legs cuts of the nervous system messaging between the feet and the brain.
The most common nerves that become compressed during meditation are the Tibial nerve in the back of the knee and the Peroneal nerve that runs down into the ankle.
Contrary to popular belief, pins and needles are not actually caused by restricted blood flow, rather the numbness is caused by a nerve signaling disruption from extra pressure on the area. Pins and needles happens when when you release that pressure and the nerve signaling is reengaging with the rest of your body.
However, numbness can also happen alongside blood flow restriction even if it’s not the cause of the numbness.
Should you be concerned about leg or foot numbness?
Though numbness may be uncomfortable during meditation, it’s really nothing to worry about. At least for the length of time you’d likely be sitting in a meditation position.
If you’re meditating for less than an hour, you should be okay to continue meditating with the fallen asleep foot or leg. Though anything longer than 45 minutes may be dangerous as the leg is cut off from the vital blood supply.
Overall, a numb foot or leg shouldn’t keep you from continuing a meditation session and isn’t dangerous for the majority of short meditation sessions.
> see my article “Struggling to Meditate? 7 Common Issues and Their Solutions”
How to prevent foot or leg numbness during meditation
Even if numbness during meditation isn’t dangerous it really can be an annoyance you want to avoid. Luckily, there are a few things you can try to incorporate into your meditation practice to reduce or prevent foot numbness.
1. Choose a comfortable position
Make sure to select a position at the beginning of your meditation that’s comfortable and doesn’t put too much pressure on your legs and feet. Numbness is more likely to occur in positions where your feet are directly under your body weight. Experiment with different positions like lotus, half lotus, or the Burmese position.
2. Try a meditation cushion
You may want to try sitting on a chair or using a cushion to elevate your hips. I use a meditation cushion like this one all the time for my meditation sessions and it really can relieve that pressure on your legs. Try meditating with just a bed or throw pillow first to see if it helps with the numbness.
3. Stretch before and after meditation
Doing some simple stretches and muscle massaging before and after meditation can help warm up and relax your muscles. Though stretching before a meditation likely won’t do anything to stop numbness from occurring, stretching after a meditation session can help return blood supply to the area and help the numbness go away more quickly.
4. Add movement to your meditation
Sitting still in one spot might not be the right thing for everyone’s meditation practice. Try incorporating gentle movements into your meditation practice. Some great moving mindfulness practices you could try are:
- walking meditation
- mindful yoga
- water/ floating meditation
These kinds of meditations won’t constrict your legs or feet and can be the perfect alternative for you if you’re prone to numbness during sitting meditation.
5. Practice your meditation posture
Regular meditation practice can help improve your posture, reduce tension, and increase flexibility. With enough trial and error throughout your practice you’ll find which postures and positions can all help prevent leg/foot numbness the best. Keep at it, notice what feels better or worse, and adjust your practice for what fits best for you.
> see my article “Everything You Need For The Ultimate Meditation Setup”
Leg and foot numbness during meditation is a pretty common issue. The good news is that it can be easily prevented and it’s not dangerous if you experience numbness from time to time. By choosing a comfortable position, stretching, incorporating movement, and practicing regularly, you can create a more comfortable meditation experience. The key to a successful meditation is finding what works best for you, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different postures and techniques to find what works best for you.